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    One of Tal's Best Games!    

This is a very famous chess game, I have seen in in a variety of different sources. To me, it is simply one of Tal's very best games!  

Ever since I first made a list of the young Tal's best games, (around 2000 or 2001); I have received many requests to annotate this game. 
I finally just got tired of saying, "no." And I decided to go ahead and take a shot at it. 

This is not a regular Tal game ... it features an ending ... normally players like Capablanca, Fischer, or Kasparov are thought of to be the highest artists in this particular area of chess. However, Tal's play here is simply superb ... and is easily as good as some of the efforts of any of the other players that I just named. 

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   Click  HERE  to see and  replay  this game  ...  on another server.   
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   This is MOSTLY a text-based version of the game with just a few diagrams. 
    (You might need a chess board to follow the game AND the variations.)   

  GM Mikhail Tal (2675) - GM Georgy Lisitsin (2550)  
  Twenty-third (#23) National Championship Tournament (URS-Ch23)  
   Leningrad, U.S.S.R;  1956.   

  [A.J. Goldsby I]  

tal_t-vs-lisit_medal.gif, 02 KB

A famous game ... it has appeared in many game collections. 
(The most important - by far, at least to me - is Irving Chernev's book, Game # 2.)  

Tal's use of his King should be a revelation to most players ... the manner in which Tal walks his King 
across the board ... and into the heart of the enemy position, is truly a wondrous thing to behold. This   
game is also a shocker for many other reasons: 
# 1.)  A young Tal does not sack any pieces; 
# 2.)  It could be - easily - in a list of the 25 best endings ever played! 


The ratings here are purely estimates, and are based on comparative values of modern players. 
(For the rating list of January 01, 1956; Jeff Sonas has Tal at 2400+ and Lissitzin at around 2500. 
 See the rating list on his website:  

 1.e4 c5; 2.Nf3 d6;  3.d4 cxd4;  4.Nxd4 Nf6;  5.Nc3 g6;  6.f4!?,   
The Levenfish Attack, a very tricky line that is not thoroughly played or understood ... even today. 
(There are almost no  "GM vs. GM"  between the world's best players in this particular opening system.)  

     [ Today most guys will play:  6.Be3!?, ('!')  leading to the Yugoslav Attack. ]  


 6...Nc6;  ('!')   
Black has a choice of different variations at this point. 
(This is both logical and fully playable. In fact the book, " Modern Chess Openings," gives this move  
 an exclam ... although it was frowned upon - by theory - at the time that this game was actually played.)   

     [ A common trap for Black is:  
        6...Bg7!?7.e5 dxe5 8.fxe5 Ng4?('??')  {Diagram?}   
        Black had to retreat this piece to the d7-square, and allow White 
        to play e6!, as unattractive as that might be. 

        9.Bb5+ Nc6{Diagram?}    
        Believe it or not, this is pretty much forced for Black.  


             ( Of course not: </=  9...Kf8??;  10.Ne6+!,  {D?}   
                and Black loses the Queen.   


               Also bad is:  </=  9...Bd7?;  10.Qxg4,  {Diag?}  
               winning a piece. ("+/-") )       


       10.Nxc6 bxc611.Bxc6+,  ''  {Diagram?}   
        White wins at least the exchange. (Maybe "+/-") ]   


White now chooses a line that puts pressure on Black. 
 7.Nxc6!? bxc6;  8.e5 Nd7[];  9.exd6 exd6;  10.Be3 Be7!;    
Black would naturally like to play the Bishop to the g7-square ... 
 but this would drop the pawn on the d6-square. 

     [ Maybe  10...d511.Bd4 f6; "~"  ]   


White {now} finds the only way to maintain a slight pull from this position. 
 11.Qf3 d5;  12.0-0-0! Bf6;   
This is obviously a good move for Black in this position.   

     [ Instead Black can play:   (>/=) 12...0-0!?13.g4!? Bf6; "="  {D?}     
        with an excellent game.  

       GM J. Tarjan - GM J. TimmanICT / Masters (Invitational?)    
       Venice, Italy; 1974.  

       [ See MCO-14, page # 279; column # 27, and note # (l.). ] ]   


 13.Bd4,  ('!')   13...0-0!?;   {See the diagram ... just below here.}   
 The most natural move here.   



  Black has just castled. (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos1.gif, 09 KB)



This is an interesting and complex position ... fully worthy of a diagram. 

     [ Or  13...Bxd4; 14.Rxd4 0-0;  "~"   and Black is probably OK. ]    


Now White threatens Black on the King-side, Black responds with some tricky tactics of his own. 
 14.h4!? Rb8!?;  15.Qf2!,   
White avoids a very nasty trap.  

