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Prophylaxis (Part II) – Learn from Tigran Petrosian

GM Swapnil Dhopade & FM ANKIT GAJWA

GM Swapnil Dhopade & FM ANKIT GAJWA

Team Chess Pathshala

Prophylaxis (Part II) – Learn from Tigran Petrosian

“We hope all danger may be overcome, but to conclude that no danger may ever arise would itself be extremely dangerous” – Abraham Lincoln

Hello Dear Readers,

This article is a continuation to the previous article on prophylaxis in which we tried to understand what prophylaxis is, why prophylactic thinking is a necessary skill for a Chess player, how Karpov’s games can teach us a great deal about prophylaxis, followed by some recommendations for the readers about how they can train this important skill.

Sense of danger is an ideal trait for a Chess player, as it would make him excellent in the domain of prophylaxis. Such was the case with Petrosian: he possessed a brilliant feel for the position and could sense the danger and take necessary precautions long before the ideas entered his opponent’s head. An amazing trait!

This is game 2 from the 1971 candidates chess match final between Tigran Petrosian and Bobby Fischer.

 Fischer once said: ‘Petrosian has the ability to see and eliminate danger 20 moves before it arises!’

He approached Chess in a different way and had a distinct style which was hard to follow. 

Petrosian was prudent in his decisions, and believed in the logic of the game. 

He was also very well known for his exchange sacrifices – not only did he win a lot of games with it, but he also went on to save a lot of positions by means of this tool.

 Even when the position didn’t seem dangerous to normal eyes, he would probe deeper, understand the dangers and take necessary precautions before it was too late. 

A famous example is Reshevsky – Petrosian from Zurich 1953.

Studying the classics has numerous benefits.

One of them is that it helps in developing an understanding of typical plans and patterns.

It is not surprising that P. Harikrishna used a similar idea in one of his games against P.Svidler in 2017.

Let’s have a look at another master-class in prophylaxis by Petrosian.

  1. The above mentioned game shows how deeply Petrosian thought about his opponent’s ideas.

  2. It’s something we should all try to do in our own games – think seriously about our opponent’s ideas.

  3. This is the key to improving prophylactic skills: We must be diligent while thinking about our opponent’s ideas.

  4. The tendency of being casual while thinking about our opponent’s ideas must be eliminated.

  5. This is also the key to developing our sense of danger – we must do it all the time so that it becomes a part of our nature.

  6. This will enrich our intuition. Tal remarked that Petrosian sometimes found ideas for his opponents that never even entered their heads.

  7. This should act as an inspiration for us to work on our prophylactic skills.

Solutions of positions from the previous article.

1. Karpov – Istratescu 2005 –

Solution: 23.Rxc8! – Rxc8 24. Rc1 (+/=) [Preventing Nb5, since now after 24…. – Rxc1 25. Qc1 – Nb5, white has 26.Qc8+ – Nf8 27. Bxb5 – Qxb5 28.Bd6 +-], also good is 23. a4!. The important point is to understand that Black threatens to play Nb5 followed by Nc3, and therefore, take necessary action against this idea.

2. Karpov – Ljubojevic 1979 – 

 Solution: 1.Bh6! (Black intends to improve his position with Nc5 or Ng7 followed by Nf5. This move clears the 3rd rank for the rook, and   now Nc5 is met by Rf3+ followed by Bxg6.) – Ng7 2.Bg5+! – Kf7 3. Rb7+ (+/-)

3. Karpov – Smyslov 1972 –  Solution: 1.a4! (Simply preventing 1…- b5. Now the knight on a7 feels  awkward.)

Here is the Link of our Previous Article – 

Prophylaxis –Part-1 Learn from Anatoly Karpov

I hope you find this article helpful.

Stay tuned for more articles and Puzzles!

Happy Solving!

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