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A.J.'s  web page devoted to the one and only,

GM Mikhail Tal.

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     A picture of the 'Wizard from Riga' in action. Click on this picture for more!!!  (tal-04.jpeg, 07 KB)

A picture of the very exciting player,  M. Tal. 

(Click  here  for more images.)

 (Click  here  to view  - or buy - pictures, or other Tal memorabilia.) 

Click  HERE  to go to the  USCF page  that covers great U.S. Chess players.

I first became interested in Tal ... as a very young lad. Someone showed me a book on this great player before I was 10. I was dazzled by the games, but I was not really good enough to understand that I was looking at greatness. (At that particular time.) Later, when I was 13 or 14, someone gave me a book about Tal. (I like to joke ... that book ..."almost wrecked me."  For many years I could not play a game of chess without trying to sacrifice something!!!)  I now have many books on Tal, practically every one ever printed about this great player.

I have studied Tal all my life. I believe him to be the finest pure tactician who ever lived. 
(Adolph Anderssen or Garry Kasparov would come in second.) 

No other player ever had his meteoric rise to the top of the chess world. In 1956, he was a very solid master. A year later he won both the Championship of Latvia, then later, the championship of the USSR. Two years later he had won his second Soviet Championship ... in a row ... and become one of the world's best players. He went on - for the next two years - to win practically every tournament he played in, and in 1960 sat down ... AND DECISIVELY DEFEATED ... the very much-feared and legendary figure, Mikhail M. Botvinnik. In doing so, he became the YOUNGEST PLAYER to EVER win the chess World Championship. (At least, up until that point in history.) He was also - according to Jeff Sonas - almost nearly always in the TOP TEN in the world ... for a period of over 30 years!!! (From the late 1950's to nearly 1990.) 

Many still consider this player to be one of the greatest ... 
- if not  THE  greatest! - 
chess players who ever lived. But how much do you know about this player, really?

Irving Chernev  ranks him in the Top Ten of all the chess players who ever lived.  

A winner of some of the better and the strongest tournaments in chess history, 
like  BLED, 1961. (See my web page devoted to this subject.) 

He also is one of the VERY few players to win TWO  Soviet Championships in a row!!! (An incredible feat, to be sure. I think that less than ten players have ever managed this trick. HINT!: Someone compile a list for me?) Also he was one of the very best blitz players in the whole world, at least at one time. (He once won a small DRR event at Switzerland in 1959 ... with a PERFECT score! He also {easily} won the World Blitz Championship in 1988.) I could go on and on, but by now you should be getting the idea. 

Mikhail Tal -  (1936 - 1992) Latvian player, International GM (1957), World Champion 1960-1961. (Botvinnik - perhaps unfairly - got an automatic rematch if he lost.) 

Tal was a very intelligent person, (He attended University before age 16!); he learned the game of chess at a very early age while watching his parents and relatives play. Later, (about age six); he became completely absorbed in the game when he saw a game being played in his Father's waiting room. After this, he could not get enough of the game. He joined the  "Young Pioneers" in Riga at age 8. (He would later become the pupil there of Alexander Koblencs, one of the best players in Latvia at that time.) 

While not a true prodigy, he would occasionally solve a complicated mate in five or seven moves in just a few seconds. This was surely a portent of things to come. 

He first attracted attention, (in the Soviet Union, anyway); when he won the Championship of Latvia in 1953. (He was 16 or 17 at the time.) After this he made very rapid progress. 

He won the Championship, (clear first!) of the {former} USSR in 1957, (+9, =10, -2); and again in 1958, (+10, =5, -3). He went on to win clear first at the INTERZONAL TOURNAMENT at Portoroz, (YUG); in 1958 ... TWO-AND-A-HALF POINTS (2.5!) AHEAD OF THE FIELD!!! (This was the tournament where Bobby Fischer gained his spurs, and by qualifying for the Candidates Tournament, the title of the youngest GM ever.) He later played in his FIRST REAL INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT .... AND WON IT!!! (Capa did this as well.) [Zurich, 1959. (+10, =3, -2) ].  He then went on to win CLEAR FIRST in the Candidates Tournament, (Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade, +16, =8, -4). By doing so, Tal became the official challenger for the World's Championship. He virtually CRUSHED Botvinnik, to the tune of: +6, =13, -2 ... to become the youngest (chess) World's Champion in the history of the game. 

