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  My page on one of the greatest players and tacticians that ever lived.

  Tal was one of the greatest players who ever lived.  
  This is my page - that is dedicated to him.  

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 A few  pictures  of M. Tal

Tal, Mikhail (1936 - 1992).  International GrandMaster (1957),
World Champion, 1960-61.

Born in Riga, the son of a physician, he became interested in chess when he saw a game of chess being played in his father's waiting room. At eight years of age he joined the chess section of the (young) Pioneers at Riga. Five years later, he began to study the game with Alexander Koblencs, a leading Latvian player. They (later) became close friends. At this time, Tal was not unduly skilled at the game, however - he was no child prodigy. (Although he did show an occasional flash of brilliance, once working out a complicated mate in 5 in less than 30 seconds.) A bright pupil at school, he went to University at the age of 15 to study Russian Language and Literature.

He first became widely known in the Soviet Union when he won chess championship of Latvia in 1953, after which he made rapid progress. He had a phenomenal year in 1956, and took straight off like a rocket. He won the Championship of the USSR in 1957 and 1958. (Two straight/consecutive years, only a handful of other Masters has managed this trick.) Then he won the Portoroz Interzonal in 1958, (+ 8, = 11, - 2); two and a half points ahead of the rest of the field! He won an International Tournament in Zurich in 1959, and simply buried the rest of the field. (+ 10, = 3, - 2) He then won the CANDIDATES Tournament at Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade, (1959); clear first. (+ 17, = 8, - 3) The next year, 1960, he easily defeated Botvinnik, (+ 6, = 13, - 2); to become the youngest World Champion ever. (Up until that time.)

Although he lost the rematch a year later, Tal remained one of the best players in the world. He suffered from a chronic kidney ailment, which often caused him great pain and required that he have many operations. (One of his kidneys was later removed.)

When Tal was in his best health, and when he was younger, he was virtually unstoppable. He once won a speed championship in Moscow where he won 15 games, drew 3, and lost only 1. This - despite the fact that many Top GM's were present.

Botvinnik once said that if Tal would train, program himself, and put himself on a strict regimen, "He would be impossible to play against."

Tal was known for his tactics and unbelievable sacrifices, especially in his youth. Later in life he mellowed, becoming a fully rounded GM, playing both positional and tactical chess with equal élan. He once went over 100 games without a single loss.

The official FIDE Year-book states that Tal's best rating was 2705, when he was 43. Yet if the rating system had been in place on the late 50's and early sixties - when Tal was playing his best chess - his rating may have broken the 2900 barrier!

He won many tournaments. Some his greatest victories were Bled, 1961; clear first, ahead of Fischer, Gligoric, Keres and Petrosian. He won Tallinn, 1971; (+ 9, = 5, -1) a prize that he shared with another chess genius, Paul Keres. He won the Championship of the U.S.S.R. (clear first) again in 1972 with nine wins, twelve draws, and no losses. (!!!) He tied for first in 1979 with KARPOV, (Montreal, '79) - who was then at the height of his playing strength. All total, Tal competed in dozens of tournaments. Apart from World Championship events, during the period 1949-1990, Tal competed in 55 very strong all-play-all, (round-robin); tournaments. He took first place nineteen (19) times, and second 7 times. He took or shared first place in six Soviet Championships. (A record only equaled by Botvinnik.) He won the Championship of his native Latvia around a dozen times. He also competed in SEVEN (7) FIDE Olympiads from 1958 to 1980, making a total score of: + 59, = 31, - 2. (!!!)

Tal was also a great writer and a prolific chess journalist. He wrote dozens of magazine articles. He was the editor of the Latvian Chess magazine, 'SAHS' from 1960 to 1974. He helped to write many books, but the only one for which he was completely responsible for was his book on the match with Botvinnik in 1960. His book, "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal," remains in print even today. (I highly recommend it.) Literally dozens of books have been written on Tal - in several different languages.

Tal was almost universally loved, and he had no real enemies.

Tal succumbed to his life-long kidney ailment in 1992. The chess world lost a true genius and an artist of the game.

 - LM A.J. Goldsby I  (Nov, 2002.)  

Tal's Games

I have about 10 books on Tal and his games. (The books by Varnuz, The 3-Volume set by Thomas, the one by Tal himself, about 5 different books that cover his two matches with Botvinnik, the set of books by Khalifman, the one by GM J. Gallagher, and the two listed below.) I can say that have studied Tal probably as well as any other player alive. A few of his games, (around 30); I know almost by heart and have subjected them to intensive analysis. One day I would like to have a PROFESSIONALLY designed site, all on Tal and his games. (But that would take sponsorship.)


    Two of my favorite Tal Books.  
  1. "Tal's 100 Best Games,"  (1961 - 1973);  by Bernard Cafferty. 
      [ © 1975, The Pitman Publishing Corporation. {Great Britain} ] 
     A great look at one of the greatest players who ever lived. Lots of biographical 
     information plus 100 fairly well annotated games. (The author - in many cases - 
     is drawing on Tal's own notes taken directly from old Soviet chess magazines.) 

  2. "Tal: The Magnificent,"  by GM Andrew Soltis and FM Ken Smith. 
      [ © 1990, Chess Digest. Published by C.D;  Dallas, TX. ] 
     A great book. A rather short, but very nice bio of Tal. This is followed by the story 
     of his rise to the pinnacle of the chess world. Then you get 30 well-annotated 
     games. These run from 1956, all the way to his win over Speelman in 1988. 
     One of the better Tal books ... and it did not cost an arm and a leg! 


