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 Mikhail TAL vs. Vladimir Simagin.

Mikhail Tal (2475) - Vladimir Simagin (2625) 
23rd U.S.S.R. Championship(s)

Leningrad, RUS;  1956.

 [A.J. Goldsby I] 


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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.) 


One of Tal's better games. (Played when he was 19, and making his first appearance 
in the finals of the Championships of the {old/former} Soviet Union.)

It is also very interesting, very complex, and perhaps the first game to bring international 
attention to this player. (As Tal would write, it was reprinted in virtually all of the periodicals 
 of that time.)


This game is probably the first example of the fire and the brilliance, {of the  tactics}; 
of the future World Champion.


   The ratings are only estimates. 
     [ Jeff Sonas gives Tal as about 2430. V. Simagin (2551) was # 40 in the world at the time, according 
       to Sonas. {At the end of 1955.}  By comparison ...  for the year 2003, the # 40 player is ... 
       GM Aleksei Aleksandrov, (2650); who is from Belarus. ]  


1.e4 c6;  2.d4 d6!?;   
An invention of Simagin's, who won MANY games with this line!  

But it is an odd and curious method of opening a chess game, 
which really fails to impress.  

     [  Better is:  >/=  2...d5!;  {Diagram?}  with a Caro-Kann. 
        (And good play for Black.)  ]   


3.Nc3!?,  (Maybe - '!')   
Simple development ... that leads to a position that will emphasize a lot of piece play. 

     [ A more positional approach would have been:  3.c4!?,  {Diagram?} 
       again hitting the d5-square, and building on White's obvious space  
       advantage. ]  


3...Nf6;  4.f4!?,   
A pawn move - which hits e5.  

     [ 4.Nf3!? ]  


An interesting and not completely illogical move by Black ... designed 
to pressure the dark squares, and keep White from moving his QB. 


     [  The system after the moves:  4...Qa55.Bd3 e56.Nf3 Bg4;  
         was all the rage in the late 1980's in GM chess.  
         (It also occurred in a few U.S. Championship games ...  
          I know, I was there watching when GM's Benjamin and Wilder played   
          this {line} in one of their games.)  

        Now after the moves:  7.Be3 Nbd7;  "~"   is a position that is rather unclear. 

        GM A. Vaisser - GM J. Dorfman;  21st Aubervilliers Open,  1994.  
        (The game was drawn after 45 very hard-fought moves.)  ]    


Both sides now continue to develop.  
5.Nf3 Bg4;  6.Be2 Nbd7!?;  7.e5! Nd5;  8.0-0 Nxc3;  
9.bxc3 e6!?;  (Maybe - '?!')  {Diagram?}  
A perfectly normal-looking move ...  that some authors have criticized as being 
somewhat doubtful.  

     [  Probably better was:  >/=  9...g6!;  "~"   when Black may have a playable position.   


        Too slow would have been: 9...a6!?; ('?')  10.Ng5! Bxe2;  
        11.Qxe2 g6?12.e6! "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
         which is darn near winning for White ... and illustrates clearly why 
         Black felt it necessary to prevent the pawn advance to the e6-square. ]  


Now Tal vigorously exploits his lead in development. 
(And begins a combination that is over 25 moves in length!!) 

10.Ng5! Bxe2;  11.Qxe2 h6!?;    {See the diagram just below.}       
Black tempts fate, and creates a new weakness. But why should he be afraid? 
(His opponent is a young player, and a nobody ... at least at that time.) 


  tal_t-vs-sim_pos1.jpg, 31 KB

(The position immediately following Black's 12th move, here.)


White now - it seems - is forced to retreat his daring horseman. 

     [ 11...Be7!? ]   


(White to move... what move would YOU make here?) 

  12.Nxf7!!,    (Maybe - '!!!/!!!!')   {Diagram?}  
It is no exaggeration to say that this move literally electrified the gallery and the 
casual onlookers of this game. 
(To say nothing of the surprise his opponent must have experienced.)  

(The main referee for this event threatened to clear the hall ... 
 before order and silence were restored.)  

My instincts - when I first saw this game - said: "This move cannot be sound."   
While this MIGHT be true, the number of problems that Tal lays before his opponent ...  
is beyond virtually anything but a super-computer to solve!  



     [  In hindsight, both of the following continuations favor White:  
        12.Nf3 d513.f5 c5;  "~"  {Diagram?}  
        & White's advantage in development  could amount to something.   


