The name of Tigran Petrosian has been the catchword for Armenian households, though Tigran the Senior and Tigran the Junior have no direct blood links.

And Armenians have been taking all-can-see-it pride in the two Tigran Petrosians as their profession of chess playing is the most popular mind game in their country.

Tigran is an ancient Armenian name. Tigran the Great, or in ancient language Tigranes the Great, was the king who led the Armenians to fend off Roman invasion and build an empire of their own around the first century.

But the name of Tigran never caught up with the attention and fascination of the entire nation as it did in 1963 when Tigran Sr. played 22 long games over two months to defeat Mikhail Botvinnik to claim the world chess championship title.

Day after day for the entire period of those two months, thousands of Armenians gathered at the Opera Square in central Yerevan to watch the moves of the two grandmasters. Each and every move was relayed by telex from Moscow to Yerevan to be demonstrated on a giant billboard erected on the square.

“That was what started it all,” explained Arshak Petrosian about the interrelation and interaction among chess and Armenia and the Armenians. From that moment on, chess became a national obsession.


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