    Some of my favorite (mostly early) Tal games:   
  1. Tal - SimaginLeningrad, 1956. Who can forget 15.Rb1!!! (Give-away?) 
     Easily one of Tal's best, this game is definitely the work of genius. 

  2. Tal - LissitizinUSSR Ch,  Leningrad, 1956.  This is Game Two in the 
     Chernev book.  ("The Most Instructive Games Of Chess Ever Played.") 
     I recently completed a deep analysis of this game. One of the all-time 
     great games of chess. (And an extremely great ending.) 

  3. Tal - TolushMoscow, 1957.  Tal defeats another great attacking player. 
     (In fine style.) 

  4. Tal -  Fischer World Championship (Candidates) Tournament
     Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade, 1959. One of Tal's finest games ... against an 
     authentic prodigy and genius. (And another future World Champ.) 

  5. Tal - Geller25th USSR Championship. Riga, Latvia; 1958. Another one
     of Tal's wins ... and against a player who probably figures into the list of: 
      "The 100 Best Players of All Time." (There's that move again, Rb1!!!) 

  6. Tal - BotvinnikFIDE WCS Match. Moscow, U.S.S.R; 1960. Tal's first 
     meeting with the great one. And Tal spanks him - much as you would a 
     naughty puppy with a rolled-up newspaper. 

  7. Tal - UnzickerStockholm, 1961.  Another brilliant game by the great one. 

  8. Tal - HechtVarna Olympiad, 1962. A queen sac, followed by Bf5!!!. 
      (This is game # 91 in GM A. Soltis's book,  "The 100 Best.") 

  9. Smyslov - TalMoscow, 1964.  Another beautiful game ... 
    that really sparkles. A game of great brilliancy.  (Tal offers his Queen as 
    Black, Smyslov manages to avoid being mated  ...  but gets a bad ending.  
    In the end, Tal wins - with real panache. Replay this game here.) 

  10. Tal - GM Jan Hein DonnerWijk aan Zee, 1968.  A game of real style. 

This is - BY NO MEANS!!!!! - an exhaustive list ... or even a list of Tal's 10 best. 
Consider it a  "Tal Sampler." If you can, download these games and study them. 

   (May, 2003: By popular request, I guess I will have to try and annotate all of these games.)  


Feb. 22, 2006:  One person sent me an e-mail accusing me of forgetting this project, nothing could be further than the truth. Since starting this page, I have endured computer and hard drive crashes, virus/worm attacks, etc. A great deal of data has been lost or corrupted. Many of these games had literally dozens of hours (in time) in an investment to annotate them. Now ... I would have to probably start over. If there is a game you really want to see annotated, send me an e-mail, and maybe we can work something out. 


Click  HERE  to see another collection of Tal games ... on the popular "Chess-Games" server.  

  M. Tal - I. Johannsson  
  International Chess Tournament  
  Reykjavik, Iceland (R#2) / 13,01,1964.  

The following game is the last encounter that we find in one of my favorite books, "The Golden Treasury of Chess," (the 1978 edition). This book is by none other than I.A. Horowitz. 


 1.e4 e5;  2.Nf3 Nc6;  3.Bb5 a6;  4.Ba4 Nf6;  5.0-0,   
Thus far, it has been a normal Ruy Lopez. 


 5...Be7;  6.Re1 b5;  7.Bb3 d6;  8.h3 0-0;  9.c3 Na5;  10.Bc2 c5;  11.d4,  
At this point, we have a standard position from the Tchigorin System. 
(There are literally thousands of examples - of this position - in the on-line games database.)  


 11...Nd7;  12.Nbd2 cxd4;  13.cxd4 Bf6; 14.Nf1,   
This is good, although d4-d5 also yielded an edge for White.   


 14...Nc6;  15.Be3 exd4;   
This leads to an IQP for Black.  (IQP = Isolated Queen's Pawn) 


 16.Nxd4 Nde5;  17.Bb3 Nxd4;  18.Bxd4 Bb7;  19.Rc1 Nd7;  20.Ng3 Re8;  21.Nf5 Rxe4;  
At last we reach the position that was given in the book.  {See the diagram just below.} 

m_tal-pos1.gif, 09 KB

  r2q2k1/1b1n1ppp/p2p1b2/1p3N2/3Br3/1B5P/PP3PP1/2RQR1K1 w  


Now White can gain a large advantage with the simple BxP/f7+!   


What to make of such a move? (Some annotators gave it two exclams.) Tal seeks complications ... perhaps in the hope that his opponent would go wrong.   


This move is a definite error, ('?') ... 
the tournament bulletin shows that Black thought for close to hour over this play.  


[ Black had to find the complicated line of:   >/=  22...Rxe1+[]23.Qxe1 Bxd4!;  
  24.Nxf7 Qf625.Nd8+ Kh826.Nxb7!? Rf8;  "<=>"    when there is no  
  guarantee that White will win. ]   


Now with a series of precise moves, Tal brings home the full point.  
 23.Nxf7! Rxd1;  24.Nxd8+! Bd5;  25.Rcxd1! Bxb3;  26.Rxd7,  "+/-"   
Black Resigns, he is lost in all variations. (I.e., 26...Bxa2??; 27.Re8#.)  


  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2006. All rights reserved.  


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   This page was originally posted in 2000 or 2001.  This page last up-dated: Friday, October 10, 2014 10:00 PM .  

  Copyright (c) (LM) A.J. Goldsby I  

  Copyright (©) A.J. Goldsby, 1975 - 2013.  
  Copyright © A.J. Goldsby, 2014.  All rights reserved.