        Or White could have tried: 
        12.Qh5!? g6!?13.Qh3 Qa514.Rb1!,  "+/="  {Diagram?}  
        and White seems (again) to be just a little better.  


        I think most modern GM's would have chosen to play one of these    
        two lines - as there is less risk involved.   


        Of course not: 12.Ne4?! dxe513.fxe5 Nxe5!?;  "=/+"  {Diag?}  
        and White has dropped a Pawn. (But White may gain some play.)  ]   



This is forced.  

     [  Black could not play:  </=  12...Rg8?13.exd6 Kxf714.f5,  "/\"  {Diag?}  
         and White probably has a winning attack. ]  


White - now a piece down - has to try and open lines against Black's King in 
this position.
13.f5 dxe5!?;   
It is hard to come up with a solid and viable improvement here for Black.


     [  Black obviously cannot play: 13...a5?14.fxe6+ Kxe6??;  {Diag?}  
         Here everything probably loses, but this is suicide.  

           (Black probably had to try: 14...Kg8;  15.exd7 dxe5;    
            16.Qxe5, "+/-"  {Diagram?}  but White is clearly on top.)   

        15.exd6+ Kxd616.Bf4+ "+/-"  {Diagram?} 
         and Black is completely lost.  


        Soltis gives the variation:  
        13...Nxe5!?14.Kh1!?,   {Diagram?}  
        GM A. Soltis  gives this an exclam.  (And stops here.)

           ( Even better was:  >/=  14.Be3!, '' )     

        14...Qb5;  {Diagram?}  
         Black has no choice here.  

           ( Of course not:  14...Nd7??; 15.Qxe6#. )  

        15.fxe6+ Kxe616.Qf2!, "--->"  ("+/=")   {Diagram?}  
         and White has both the initiative  and an attack in this position.   


        Not attractive to Black was:  </=  13...Kg8?!14.fxe6 Nxe5;  {Diag?}   
        This is literally forced.  

           ( </=  14...Nc5?;  15.exd6!, "+/-" )      

        15.Kh1!?,  {Diagram?}  
        Soltis gives this move no mark,  and provides no alternative or commentary 
        at this point.  

           ( Probably a little better was: >/= 15.Qf2 d5; 16.Be3!, "--->" {Diagram?}    
             with a very strong attack. )     

        15...Ng616.Qh5,  "~"   {Diagram?}  
         and White has a nice attack, and a lot of play for the material.  
         - GM Andrew Soltis]    


14.fxe6+ Kxe6[];  {See the diagram, just below here.}  
Once again, Black has few good alternatives in this position.


  tal_t-vs-sim_pos2.jpg, 30 KB

(The position immediately following Black's 14th move, here.)



Now the stage is set for a real stroke of genius by Tal.  

        [ </=  14...Kg8?15.exd7, "+/-" ]    


Tal's next move defies superlatives, or any attempt to describe it with 'normal'  adjectives.  
 (It was ... "the only move to cause me any difficulties,"  says Tal!)  

  15.Rb1!!,   (Maybe - '!!!!!')  {Diagram?}  
Having already sacrificed a horse, Tal throws a whole ox onto the bonfire  ...  
just for good measure!!!

All of White's pieces are on the first or second row, which meant his position 
did not really look all that menacing.  

This move, (Rb1); is very difficult to find. But once you realize that Black must capture ... 
and lose his Queen to a discovered check ... it is a little easier for the rest of us to grasp.

     [ 15.Qc4+!?;  or  15.Bf4!? ]  


15...Qxb1;  {Maybe 'box?'}   
This is probably forced for Black. (Or so say several GM's.)  

     [  Black could not play:  15...Qa616.Qg4+! Kd6?;  {Diagram?}  
        This is inaccurate.  

           ( >/= Better is: 16...Ke7[]; 17.dxe5 b5; 18.Qf5, "~" with an attack. )   

        17.dxe5+ Kc718.Bf4!, ''  {Diagram?}  
         when White is clearly better.  (Line by - GM A. Soltis.)  


        If 15...Qa5; then White will simply play:  16.RxP/b7, "~{Diagram?} 
        with good play.  - GM Mikhail Tal


         Interesting was:  15...Qc7!?;  {Diagram?}  when it is not clear how White 
         will follow up on his attack.  (White is still on the offensive however ... Black's 
         position remains very congested and uncoordinated.)  

