Robert Fischer’s First Meeting with Tigran Petrosyan

Robert Fischer’s First Meeting with Tigran PetrosyanAmong Soviet chess players, Tigran Petrosyan encountered Robert Fischer the most times: 27, to be precise. The games between these two chess grandmasters have always been very competitive. Apart from that, they significantly contributed to the history of chess.

Petrosyan and Fischer met for the first time in Moscow in 1958. In 1957, Fischer’s mother sent a request to Moscow to invite her son to the World Festival of Youth and Students. There were no objections from Moscow, but the trip for some reason didn’t take place.

Fischer arrived in Moscow in 1958 together with his sister Joan in order to play training games with the Junior World Champion Boris Spassky and Moscow Champion Evgeniy Vasyukov prior to the Interzonal cup. However, Fischer wished to play against World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik. This unexpected desire was met with smiles and rejected.

Every day for the next two weeks, Fischer would visit the Central Chess Club on Gogolevsky Boulevard to play fast games with Moscow grandmasters. He defeated everyone, including future coach of Garry Kasparov Aleksandr Nikitin, and put the Chess Federation of USSR into an awkward situation. A witness and participant of those events grandmaster Evgeniy Vasyukov said:

“To put Fischer, so to speak, back to his place, Tigran Petrosyan, one of the best chess players in the country and maybe the best fast player in the world, David Bronstein, and me as a Blitz Champion of Moscow were invited to the club. Bronstein rejected the invitation, saying recklessly: ‘Why play with a boy?’ This boy would get ahead of Bronstein in the Interzonal tournament!

Petrosyan immediately agreed to arrive in the club: playing with the American wunderkind was of most interest to him. And after all, the authorities asked him to arrive and support the chess honor of the capital. ‘Be sure to come, Tigran Vartanovich,’ he was asked, ‘We rely on you!’ I also arrived: I wanted to see Fischer who I had already heard a lot about.

Tigran Vartanovich played against the young American first. He loved to play fast chess and always accompanied his play by jokes and witty observations. ‘Let’s see how this miracle from Brooklyn plays,’ said Petrosyan, doing the first move. Being well acquainted with the best Soviet chess players, Fischer with due respect tried to show everything he was capable of, but it was nonetheless difficult for him to contend Tigran Vartanovich who at the time was one of the best chess players in the world.

Petrosyan confidently won the first two games. However, having somewhat relaxed, he allowed the opponent to win back one game, though the meeting ended with the victory of Petrosyan. Then, the chess players together analyzed the most interesting moments of the played games, after which Petrosyan highly appreciated the chess talent of Fischer.

‘This boy is yet to surprise the chess world,’ said Tigran Vartanovich. Fischer remarked that the games, while fast, against such a renowned grandmaster as Petrosyan are very instructive for him. Years later, Fischer would write about Petrosyan: ‘Petrosyan can well notice and eliminate threats 20 moves before they even demonstrate themselves. I was amazed by his ability to perform maneuvers that further reinforced the already excellent positions.’

I was to play with Fischer next. He was gaining advantage in the first five games, but then I adjusted to his game and won the party with a significant advantage. Fischer reacted to his losses calmly, only discontentedly setting the figures on the board for a new game.

When we left the club, we obviously exchanged our impressions of Fischer’s play. ‘I think that no one has ever played chess this well at the age of 15,’ said Petrosyan, ‘So I advise you to remember the name Robert Fischer. It is yet to make a thunder!’”

5 years later, Tigran Petrosyan would defeat Botvinnik and become a World Champion. 9 more years later, the chess crown would be acquired by Robert Fischer. The last play between the two great chess players would take place in 1971, ending with the victory of Fischer. However, there was no one who knew the play style, strong and weak sides of Fischer as well as Petrosyan. And that’s why in 1975, Anatoly Karpov was coached by Tigran Petrosyan along with Mikhail Tal in preparation to his match against Fischer.

Valery Asriyan

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