  No other player went from virtual unknown to World's Champion in such a quick and in such a totally breath-taking fashion.   Indeed, in 1958, even after he had won his second consecutive National Championship, most of the officers at the FIDE Congress that year had not met Tal. Further, most of the chess players in the west did not even know his name!! (I got this dope straight from a {former} U.S. FIDE delegate who was there that year.) 

Tal suffered from very poor health, and had two bad kidneys. (In the sixties, one had to be completely removed, after failing several times.) He would lose the World's Championship a year later, after failing to heed his doctors' advice - which was to take a postponement on medical grounds. (Had he enjoyed good health, he probably would have been a World Champion for a MUCH longer period of time!!) 

He would go on to win MANY more tournaments and matches ... a full list here would be too long. I will simply name a few:  The FIDE Interzonal Tournament; Amsterdam, 1964. (Clear first, +11, =12, -0!) He later qualified for the Candidates Tournaments, and even defeated GM Bent Larsen. (+3, =5, -2.). The SOVIET Championship, Kharkov, 1967. (The first time this event would be run on a Swiss System!) Tal tied for first with Polugayevsky. The International tournament, Tallinn, 1971 - tied for first with Paul Keres. (+9, =5, -1.) The USSR Championship, 1972; clear first. ( +9, =12, -0! Statistically one of the stronger of these events ever played. To illustrate just how strong this tournament was, consider the plight of the player who finished DEAD LAST here. He was to later emigrate to the USA, {as did about five of the other players in this event}, ... win many tournaments, and eventually win two or three U.S. Championships!! That player's name? GM LEV ALBURT! )  First at Wijk aan Zee, 1973. (+6, =9)  Clear first, Tallinn; 1973, (+9, =6, -0!) Clear first, Halle, 1974. First, USSR Championship, 1974. (+6, =7, -2.) Etc, etc, etc. On to Jurmala, 1987; (+ 5, =8, -0! Tied for first with Gipslis, Psakhis, and Razuvaev.) 

A great player, a superb analyst, and a great writer - his book on his life and games is still a best-seller today. He had almost no enemies, and practically everyone who met him, liked him. (I played in the same tourney he did in the New York Open of 1990.) He died in 1992, after years of problems with his failing kidneys. He will always be missed by his fans! 


Mikhail Tal - He was the youngest World Champion ever at that point in chess history. He had a meteoric rise to the world's chess summit that simply will never be matched by anyone. He was probably the greatest tactician who ever lived. The winner of dozens of International Tournaments and matches. He played some of the most incredible and beautiful games of chess ever seen. (Keres said he  'revived' chess at a time when it seemed in danger of falling into the absolute boredom of the 'Grand-Master Draw.') He was - surprise!! - as a mature player ... an extremely steady hand, going {more than once!} over 100 consecutive games without a loss! While he does not possess the highest  one-year peak  according to statistician Jeff Sonas, I feel very strongly he should be in at least the top three.  (Tal was the strongest player in the world from 1957 or '58 until 1961. At one point he had won EIGHT OR NINE GAMES IN-A-ROW AGAINST WORLD-CLASS GM's!!! In the year 2003, this would be equivalent to a  3200 - or better! - performance rating!!!!!) His name alone is synonymous with beauty and sacrifice in chess. 

Tal, Mikhail (1936-1992), Latvian chess player, who achieved international grandmaster status in 1957 and was world champion from 1960 to 1961. Tal was born in Riga, Latvia (in what was then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). He joined the chess section of the Riga Pioneers boys’ club, (a communist version of the Boy Scouts); when he was eight years old. In 1949 he began to study under Alexander Koblencs, one of Latvia’s leading players.

Tal’s first major victory was in the Latvian championship of 1953. He then rapidly improved his standing in the chess world by winning the Soviet national championship in 1957 and 1958. In 1959 he won the candidates tournament held jointly in the three Yugoslavian cities of Bled, Zagreb, and Belgrade. His victory at the candidates tournament gave Tal the right to challenge the World Champion, Soviet player Mikhail Botvinnik. Tal bested Botvinnik in 1960, and at age 23 he became the youngest world champion ever. (The record was eclipsed in 1985, when Russian Garry Kasparov won the title at age 22).