         Maybe 16.Qh5!?, "--->"  will do the trick?  ]    


Black's next few moves appear to all be forced.  
16.Qc4+ Kd6;  17.Ba3+ Kc7;  18.Rxb1 Bxa3;   
Is Black defending?
(He has a Rook, a Bishop, AND a Knight for the Queen.)  

It is this double attack on a3 and b7 that decides the game. Tal would have 
had to foreseen this position BEFORE sacrificing his Knight on f7.  

     [ 19.Qf7!? b5; "~" or "/+" ]  


19...Be7;  20.Qxb7+ Kd6[];   
This is absolutely forced.

     [ Not  </= 20...Kd8??21.Qxa8+, ("+/-")  ]  


Once again, Black has almost no choices over the next series of moves.  
21.dxe5+ Nxe5;  22.Rd1+ Ke6;  23.Qb3+ Kf5;  24.Rf1+ Ke4!?;  {Diag?}  
Black - seemingly - has to keep his King in the center, to avoid losing any more 

     [  RR  </=   24...Kg6?!25.Qe6+ Bf626.Qf5+ Kf727.Qxe5, "+/-" ]  


Again Tal finds the best move.  

     [  Several of the Masters watching this game predicted that Tal would probably 
         play:  25.Qe6!?''   {Diagram?}  which is also good for White. ]  


25...Kf5;  26.g4+! Kf6!;   
Black continues his little dance, trying to avoid shedding any more 
valuable material.

      [  </=  26...Kxg4??27.Rxe5,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}  


         Soltis gives the continuation: RR  26...Kf4!?27.Rf1+!? Ke428.Qe6! Bc5+;  
         29.Kg2 Rae8; 30.Re1+ Be331.Qf5+ Kd532.Rxe3,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
         and attributes this line to the well-known English analyst, P.H. Clarke. 
          (But >/= Qa4+! on move # 27 would probably lead to a forced mate.)   ]   


27.Rf1+ Kg6;  28.Qe6+ Kh7!?;   
This is probably best - the Black King wants to be as far away from the 
action as possible.  

     [  Or Black could play:  </=  28...Bf6!?29.Qf5+ Kf7;  
        30.Qxe5, ''  (Maybe "+/-")  {Diagram?}  
        but his King is more exposed than in the game. ]   


29.Qxe5 ('!')''   (MAYBE  "+/-")  {See the diagram just below.}  
The correct capture ... now the win is ... "only a matter of technique." 

( Actually, I am being sarcastic, the win would be impossible for the average 
  player here. {Black has a great degree of counterplay, and White's King is 
  partially exposed.}


  tal_t-vs-sim_pos3.jpg, 28 KB

The actual game position after White's 29th move, Qxe5.



The game takes a new turn, and Tal decides to force his opponent to: 
(eventually) ATTACK HIS KING!!!!

Needless to say, this is not the procedure that most of us would have chosen 
in this position!!

Tal has also envisioned a possible a march ... of his King! ... all the way to the g6-square!! 
And while this is mostly a flight of pure fancy, Tal comes remarkably close to making the 
whole thing work!!

     [  Not as good would have been:  29.Qxe7!? Rhe8;  
        30.Qc5 Rad8; <=>  {Diagram?}   
        and Black's forces work well together in this position. ]  


29...Rhe8;  30.Rf7 Bf8[];   
Of course this is forced.  

     [ </=  30...Bf6??31.Qxf6, "+/-" ]   


31.Qf5+ Kg8;  32.Kf2!?,   
A VERY provocative move from Tal ...  who seems to be daring his opponent 
to whip up some play!  

  ( GM A. Soltis gives this a dubious appellation ... but does not bother to inform     
    us which move would have been better. )    


     [  Safer was:  >/=  32.Kf1!, "+/-"  {Diagram?}   
         when Black has no Bishop check on the c5-square. 


        I think most analysts had recommended that White play: 
        32.g5,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}  in this position.  ]   


22...Bc5+;  33.Kg3 Re3+;  34.Kh4! Rae8!;   {See the diagram just below.}  
This is the best move for Black, and is even awarded an exclam 
by  Grand-Master Andrew Soltis

   Please to note:  Black has MANY  (!!)  threats in this position, beginning      
    with the move, ...Be7+ 

     [  Tal's dream comes true  ...  in the following variation:  
        RR  34...g5+35.Kh5 Rh3+36.Kg6 Rd8!?;  {Diagram?}  
        Black seems to be on the verge of a decisive attack.  

