World – Inducted 2003
As winner of the 9th World Championship in 1963, Tigran Petrosian ended the Botvinnik era, which had lasted 15 years. Impoverished and orphaned during World War II, the young Petrosian began to develop his chess skills through reading and training at the Tiflis Palace of Pioneers, where he developed a solid, scientific style of play under Archil Ebralidze. After drawing in the 1946 Georgian Chess Championship, he moved to Yerevan, where he won the Armenian Chess Championship in 1946 and 1947. He then went to Moscow in search of greater competition. After a slow period in the early 1950s, Petrosian began to find success in his new home and won his first of four USSR Championships in 1959. He was awarded the title of Master of Sport of the USSR in 1960, and defended his national title in 1961.
In 1962, he qualified for the Candidates Tournament, the first step on the road to his World Championship title. Petrosian defended successfully in 1966 against Spassky, becoming the first titleholder since 1934 to do so. After losing the title to the same opponent in 1969, Petrosian continued playing in Candidates cycles, eventually qualifying for eight over the course of his career. He qualified for eight European Team Championships, winning eight team and four board gold medals. While representing the Soviet Union on ten Olympiad teams, he lost only once, compiling an amazing record of 79 wins, one loss, and 50 draws. Petrosian seldom attacked pieces directly, preferring slow, subtle maneuvering, a style that earned him the nickname “Iron Tigran” and make him what many considered the hardest player to beat in the history of chess.