Kidney troubles plagued Tal throughout his chess career, and ill health hindered him in his defense of the title, which he lost to Botvinnik in 1961. After losing the world championship, Tal continued to be a strong international player. He played well in the candidates tournaments of 1962, 1965, 1968, and 1985, and he captured four more Soviet championships. He also played in the Chess Olympiad, an international team championship, seven times between 1958 and 1980. His career record in the competition was 59 wins, 31 draws, and 2 losses. Tal edited the Latvian chess journal 'Sahs' (Chess) from 1960 to 1970. In 1988 he won the world championship, (St. Johns, Canada); in blitz (a form of chess played at a rapid pace). Four years later he died of kidney failure.  (From an on-line encyclopedia.) 

TAL's Games - Annotated by  A.J. Goldsby I

  1.   Click  HERE  to see  Tal's  great game vs.   Bobby Fischer.    
      (This is one of Tal's very best games.)  

  2.   Click  here  to see  Tal's  game against  GM Johann Hjartarsson
      (Briefly annotated ... in a js-replay format.) 

  3.   Click  HERE   to see a game that is  ...  VERY  (!!!)  thoroughly annotated. 
       (Mikhail Tal - GM V. Simagin; 23rd URS Champ, Leningrad, RUS; 1956.)
       (I spent over two weeks working on it.) In addition, there is BOTH a 
       text-score page ... AND a js-replay page!  A game ...  that absolutely, positively, 
       has to be seen to be believed!  Incredible sacrifices!  Have a look!!  

  4.   A fantastic  game  ...  picked by none other than the  great Irving Chernev  
      GM Mikhail Tal - GM Georgy Lissitzin23rd U.R.S. Championships;  
      Leningrad, U.S.S.R;  1956.  A TRULY EXCEPTIONAL ENDGAME!!!  
      One of Tal's very best ... he displays true genius ... and it is not at all the kind of 
      game that you would normally associate with this player.  HAVE A LOOK!  
      (A very carefully annotated chess game ... with several diagrams.  11/21/2004)  

  5. A very interesting game.  The official verdict about this game ... 
    played between Tal and Korchnoi in the first game of their 1968 FIDE    
    Candidates Match
    ... was that Tal had missed a win in one of the   
    more complex K+P endgames ever played by two top GM's. 

    However, if my analysis is correct, it blows all of the official theory and the 
    various conclusions about this game right out of the water!  

  6.    Keep watching .... more games to come!!

  7. .....  and more ... and more ... and more! 

  GM Bobby Fischer - GM Mikhail Tal  

  World Team Championships, (FIDE Olympiad); Leipzig, West Germany; 1960.  

Technically speaking, I don't consider this one of Tal's best games. It is ... however a very famous game, and a highly tactical, hand-to-hand battle. Fairly good annotations, I think there are also one or two diagrams. (Text-score only, no java-script re-play page.) You may want to check this out.

Click  HERE  to go there now. 

(December 16th, 2003.)  I just recently purchased the book 
"101 Brilliant Chess Miniatures,"
  by  GM John Nunn.  {Published by Gambit books.} 
(Copyright © 1999. ISBN:  # 1-901983-16-1)  
Needless to say, there are several games in this volume by the one and only ...  
the great  Mikhail Tal

Probably the most brilliant short game in this volume is the THUNDEROUS and truly magnificent victory by Tal over the German GM, Wolfgang Uhlmann. He defeats this incredibly strong player - who was then probably in the 'Top 30' chess players in the world - in only 19 moves!! (According to Jeff Sonas, he was # 21 in the world in 1971!!!)  Such an achievement is virtually without parallel in modern chess! It is an ULTRA-BRILLIANT chess game. 

Hopefully very soon I will at least briefly annotate this game for you. Look forward to this soon. 

(Courtesy of the Huntsville, AL Chess Club.) 

Click  here  to solve easy problems. 

Click  here  to solve medium-difficulty problems. 

Click  here  to solve HARD problems! 

Click  here  to go to a  GOOGLE  page ...  with  THOUSANDS  of  Tal  links!!

This page was last updated on 10/10/14 .


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  Copyright (c) LM A.J. Goldsby I, 1975 - 2013.  

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