          ( Fritz says the move:  36...Rf3!?; {Diagram?} is forced for Black.  )    

        37.Rg7+ Kh838.Rh7+ Kg8; 39.Qf7#.  ]   


   White looks to be in trouble.  (tal_t-vs-sim_pos4.jpg, 28 KB)

 The actual game position ... just after Black's thirty-fourth move. 



35.Rxg7+!,  (Maybe - '!!')  {Diagram?}  
Tal eliminates most of his opponent's threats in this position ... but seems to 
 enter an arena completely devoid of any winning chances at all for White. 

 (Normally, two Rooks are better than a Queen ... all else being equal.  
  But here all other things are NOT equal  -  the main factor is that Black's 
  opponent's name is ... TAL!!!!!)  

     [  White should not play: RR  35.a4? Be7+36.Kh5? Rd8; "~"  {Diagram?}  
        and Black might save the draw here.  ]   


Definitely no choice here.  

     [  </= 35...Kh8; (????)  36.Qh7#.  ]  


36.Qxc5 R8e6!?;  (Maybe - '?!')   
Not the best move, but Black was already in time trouble at this point. 
(And according to the computer, Simagin was lost no matter what move 
 he played.)  

Soltis gives this move a full question mark,  ('?')  explaining, in some detail, 
the technical reasons behind his decision. While he may be correct, my 
research and (very detailed) analysis indicates that White may yet retain some 
winning chances, no matter what.

     [  Probably it was better for Black to play:  >/=  36...R8e7!; "<=>{Diag?}  
         and the win is MUCH more difficult for White than in the actual game.  ]   


37.Qxa7+ Kg6;  38.Qa8!,   
A good move that is pretty sneaky, and also contains a drop of poison.  

     [  RR  38.a4!? Rxc3; "<=>"  ]   


Black is forced to move his King yet another time.  

        [  </=  38...Rf6??39.Qg8#]   


White now runs his RP down the board, but Black is powerless ...  
to stop White from doing this. 
39.a4 Ke5!?;  40.a5 Kd5;   
Normally the game would be adjourned after forty moves, especially in the "good old days" of chess.  
(I am not sure if this game was adjourned or not.)

41.Qd8+ Ke4!?;  
Black's King spends a lot of time in the center in this game. (!!!)  

     [  Black cannot play:  </=  41...Rd6?42.c4+! Kc543.Qb6+, 
        43...Kxc444.Qxe3, "+/-"   which wins for White.  ]  


White now wraps things up.  
42.a6 Kf3;  43.a7 Re2;  44.Qd3+ R6e3;   
This was pretty much forced.

Tal had a sense of humor, his next move clearly shows this. 
45.Qxe3+!,     "+/-"   Black Resigns.

A most magnificent and very memorable victory. 
(And one of my favorites. It is also a game that as recently as the year 2000-2001, 
 completely baffled and befuddled the best computers.) 


     [  White could have also played:  45.Qd1!?, "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
         which will win in the long run.  


        Karpov - at the height of his powers - would have probably played: 
        >/=    45.Qd6!!,     "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
        which also forces resignation.  


        To show Black's position was not completely harmless: 
        </=  45.Qd4?? Rxh2#.   {Diagram?}  
        for those who like to fall asleep,  ...  in won positions. ]  


   1 - 0   


     (All HTML code initially)  Generated with  ChessBase 8.0     


I have practically every Tal book ever printed, but the main resource that I used in annotating 
this game was the excellent book:  "TAL, The Magnificent,"  by  GM Andrew Soltis. 
Copyright () by the author, 1990.  Published by:  
Chess Digest, Inc. 11836 Judd Court, # 338-E; Dallas, TX  (U.S.A.)  75234-4402
ISBN: # 0-87568-183-2


   Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.   Copyright (c) A.J.G;  2003.   

Monday; June 30th, 2003:  This is a game that I worked on for a few hours each night  ...  for over two weeks. Then I spent about 10 hours each on it for two more nights, completing the annotation process. After I finished annotating the games, it took TWO full nights to get the HTML code whipped into shape. I hope you enjoy all this hard work!!! 

This page was last updated on 04/25/07 .


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  Copyright ()  A.J. Goldsby I,    A.J. Goldsby, 2003 - 2006.  

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