© A.J. Goldsby, 2015.
Buy a book
was one of the greatest players who ever lived.
Mikhail (1936 - 1992). International GrandMaster (1957),
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.)
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.
is - BY NO MEANS!!!!! - an exhaustive list ... or even a list of Tal's 10
(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.
Now White can gain a large advantage with the simple BxP/f7+!
with a series of precise moves, Tal brings home the full
Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2006. All rights reserved.
1 - 0
HERE to go to my page on the best
Click HERE to see a famous TAL draw.
Click HERE to go to or return to my Home Page.
Click HERE to go to, or return to my page on the best players who ever lived.
Click HERE to go to, or return to my page on the best chess games of all time.
Click HERE to go to YET ANOTHER PAGE on ... "The Magician from Riga!"
(Or use the "BACK" button on your web browser.)
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.