An ethnic Armenian, Petrosian was born in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia, USSR and lived most of his life in the Russian capital, Moscow. He learned the game of chess at the age of eight. A significant step for Petrosian was moving to Moscow in 1949, and he began to play and win many tournaments there. He won the 1951 tournament in Moscow, and began to show steady progress.
His results in the triennial Candidates tournaments, held to determine the challenger to the world champion, showed a steady improvement: 5th at Zürich in 1953; equal 3rd at Amsterdam in 1956; 3rd in Yugoslavia in 1959; 1st at Curaçao in 1962. In 1963 he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik 12.5–9.5 to become world chess champion. His patient, defensive style frustrated Botvinnik, who only needed to make one risky move for Petrosian to punish him.
Petrosian defended his title in 1966, defeating Boris Spassky 12.5–11.5, the first World Champion to win a title match while champion since Alekhine beat Bogoljubov in 1934. In 1968, he was granted an M.Phil. from Yerevan University for his thesis, "Chess Logic". In 1969 Spassky got his revenge, winning by 12.5-–10.5 and taking the title.
He was the only player to win a game against Bobby Fischer during the latter's 1971 Candidates matches, finally bringing an end to Fischer's amazing streak of twenty consecutive wins (7 to finish the 1970 Palma de Mallorca Interzonal, 6 against Taimanov, 6 against Larsen and the first game in their match).
Some of his late successes included victory in the 1979 Paul Keres Memorial tournament in Tallinn (12/16 without a loss, ahead of Tal, Bronstein and others), shared first place (with Portisch and Huebner) in the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal the same year, and 2nd place in Tilburg in 1981, half a point behind the winner Beliavsky. It was here that he played his last famous victory, a miraculous escape vs. the young Garry Kasparov .
Petrosian died of cancer in 1984.
He has two major opening systems named after him: the Petrosian variation of the King's Indian Defence (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. d5) and the Petrosian system in the Queen's Indian Defense (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3). A variation of the Caro-Kann defense also bears his name, along with former world champion Vassily Smyslov; the Petrosian–Smyslov variation (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7).
He is most famous for being one of the best players pioneering the theory of prophylaxis, years after Aron Nimzowitsch. His style of play was often highly strategical, notable for anticipating opponent's possible attacks and he based many of his games on avoidance of error, content with accumulating small advantages. His games are now widely used for instruction in chess schools around the world. He was also the chief editor of the chess magazine, "Shakhmatnaya Moskva" from 1963–66.
- World chess champions by Edward G. Winter, editor. 1981 ISBN 0080249041
- Twelve Great Chess Players and Their Best Games by Irving Chernev; Dover; August 1995. ISBN 0486286746
de:Tigran Petrosjan es:Tigran Petrosian fr:Tigran Petrossian he:טיגראן פטרוסיאן it:Tigran Petrosian nl:Tigran Petrosjan no:Tigran Petrosjan pl:Tigran Petrosjan pt:Tigran Petrosian ru:Петросян, Тигран Вартанович sl:Tigran Petrosjan