His lack of knowledge is not surprising: Petrov’s name was expunged from the records and declared a non-person following his arrest and death in a Siberian gulag during the Second World War.
Petrov was Latvia’s great hope of the 1930s, coming equal first at the Kemeri super-tournament in 1937 with Flohr and Reshevsky. He had an outstanding performance on top board for Latvia at the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad, scoring 72 per cent against the best players in the world (drawing with Alekhine, Capablanca and Keres).
Then the war began. In 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Petrov – who was playing in Moscow – was unable to return to Latvia. He was forced to remain in Moscow, but was arrested for his outspoken views of the living standards back home, following the Soviet annexation of Latvia in 1940. His crime was enough to have him sent to Siberia where he perished two years later.
The innocence and rehabilitation of Petrov by the Supreme Soviet was agreed on January 17, 1989 – only then was the date of his death finally acknowledged. It is only in the past year or so, with the creation of a memorial tournament, has the full tragedy of his story come to light in the chess world. Last weekend, in the 2nd Vladimir Petrov Memorial rapid tournament in Jurmala, Latvia, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Vladimir Malakhov tied for first on 10.5/14, with Wojtaszek taking the title on tiebreaks.
A Shirov - R Wojtaszek
Vladimir Petrov Memorial, (4)
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3 e5 7 Nde2 h5 8 g3 Be7 9 Bg2 b5 10 a4 b4 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 Qxd5 Ra7 13 Be3 Be6 14 Qd3 Rd7 15 0–0–0 b3 16 Nc3 bxc2 17 Rd2 Qa5 18 Qxc2 Rc7 19 f4 Qb4 20 Kb1 Bb3 21 Qd3 0–0 22 fxe5 dxe5 23 Nd5 Qxa4 24 Nxc7 Rc8 25 Bb6 Qa2+ 26 Kc1 Nd7! 27 Qb1 Nxb6 0–1