Do you have an opponent against whom you fare far worse than you should based on ratings alone? If so, you're not alone. In my World Chess column this week I discuss the phenomenon of the difficult opponent, recounting several top-level examples with a focus on the battles between former World Champion Tigran Petrosian and Lajos Portisch. Finally, the piece concludes with some tips on how to deal with such opponents. Hopefully they will be helpful, and if you have some suggestions of your own please pass them along (especially to the combox there).
Entries in Tigran Petrosian (3)
My column this week takes a look at the spoiled masterpiece, which I define in a person-relative way. We're playing a great game (at least by our standards), only to ruin it before collecting the point and finishing the artwork. Even if the game finishes in a draw, failures of this sort can be more upsetting, more disappointing, than losses. Two examples are offered in the column. The first is from one of my earliest tournaments, and the second, far more exalted example, comes from the 1966 World Championship match between Tigran Petrosian (who looks vaguely like Cosmo Kramer in the picture at the link) and Boris Spassky.
Some pleasant recent offerings on Chess24:
Two pieces on the 12th World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov. The most recent one has Karpov look back at his unplayed match with Bobby Fischer, offer a short comment about the Magnus Carlsen-Viswanathan Anand match(es) and a recollection of meeting Salvador Dali. The older one offers a transcript of a Russian film that had already been available on YouTube for some time, but now English readers unfamiliar with Russian can enjoy it. It is a documentary of Karpov's training camp before the aforementioned (non-) match with Fischer. Fans of Tigran Petrosian will also want to check this out, to see him play a little blitz and hear his voice (as he's engaged in some mild trash talk with Rafael Vaganian).
Then it's time for Mikhail Tal, courtesy of Peter Svidler. There's a short interview with Svidler in which he discusses (among other things) his new video series on Tal, which is, I suspect, probably available only to members of the site. If you're a member I think you'll enjoy it, but I wouldn't really recommend signing up if this is your only reason for doing so. (Unless money is no object to you, in which case there are certain bloggers who would appreciate your support.)
At least two things struck me about the series, which I have watched in its entirety. The first is the strong emotional bond Svidler shows towards Tal, one of deep respect and feeling. The second, somewhat ironically, is a sense in many of the games that his opponents played extraordinarily poorly (at least/certainly by Svidler's standards), to a degree that one almost wonders if there has been rating deflation over the past few decades, at least if ratings are taken to represent objective strength.
A more modest claim is that they played very poorly (compared with their peers today) in the kinds of complicated positions that Tal created, which may very well be the case. Additionally, our improved skill in such positions today is explained in part by the fact that Tal arrived and forced the world to adapt, and even more by the presence of computers, which have done much to improve players' awareness of tactical resources. Whatever the story, the videos are enjoyable, so watch them if you can.