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This is an extremely famous chess game, a great deal has been written about it over the years. According to the critics/pundits, Tal missed a win in a pure K+P ending. However, I have had a great deal of experience with this game over the years. A few of them are: 

  1. I played over the analysis many years ago ... in the early-to-mid 70's. (I studied this game for many weeks.) 
    (I was never convinced that Tal missed a win, despite what the "experts" had written about this endgame.)

  2. I met a master (2400+) ... MANY yarons ago, and we played over the game. However, despite the fact that I had the book in front of me, the master was able to easily hold the draw, no matter which line I played. (Which begs the question: IF it was a forced win, shouldn't I have been able to win it easily, especially seeing as I had the book right there?) 

  3. I e-mailed an older IM ... who also holds the engines in complete disdain. When I told him that I think that I had busted the famous line of analysis, his answer certainly was condescending, and he said something like: "There is no way you - or any engine - could refute the published K+P endgame analysis. (Many famous GM's had gone over it, if there was an error, it would have been discovered by now.) Simply play over various lines and study it, eventually you will find out where you made your mistake." 

  4. This game is specifically analyzed in the book: "Power Chess," by Paul Keres. (I have the book, although I must confess that I had not opened it in at least five years ... and maybe even a lot longer!) Anyway, I posted a forum on another server, and in that blog/forum, a user re-acquainted me with this game, bringing it back to my attention. That book was instrumental in my first pass of analysis, it enabled me to follow the main lines and find out exactly where the famous GM's had made their {first} mistake. 

As a result of all of this, I went back and checked everything with a fine-tooth comb. I used multiple engines, Deep Fritz 14, Houdini 3.0, Stockfish, Deep Shredder, etc. (All the better engines told the same story: for almost the entire game, neither side ever gained an appreciable advantage, a the end of the game, all the engines show an evaluation of "0.00," meaning that it is a dead draw.) I decided to make a web page out of my analysis and invite any and all players, (it does not matter if they hold a FIDE title or not); to take a look ... we will let public opinion decide whether or not I am correct.  

Just one other quick note here ... which is sort of a pre-emptive strike. Korchnoi's style has always been to "tread on the line," and play dangerous ... and often even provocative moves. I fully understand his style, and I must have at least 5-7 books on Korchnoi or about Korchnoi. Of course, during the course of the game, I simply want to comment on the moves themselves, and not go into questions of chess style. I must also comment that Tal had a reputation for possibly unsound combinations, however (in this game) his play was of the highest level and he played nearly perfect chess ... many of his moves are the first or second choice of the chess engines. 

 Click  HERE  to see  an explanation of the symbols  that I commonly use when I annotate any chess game.  

 Click  HERE  to replay this game.      (Click  HERE  to see a "star-dot-pdf" / Adobe copy of my analysis.)   

 Click  HERE  to see my video channel on the "You-Tube" channel.    (Click HERE to see my YT video on this game.)  

Tal-Kor_T-photo01.jpg, 05 KB

Tal-Kor_V-photo01.jpg, 03 KB

         GM Mikhail Tal  
         (My page on him.) 
       GM V. Korchnoi    
          His FIDE card. 

   Mihail Tal (2757) - Viktor Kortschnoj (2759) 
FIDE Candidate Match, (Semi-finals) / Game # 01 
Moscow, U.S.S.R. (Russia); 1968.  

Tal-Kor_medal.jpg, 02 KB

   [A.J. Goldsby I]  

This is a very famous draw ... my main focus here was obviously the K+P endgame.  

I saw it analyzed in several books ... and also a great number of magazines over the years. 
(Several authors ... Furman, Averbakh, Smyslov, Botvinnik, Keres, and Gligoric, just to name a few "chess stars" ... 
claimed that Tal missed a clear win, but none of the chess engines really substantiate this point of view. 5-10 years ago, 
the engines were quite unreliable in the endgame, but, in recent years, the chess programs have made huge strides and  
{today} they can quickly calculate all of the important lines.) 


[ The ratings come from the historical ratings website, "Chess Metrics," by the respected statistician, Jeff Sonas
  According to that website, Fischer was the #1 player in 1968, Korchnoi was #2, and Tal was the #3 player. ]   

     1.d4 Nf6;  2.c4 e6;  3.Nf3 b6;  4.g3,  (fianchetto)   

This is a solid play but it is also the older move. 
(This game was played well before Kasparov came on the scene and showed that a3! <on move four or five> to    
  be a path that generally gives White the best chance at a solid advantage.)  


