Tigran Petrosian was nicknamed the “Iron Tiger.” Born in Armenia in 1929, he grew up in significant poverty, and saved money he earned sweeping streets to buy chess books by Nimzowitsch and Spielmann to study the game.
He went on to dominate the chess world with four Soviet chess championships. Petrosian became the world champion in 1963, defeating Mikhail Botvinnik, and defended his title in 1966 against Boris Spassky, before losing it to Spassky in 1969.
Because of his highly defensive and careful style of play, Harold Schonberg said that playing against Petrosian was “like trying to put handcuffs on an eel.”
Our favourite Petrosian quote is a great one for any student of the game:
“Chess is a game by its form, an art by its content and a science by the difficulty of gaining mastery in it. Chess can convey as much happiness as a good book or work of music can. However, it is necessary to learn to play well and only afterwards will one experience real delight.”
Petrosian competed in the 1971 Candidates Match, the qualifier for the 1972 World Championship, hoping to regain his title. He didn’t manage that feat, but here is a game from that match he played against Bobby Fischer, who would go on to win the championship the next year.