Review of the King’s Indian According to Petrosian

The King’s Indian According to Tigran Petrosian by IM Igor Yanvarjov 2019 Russell Enterprises, Inc. 424 pp

When looking at a book such as this one it’s important to understand that there are two main reasons that an author writes a book.

The first is to earn money. Many books are written by authors who are writing about an assigned topic in order to earn a payday because they are working professionals who need to pay the rent the same as the rest of us.

The second type of book is one that’s a labor of love. Any monies generated are almost secondary in nature. Rather the book represents the author’s absolute unwavering love for the topic at hand.¬†This book is of that second type.

Why the title of the book may read as though it’s a opening manual, it is very much not. Yes, the book is themed around Petrosian’s games in the King’s Indian, and reading this book in depth will help enhance the reader’s understanding of the KID, but the real point of this book is to show the nuanced handling of positions that the ninth world champion is so known for.

Having said that, this book will be of some use in learning the opening for players who prefer to take a “deep dive” approach and look at historical games in order to build a proper foundation for an opening.

It’s important to remember that Petrosian passed away 35 years ago, and so every line in this book should be taken with a grain of salt and checked very thoroughly by players just coming to the KID.

The book is divided into three parts with each part being split into several chapters. They are:

Part 1 Tabiyas

Chapter 1 Classical Variation

Chapter 2 The Samisch System

Chapter 3 The Fianchetto Variation

Chapter 4 The Benoni

Chapter 5 Other Systems

Part 2 Elements of Success

Chapter 6 Portrait of a Chess Player

Chapter 7 Lessons from Petrosian

Chapter 8 The Problem of the Exchange

Chapter 9 “Furman’s Bishop”

Chapter 10 “Pawns are the soul of chess”

Chapter 11 Playing by Analogy

Chapter 12 Maneuvering Battle

Part III Experiments

Chapter 13 Realist or Romantic?

Chapter 14 The King’s Indian with Colors – and Flanks – Reversed

Readers who paid careful attention to the above table of contents will have picked up on the fact that with chapters such as Chapter 4 The Benoni this work isn’t strictly a King’s Indian treatise as much as it is the King’s Indian and related positions.

“What about the games themselves?” readers are hopefully asking by this point. The games are all annotated to varying degrees. Some have only light notes, whereas others have very detailed analytical variations. It is in this area that I believe that Yanvarjov does an excellent job.

Many of the games contain quoted historical analysis or comments, whether by Tigran himself or his contemporaries. In addition the author goes into great analytical detail where it makes sense.

I also thought that IM Yanvarjov did an excellent job of mixing in both prose and variations to describe the action taking place within the positions. In some cases a verbal description is given which should be helpful to players of club level in particular.

Take this position for instance, from the second game between Bisguier and Petrosian in the 1954 USA-USSR Radio Match. Here the American GM has just played 18.Nd5

“Bisguier forces the issue but achieves little. The calm 18.Rd2, with the goal of increasing the pressure in the center by doubling rooks, is more unpleasant for Black.”

This is a simple enough explanation for readers of any level to understand, and reams of variationally inclined analysis doesn’t get the point across in as clear as manner.

Here’s an excellent example where some analysis combines with a clear verbal explanation to one again convey a clear image. This is the position after move 31 in the game Borisenko-Petrosian in the 21st USSR Championship.

Here White plays 32.Kh2. Writes Yanvarjov:

“To this point, White had played very consistently, but now Borisenko’s constant companion in his tournament games, time trouble, came into play. Instead of the irresolute king move, by playing b2-b4!, White could have posed challenging problems for his opponent. However, the most principled continuation was probably not 32.b4, but 32.Bd2 and only then b2-b4. For example, 32.Bd2 Kh7 33.b4 Nd7 34.b5 Nb8 35.Qe3 Qf8 36.f4, etc.”

My assessment of this book is that it’s a book written as a labor of love designed to showcase the player who appears to have made the biggest impression on Yanvarjov, while also being very useful as a games collection.

Again, I should stress that those who want to use this book as an opening manual will have a lot of additional work to do, but for those who are looking at this as a games collection you will see a lot of practical use from this book.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this one today.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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