Tal-Kor1968_pos1.jpg, 56 KB

   rnbqkb1r/p1pp1ppp/1p2pn2/8/2PP4/5NP1/PP2PP1P/RNBQKB1R b KQkq - 0 4  


[ For more on this opening, see MCO-15, beginning on page # 563. ] 


                         [ I prefer the try: 4.a3, see any good reference work. 
                            {This is the Petrosian System ... many books have  
                               been written on this particular line.} ]  


     4...Bb7;  5.Bg2 Be7;  6.0-0 0-0;  7.Nc3 Ne4!;  

A known antidote, after this well-timed play by the second party, White has problems trying to really demonstrate a clear edge. 


     8.Qc2 Nxc3;  9.Qxc3 c5;    ('!?')  

So far, this is all a <<standard>> book line ... ... ... 
[ See MCO-15, page # 574; columns # 19-22, and all of the respective notes. ]   


Tal-Kor1968_pos2.jpg, 55 KB

   rn1q1rk1/pb1pbppp/1p2p3/2p5/2PP4/2Q2NP1/PP2PPBP/R1B2RK1 w - c6 0 10   


This move, (9...c7-c5!?) is probably sufficient for equality, any exchange in the center will lessen White's dominance there. 
 (DF14 prefers 9...Be4.) 

A fairly good and relatively recent example of this game would have to be: 
GM Evgeny Bareev (2645) - GM Judit Polgar (2727); / World Champ. Candidates / Semi-Finals (4) / 2007.   
{Bareev won a long game, 1-0 in 54 moves, however the machine shows many improvements for Black.}  


     10.Be3 Bf6;  11.Rfd1!? Bxf3!;  12.Bxf3 Nc6;  13.Bxc6 dxc6;    

Temporarily, Black has doubled Pawns, but they are about to be liquidated ...    


Tal-Kor1968_pos3.jpg, 53 KB

   r2q1rk1/p4ppp/1pp1pb2/2p5/2PP4/2Q1B1P1/PP2PP1P/R2R2K1 w - - 0 14   


The current position makes for an interesting diagram. {See just above.}  


White now penetrates to the 7th rank, the result of which is just more exchanges. 

     14.Qd3 cxd4;  15.Bxd4 c5;  16.Bc3 Qe7;  17.Qd7 Rfd8;  18.Qxe7 Bxe7;  19.e4 h5!?;   

This is not a bad move but Houdini's plan of  >/=  19...f6; and then 20...Kf7; has to be a little better.   


     20.Kf1 Bf6!?;  (Too risky?)    

Korchnoi gives himself doubled Pawns on the King-side. While not losing, I think it was unnecessary ... the plan outlined after the previous ply-set has to be less risky. (Editor's note ... the Informant awards this move a full question mark. However, as this move only causes a tiny disturbance in the engine's overall evaluation, this is obviously much too harsh a judgment!) 


     21.Bxf6 gxf6;  22.Ke2 Kg7;  23.Rxd8,   (paring-down)  

M. Tal, a great master of the endgame, knows that the doubled Pawns in Black's camp means that White will have some real winning chances.   


                         [ RR 23.a3 Kg6; "~" (unclear) ]   


     23...Rxd8;  24.Rd1 Rxd1;  25.Kxd1,   ("=")   

A king-and-pawn-endgame has been reached, most engines show that the current position is very close to dead level. 
(This would be a good place to have another diagram.)  


Tal-Kor1968_pos4.jpg, 49 KB

   8/p4pk1/1p2pp2/2p4p/2P1P3/6P1/PP3P1P/3K4 b - - 0 25   


If White has any advantage at all, then engines like Houdini 3.0, DF14 and also Deep Shredder ... 
show that it is literally only 10-20 one-hundredths of a point. (Which is clearly NOT enough to win the game!)  

I spent almost a full day analyzing this K+P endgame ... with the help of several strong chess engines. 
Black can probably draw with 25...e5; but I much prefer Korchnoi's move. 


     25...Kg6!;  26.Ke2 Kg5!?;   

There is probably nothing seriously wrong with this move, but here it just doesn't feel right. 
(White can kick the BK with h4+ or even f4+ at some point.)  

To be fair, however, I should point out that 26...Kg5; IS the top choice of several good chess engines - like Stockfish. 
(And a few others.)  


