The art of Tal
Friday, November 16 2012 00:00
By Zaldy Dandan – Editor

NOVEMBER 9th would have been the 76th birthday of, quite possibly, the most beloved former chess champion of the world, Latvian-Soviet GM Mikhail Nekhemievich Tal. He died from kidney failure on June 28, 1992. He was 55. Considered as the best attacking player of all time, Misha was also known as the “Magician from Riga” and the “Paganini of Chess.” Bobby Fischer considered him one of the 10 best players in history.

From 1957 to 1960, Tal was twice champion of the USSR, had the best result at the 13th Olympiad, Munich 1958, the Interzonal, the Candidates tournament, Zurich and was world champion at 23 years old. (The youngest in history, until Kasparov, then 22, won the crown in 1985.) Unfortunately, he also smoked and drank a lot and suffered from a chronic kidney ailment all his life, requiring many operations, including the removal of one of his kidneys.

Tal, says Kasparov, “was absolutely one of a kind. His playing style was…inimitable. [His] insights were unique. He was a man in whose presence others sensed their mediocrity…. He was an artist.”
Game of the week. Here’s Misha, making his first appearance in the finals of the world’s strongest national championship. His opponent was a strong Russian grandmaster, a three-time champion of Moscow who helped train Smyslov for the world championship. A.J. Goldsby annotates.
White: Mikhail Tal
Black: Vladimir Simagin
Caro-Kann Defense
23r USSR Ch, Leningrad 1956
1.e4 c6 2. d4 d6!? An invention of Simagin’s. He won many games with this line. Better is 2…d5 3. Nc3 Simple development that leads to a position that will emphasize a lot of piece play. 3…Nf6 4. f4 Qb6 To pressure the dark squares and keep white from moving his QB. Both sides now continue to develop. 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Be2 Nbd7 7. e5! Nd5 8. 0-0- Nxc3 9. Bxc3 e6 Probably better was 9…g6. 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 Black tempts fate, and creates a new weakness. But why should he be afraid? His opponent is a young player, and a “nobody.” 12. Nxf7!! This move electrified the gallery and the casual onlookers of the game. The main referee for this event threatened to clear the hall before order and silence were restored. 12…Kxf7 Forced. 13. f5 dxe5 14. fxe6 Kxe6 Tal’s next move defies superlatives. 15. Rb1!! Qxb1 16.Qc4+ Kd6 17.Ba3+ Kc7 18.Rxb1 Bxa3 19.Qb3! 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! 25. Re1+! Kf5 26.g4+! Kf6! 27.Rf1+ Kg6 28.Qe6+ Kh7!? This is probably best — the black king wants to be as far away from the action as possible. 29. Qxe5 The win would be impossible for the average player here. Black has a great degree of counterplay, and white’s king is partially exposed. But Tal, at 19, was no longer an average player. 29…Rhe8 30. Rf7 Bf8 31. Qf5+ Kg8 32. Kf2 Bc5+ 33.Kg3 Re3+ 34.Kh4! Rae8! 35. Rxg7+! Kxg7 36. Qxc5 R8e6 Not the best move, but black was already in time trouble. And according to the computer, Simagin was lost no matter what move he played. 37.Qxa7+ Kg6 38.Qa8! Kf6 39.a4 Ke5!? 40. a5 Kd5 41.Qd8+ Ke4!? 42.a6 Kf3  43.a7 Re2 44.Qd3+ R6e3 45.Qxe3+! and 1-0.

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