     [ </=  15.h5? Bxd4!; 16.Rxd4 Qb6; "/+" ]   


 15...Rb4;  16.Bxf6,   
The correct move for White.  

     [ Definitely not:  </= 16.Bxa7?! Bxc3!; "/+" ]   


 16...Nxf6;  17.a3 Qb6;  18.Qxb6 Rxb6,  "="    19.Na4!("N on the rim?")      
{See the diagram ... just below here.}    
Hitting the Rook, freezing Black's Queen-side Pawns, and preparing something truly wonderful.   



  White places a Knight ... ON THE EDGE OF THE BOARD??? (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos2.gif, 09 KB)



The current position looks very simple and mundane - most programs seem to conclude that Black is OK here, 
or even has a slight advantage. 

     [ Also possible was:  19.Bd3!?  ]   


White continues to keep the second player under pressure. 
(He will also sack a Pawn to keep Black thinking. Tal also aims to keep Black's Bishop completely bottled up.)   

 19...Rb7;  20.Bd3, ('!')   20...Nh5!?;  21.Rhf1 Re7;  22.f5!! gxf5!?;    
Black accepts White's challenge.  

Perhaps Black thought White would try to quickly regain the Pawn from this position?   

     [ Maybe better was:    
       (>/=)  22...Rfe8;  "~"   {Diagram?}   
       but Lissitzin might have been afraid that White 
       would sink his Pawn into the f6-square. ]    


 23.Rfe1! Rfe8;  24.Rxe7 Rxe7;  25.Kd2!!,  (Unreal!)   {See the diagram ... just below here.}     
The beginning of a magnificent march by Tal's monarch.   
(Tal's opponent might have thought that White was only trying to keep the Black Rook out of the e3-square.)   



  Does Tal's King look like it is stuck on an odd-looking square? (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos3.gif, 08 KB)



Black probably has no clue of what is in store for him in the coming very complex end-game phase. 

     [ Worth a look was:  25.b4, {D?}  but after  25...f5-f4 Black looks to be doing really well here. ]  


 25...Ng3;  26.Kc3! f4!?;  27.Kd4! Bf5!?;  28.Rd2,  ('!')  {Box.}    
This is both good and practically forced for Tal ... he cannot allow Black's Rook to penetrate to the seventh rank.   

     [ </=  28.Nc5!? Be4!;  "/+"  ]    


Now White will sacrifice yet another Pawn. One point that is somewhat obvious, yet needs to be emphasized: 
 if Tal has badly misjudged this position, he will lose horribly in the ensuing endgame.   
 28...Re6;  29.Nc5 Rh6!?;  30.Ke5! Bxd3;  31.cxd3! Rxh4;   {See the diagram - just below.}     
Black is simply two Pawns up. 



  Black snips off another button. (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos4.gif, 08 KB)



I think that most players would want to play Black from this position ...  
at least if they were honest, they would say this. 


Meanwhile, Tal's King continues on its journey.   
 32.Kd6! Rh6+!?;  33.Kc7! Nf5;  34.Kb7 Nd4;   {See the diagram - - - just below.}     
With the Pawn on c6 now defended by the Knight, Lisitsin can activate  his Rook. 
 (Ideas like ...Rh2; and ...f3!)   



 Both Knights look well placed in the center of the board. (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos5.gif, 08 KB)



Looking at the board, we can now see the results of White's strategy, Tal has three pieces in the field of play ... 
while his opponent's King is woefully inactive by comparison.   

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

Black continues with natural-looking moves. 
(However close computer analysis suggests that the second party had to try the move,  ...f4-f3!;  on move 35.)   
 35.Rf2 a5!?;  36.Rxf4! Ne6!?;   {See the diagram - just below here.}    

Seemingly the obvious move, and one that appears to force an exchange of Rooks.  



  A fork ... by the Black steed. (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos6.gif, 08 KB)



"Knight-to-c2"  might have been a little better for Black in this particular position. 


 37.Rg4+! Kf8;  (hmmm)   {See the diagram ... just below here.}     
This appears to be forced.  {A turning point has been reached.}     



  The Black King ducks left. (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos7.gif, 08 KB)



Black is still a Pawn ahead .......   

     [ Black cannot play: 
       </=  37...Rg6?; ('??')  38.Rxg6+ hxg639.Nxe6 fxe640.Kxc6 a4{D?}    
       This is probably forced here.  

            ( Not  </= 40...Kf7?!;  41.b4!, "+/-"  - Irving Chernev. )    

       41.Kb5 Kf742.Kxa4,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}   
       And White wins the K+P ending. ]    


Now White walks into a discovered check ... something that would normally lead to a complete catastrophe. 
But Tal has judged the consequences correctly.  