                         [ Deep Fritz 14 gives the following line here: (>/=) 
                           RR  26...f527.Ke3 Kg5 28.exf5 Kxf529.f3,  "+/="   
                           White has a tiny edge ... but it will never add up to anything 
                            that the first player can deposit into the chess bank.   
                            (IMO, its an iron-clad draw.) ]    


     27.Kf3 f5!?;  (hmmm)     

Probably ... eventually ... Black has to play this, but it is all a question of timing.   


Tal-Kor1968_pos5.jpg, 49 KB

   8/p4p2/1p2p3/2p2pkp/2P1P3/5KP1/PP3P1P/8 w - - 0 28   


We have reached the critical position, and it is definitely time for another diagram. 


In this position, Smyslov once published an analysis in one chess magazine ... which ran several pages. In that work, both Smyslov and Furman strongly asserted that 28.e5! would have won the game for White.   


                          [ RR 27...a628.h4+, "+/=" ]  


     28.h3!?,   (Ha, ha, ha!)   

The play of h2-h3 ... originally given a question mark by Smyslov and Furman and then the same judgment was agreed upon by Paul Keres ... 
turns out to be the #1 or #2 move choice of many chess engines! (As I write this note - several days ago I did an overnight D.P.A. and 28.h3, WAS the FIRST choice of DF14! (It is a flexible, it keeps just about all of White's options open, and this is probably why Mikhail Tal played it in the first place.) 

The section (just below) is my detailed examination of the main line of this very complex K+P endgame ... 
and is the result of nearly 3 weeks of work. (Refer to the diagram - just above.)  

                         [ For a very long time, I follow the analysis of Smyslov and Furman, quoted in the book, 
                            "Power Chess," by GM Paul Keres

                             RR  28.e5! f6!29.h4+! Kg630.Kf4 a6!31.a3! b5!!;     
                             Normally, it is a loss to give your opponent an OUTSIDE PASSED PAWN ...    
                             but Black has all of the bases covered here.   

                             32.cxb5 axb533.b3! fxe5+ 34.Ke3!!,  (Amazing!)    
                             It is extremely rare for a tactic like this to occur in a pure K+P endgame.   
                             (Normally, to not recapture is a disaster, but here White holds the trump 
                               card of the outside passed pawn.)   

                                             ( The following line - found mostly by the chess engines -     
                                                is so fascinating that I have to show it:    
RR 34.Kxe5 Kf735.f3 Ke7 36.f4 Kf737.a4?, (error)      
                                                Normally, getting an outside Passed Pawn will guarantee    
                                                one side a virtual win, but here is a wonderful exception!

                                                          (All White had to do to draw this ending was to find the following line:     
                                                            >/=  37.b4 c4 38.Kd4 Ke739.a4 bxa440.Kxc4 Kd6;    
                                                                    41.b5 a3 42.Kb3 Kc543.Kxa3 Kxb544.Kb3,  "="  
                                                                    with a fairly obvious draw.)  

                                                37...bxa4!38.bxa4 Ke7 39.a5 Kd740.a6 Kc6 41.a7 Kb7(zugzwang)    
                                                And here ... White finds himself in a rare form of a move dilemma. If the first    
                                                player could hop his King over to the c4-square, he would win easily. Since 
                                                he cannot, he must move forward ... & lose the game! 

                                                42.Kxe6 c4;  "-/+"   Black is winning easily. )     

                             Now a careless move ... like playing the Black King to the h6-square ... will lose to a4!    
                             But all is not lost, to maintain the balance, all Black has to do is to return the extra material.   

                             34...f4+!;  (Correct!)   

                             Black returns the material, other lines are not convincing. (See the analysis, just below.)   

     *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** ***   

                                            ( Yuri Averbakh and I Maizelis, in the book: "Pawn Endings," 
                                              (Chess Digest, published in 1974.) <position/example # 802, beginning on page #267;>   
                                               give only the following line of analysis ... 
                                               (I stick to just their main variation, and pretty much ignore the many branches here.): 

                                                 </=  34...Kf6?;  (bad)   
                                                  This is wrong, the engine throws a fit just after this move is played! 
                                                  (Going from equal, to "plus-slash-minus, + 2.52.)    

                                                  35.a4 bxa436.bxa4 Ke7 37.Kd3 Kd638.Kc4 Kc6 39.a5 f4;  
                                                  40.gxf4 exf4;
  41.a6 f3!?42.a7 Kb7 43.Kxc5 Kxa744.Kd6 Kb6;  
                                                  45.Kxe6 Kc7;
  46.Kf5 Kd6 47.Kf4 Ke648.Kxf3,  "+/-"  (+-)     

Tal-Kor_analysis-pos01.jpg, 47 KB

   8/8/4k3/7p/7P/5K2/5P2/8 b - - 0 48   

                                                  White is winning ... you can check this position with any engine you like. )

     *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** ***   

                             Going back to the our original line of analysis, (White has to capture, 35.Kd2?!, fxg3; '/+'  will favor Black.):      
                             35.gxf4 exf4+36.Kxf4 Kf6 37.Ke4 Ke738.a4 c4! 39.a5 cxb340.Kd3 Kd6 41.Kc3 Kc6!;  (correct)    
                             This simple move draws easily, and all of the engines will confirm this.    

     *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** ***   

                                            ( Our famous crew of analysts only give the following (grossly inferior) line:    
                                               </=  41...Kc5??;  
                                               IMO, it is rare scenario when a King move ... that immediately grabs the opposition ...    
                                               loses by force!!! (All the strong chess engines "see" this as a blunder, the evals going    
                                               from near equal to "+12 to +15!") 

                                               42.Kxb3 e543.f3!,  "+/-"   when White wins easily.    

                                               (In case you are not yet convinced that Black is completely lost ... 
                                                I offer the following two lines as our ... "the body of proof" ... 

                                                43.f3 b4!?;  (human)    
                                                I showed this position to a few guys at chess club tonight, they all wanted to play this move.    

                                                                (Just blindly following the engine moves yields the following variation here:    
                                                                  RR 43...Kd544.a6 Kc6 45.Kb4 Kb646.a7 Kxa7 47.Kxb5 Kb7;    
                                                                  48.Kc5 e4 49.fxe4 Kc750.Kd5 Kd7 51.Ke5 Ke752.Kf5 Kf7;    
                                                                  53.Kg5 Kg754.Kxh5, +-)      

                                                44.a6 Kb645.Kxb4 Kxa6 46.Kc5 Kb747.Kd5, +-)  )   

     *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** ***   

                             (We return to the main stem of our analysis line here.) 

                              42.Kxb3 Kc543.Kc3 b4+ 44.Kb3 Kb545.a6 Kxa6 46.Kxb4 Kb6;  (stand-off)    
                              This is the point of 41...Kc6! 
                               ---> When the dust finally settles, the Black King can hold the opposition and still maintain the draw. 

                              47.Kc4 Kc648.Kd4 Kd6 49.Ke4 Ke750.Ke5,  (opposition)    
                              The most direct try.   

                                             ( Or White could try: RR 50.Kf4 Kf651.f3 e5+52.Ke4 Ke6;  "="     
                                                which is also a draw. )    

                              50...Kf751.f3 Ke752.f4 Kf7;  "="  (100% equal!)    
                              It is a DEAD DRAW ... all of the engines evaluate this position as "0.00," which is as drawn as it gets!!!   

Tal-Kor_analysis-pos02.jpg, 48 KB

   8/5k2/4p3/4K2p/5P1P/8/8/8 w - - 0 53   

                              This analysis diagram should convince even the most hardened skeptic.   
                              (Even if White exchanges off the f-Pawns and wins Black's h-Pawn, it is still a draw as long as the 
                               Black King can reach the important f8-square.) ]    

After a deep analysis of some of the potential K+P endings, we return to the actual game. 

     28...Kf6;  29.Kf4 e5+;  30.Ke3 a6;  31.b3,  

This is actually the first choice of DF14, but Smyslov, Furman and Keres seem to think it was clearly inferior!   


                         [ In the book, "Power Chess," Keres claims that the following    
                            line was a big improvement over the actual game:   
                            31.a3! Ke6!?    

                            This is OK but Houdini shows that 31...b5! (right away) might be even better. 

                            32.exf5+ Kxf533.f3 f634.g4+!?, (Premature?)     
                            The line given by Furman, and later improved upon by Smyslov, but the engines don't seem to like it. 