 38.Kxc6! Nxc5+!?;  39.Kxc5 Re6;  40.Kxd5,  ('')    
Like a magician who pulls a rabbit from a hat, Tal has gone from a being a Pawn down to a being a Pawn ahead ... 
can one say simply "genius"  ...  or dare I use that word in this context?   

     [ Was  40.b4!? any good here? ]   



The rest is simply a matter of technique for the great Tal.   
{I would advise the aspiring student to study the remaining moves  very carefully
  in order to master the virtuoso endgame performance that Tal demonstrates here.}   
 40...Rb6;  41.b4 axb4;  42.axb4 Ke7;  43.Kc5 Rf6;    
Black chooses active defence ... over retreating the Rook to b8.    


 44.Rd4!,  (why?)   
This prevents Black from bringing his King over to stop White's passed Pawn ... 
and makes the win relatively simple.   

     [ Also possible was:  44.b5!?, ''  ]    


Now Tal plays more seemingly pointless King moves. 

But after his 48th move, suddenly his b-Pawn is free to sail up the board to the promotion square. 
 44...Rf5+;  45.Kb6! Rf6+;  46.Kc7 Rf5;  47.Re4+! Kf6;  48.Kc6 Rf2;    
 49.g4 h5!?; 
{See the diagram ... just below.} 
Black sacks a Pawn in an attempt for some sneaky counterplay ... all to no avail. 
(The check on c2 is useless, as White has the very simple blocking move of Rc4.)   



  Tal mops up. (tal_t-vs-lisit_pos8.gif, 07 KB)  {Tues; July 25th, 2006: My daughter Ailene demands that I change the diagrams, "The colors hurt my eyes," she says.}



The current position deserves a close look - and perhaps even some deep reflection. 

     [ After the moves:   
        ("</=")   49...Rd2!?50.Rd4 Ke551.Rd5+ Kf452.b5 Rc2+;    
       53.Rc5 Rd254.b6! Rxd355.b7 Rd856.g5!, "+/-"  {Diag?}       
       White has a won game. ]   


Tal now wraps things up.   
 50.gxh5 Kg5;  51.b5 f5;  52.Rb4! f4;  53.b6 f3;  54.b7,  ("+/-")   Black Resigns.    
Further resistance is futile. 

     [ The one and only Irving Chernev gives the following moves:    
        54.b7 Rc2+55.Kd5! f256.b8Q! f1Q57.Qg3+! Kf6[]{D?}     
        Probably the only move.   

           ( But not: </=  57...Kxh5?; 58.Rh4#.     

             Also bad is: </= 57...Kf5?; 58.Qg6#. )    

       58.Qg6+ Ke759.Rb7+,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}   
       and Black is quickly mated. ]    


An incredible performance by Tal, and one that clearly demonstrates the power of the King, 
at least when it is skillfully used. It is also one of my favorite endings ... of all time. 

(Black's play was very solid ... there is almost no one move where one can point and say, 
 "This is the losing play here.")   




I consulted many different books to annotate this game ... but mainly I used  MCO-14  for the opening    
and Chernev's wonderful game collection. ("The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played," 
{62 Masterpieces of Chess Strategy};  by Irving Chernev.)  First published in  () 1965  in the USA. 


   Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2004 & 2005.  All rights reserved.   


    1  -  0    

This is a game that I have annotated more than once, one version probably runs more than 25 pages, with only a handful of diagrams. (In that version, I quote all of Chernev's comments in their entirety.) Here my goal was NOT to quote what other authors have said about this game, but to simply to try and give you a fair idea of what a great game this contest actually is. I encourage all (serious) students of the game - especially fans of M. Tal - to get a copy of the (late) great, Irving Chernev's book ... and go over this game slowly in great detail. You will certainly enjoy the results. 

This analysis has been checked many times ... with many different computer programs, to ensure accuracy!!  (Fritz 8.0, Deep Junior, Hiarcs.) 

This game  ...  and the HTML code, (plus annotations);   ...  was originally generated  ...  by (use of) the program,  ChessBase 8.0. 

   This page was created in Aug, 2004.   This page was first  posted on the Internet  on  Saturday;  November 20th, 2004.   Last update on:  04/25/2007 .   


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I hope you have enjoyed this game half as much as I have. If you would like to obtain a (printed) copy of this game for your own study - 
 and enjoyment,  (for a modest fee, mainly to defray printing and paper costs ... and, of course, postage);   please  contact me

   Copyright ()  LM A.J. Goldsby I  

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2007. All rights reserved. 


  (This game was previewed by about nine people.)