                                      (Probably a little more tricky was the following line here:   
                                        RR 34.h4 Ke6 35.g4 f5; 36.g5 Kf7 37.b4 a5;        
                                        38.bxa5 bxa5 39.Kd3 Ke640.Kd2,  "+/="       
                                        The engines give White almost a third of a Pawn ...      
                                         but its is all nonsense, as it is an easy draw ... by "mutual terror,"     
                                         as as GM Arty Bisguier once described a similar situation of a       
                                         K+P endgame at a U.S. Open.       
                                         (Neither King can leave the square of the pawn, the BK has to keep      
                                           an eye on the g-Pawn, while the WK has to stick around to watch     
                                           the Black Pawn duo on e5 and f5.) )    

                             34...hxg435.hxg4+ Ke6!   
                             This is a HUGE improvement over the line, (with 35...Kg6?!); as given by Keres, Smyslov, etc. 

                             36.Ke4 b5!37.cxb5 axb5 38.b3 Kd639.Kd3 Kc6!;  "="    
                             with a VERY drawn position. (Check it with any engine.)   

   *** *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** ***    

                             The continuation of:   31.exf5 Kxf532.f3 Ke6 33.g4 f534.g5,  "+/="  34...Kf7;    
                              transposes to a variation already examined here. ]    


The rest of the game is pretty much a draw, I saw no "blips" in the engine evals ... which would indicate that one side (or the other) missed an easy win or made a significant mistake in this endgame. 

     31...Ke6 ; 32.exf5+ Kxf5;  33.f3 Ke6 ; 34.g4 f5;  35.gxf5+ Kxf5;      
     36.h4 Kf6;   37.Ke4 Ke6;  38.a3 b5;   39.cxb5 axb5;  40.Kd3 Kd6;  "="   


Tal-Kor1968_pos6.jpg, 47 KB

   8/8/3k4/1pp1p2p/7P/PP1K1P2/8/8 w - - 0 41   


Its now a draw ... (Engines at "0.00" again.)    

A wonderful endgame ... but it seems only one that a chess engine could really fathom. 


     Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2014. All rights reserved.      


   ˝ - ˝   


  1. The book:  "Power Chess,"  by GM Paul Keres.  (Chapter/game #19,  page # 212.)  
    Copyright 1991. ISBN: 0-812-91949-1 David McKay, publisher.  

  2. The book:  "Pawn Endings,"  by GM Yuri Averbakh and I. Maizelis
     (Published by Chess Digest, 1974. Copyright (also) in 1974.)   <position/example # 802, beginning on page #267.> 
      (The link given here is NOT the same book as mine. However, I have both books and I am pretty sure that the info is pretty much the same.)  

  3. This game is also analyzed in the <Yugoslavian publication> The INFORMANT.  (Informant #05, game # 680.)   
    Click here to see a {full pictorial} copy of that analysis.  

   Further Study / and More Resources  

  •   A very nice, instructive article on the endgames. (Wikipedia.) 

  •   A few of the most basic endgames ... all are thoroughly analyzed. (More basic endgames.)  

  •   My endgame school has many K+P endgames and also many basic positions that every player should know.  

  •   The top ten rules of endgames ... basic endgames for all beginner's. 

  •   Hundreds (thousands?) of endgame puzzles ... play against the computer! (Click here.)  

  •   Practice your basic endgames and basic mating techniques. (Click here.)  

  •   Click here to see a blog I did on another website ... many interesting K+P endgames are covered there. 
       (It was also that blog that was the inspiration for this web page.) 

  Below is a copy of an email that I received, and as it pertains to this web page, I did not think Pal would mind if I posted it.  
 (I invited USCF to have another GM write about this web page, but I guess they were too chicken to take on such a complicated task.) 

             The analysis for this page was prepared with the excellent programChessBase 10.0. 
 (I now have ChessBase 11.0; I also used MANY different chess engines ... during the course of my analysis!)   
                ---> My main engines - for this game - were Deep Fritz 14, Houdini 3.0, Rybka 4, Fritz 13 and Deep Shredder. 

               The HTML was polished with several different tools and programs, (mostly FP)  ...  the text was checked for spelling with MS Word. 

               If you enjoyed this web-page, please e-mail me any comments!     

Go ... or return  ...  to my  Home Page  for this site.  

Go (or return)  ...   to my  "Annotated Games" (II)  Page. 

Go ... or return ...  to my "Best GamesPage. 
(You could also use the "back" button on your web browser. Click here ... to go to the page with my games.)  


  Copyright (c) LM A.J. Goldsby I  
   Copyright © A.J. Goldsby, 2015.  All rights reserved.  


This page was first generated in: September, 2014.   
Final format and posted on: Friday; October 10th, 2014. 
This game was last edited, altered or saved on:  February 15, 2015 04:45 PM .   

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