Mikhail Tal
Overview
 
Mikhail Tal was a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

n chess player, a Grandmaster, and the eighth World Chess Champion.

Widely regarded as a creative genius, and the best attacking player of all time, he played a daring, combinatorial style. His play was known above all for improvisation and unpredictability. Every game, he once said, was as inimitable and invaluable as a poem. He was often called "Misha", a diminutive
Diminutive
In language structure, a diminutive, or diminutive form , is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment...

 for Mikhail, and "The magician from Riga".
Encyclopedia
Mikhail Tal was a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

n chess player, a Grandmaster, and the eighth World Chess Champion.

Widely regarded as a creative genius, and the best attacking player of all time, he played a daring, combinatorial style. His play was known above all for improvisation and unpredictability. Every game, he once said, was as inimitable and invaluable as a poem. He was often called "Misha", a diminutive
Diminutive
In language structure, a diminutive, or diminutive form , is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment...

 for Mikhail, and "The magician from Riga". Both The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games and Modern Chess Brilliancies include more games by Tal than any other player. Tal was also a highly-regarded chess writer.

The Mikhail Tal Memorial
Mikhail Tal Memorial
The Tal Memorial is a chess tournament played in Moscow each year since 2006, to honour the memory of the former World Champion Mikhail Tal who died in 1992....

 is held in Moscow each year since 2006 to honour his memory.

He holds the records for both the first and second longest unbeaten streaks in competitive chess history. Many authorities consider him to have been the greatest attacking Grandmaster in the history of chess.

Early years

Tal was born in Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, into a Jewish family. At the age of eight, Tal learned to play chess while watching his father, a doctor. Shortly thereafter he joined the Riga Palace of Young Pioneers
Pioneer movement
A pioneer movement is an organization for children operated by a communist party. Typically children enter into the organization in elementary school and continue until adolescence. The adolescents then typically joined the Young Communist League...

 chess club. His play was not exceptional at first but he worked hard to improve. Alexander Koblents
Alexander Koblencs
Alexander Koblents was a Latvian chess International Master, trainer, and writer.In 1935, he took 4th place in Rosas . In 1936, he took 5th in Reus . In 1937, he won, ahead of Lajos Steiner, in Brno with 9/11. In 1938, he took 5th in Milan...

 began tutoring Tal in 1949, after which Tal's game rapidly improved, and by 1951 he had qualified for the Latvian Championship
Latvian Chess Championship
-History:Professional level Latvian chess players have already appeared in the nineteenth century. They participated in chess tournaments and union congresses, organized by the Riga Chess Association. After the World War I, when Latvia became an independent country, official Latvian chess...

. In the 1952 Latvian Championship Tal finished ahead of his trainer. Tal won his first Latvian title in 1953, and was awarded the title of Candidate Master. He became a Soviet Master
Chess master
A chess master is a chess player of such skill that he/she can usually beat chess experts, who themselves typically prevail against most amateurs. Among chess players, the term is often abbreviated to master, the meaning being clear from context....

 in 1954 by defeating Vladimir Saigin in a qualifying match. That same year he also scored his first win over a Grandmaster when Yuri Averbakh
Yuri Averbakh
Yuri Lvovich Averbakh is a Soviet and Russian chess player and author. He is currently the oldest living chess grandmaster.-Life and career:...

 lost on time in a drawn
Draw (chess)
In chess, a draw is when a game ends in a tie. It is one of the possible outcomes of a game, along with a win for White and a win for Black . Usually, in tournaments a draw is worth a half point to each player, while a win is worth one point to the victor and none to the loser.For the most part,...

 position. Tal graduated in Literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 from the University of Riga, writing a thesis on the satirical works of Ilf and Petrov
Ilf and Petrov
Ilya Ilf Ilya Ilf Ilya Ilf (Ilya Arnoldovich Faynzilberg and Evgeny or Yevgeni Petrov (Yevgeniy Petrovich Kataev or Katayev were two Soviet prose authors of the 1920s and 1930s...

, and taught school in Riga for a time in his early twenties. He was a member of the Daugava Sports Society, and represented Latvia in internal Soviet team competitions.

He married Russian actress Salli Landau in 1959, divorcing in 1970. (In 2003, Landau published in Russia a biography of her late husband.)

Soviet champion

Tal first qualified for the USSR Chess Championship
USSR Chess Championship
This is a list of all the winners of the USSR Chess Championship. It was the strongest national chess championship ever held, with eight world chess champions and four world championship finalists among its winners...

 final in 1956, finishing joint fifth, and became the youngest player to win it the following year, at the age of 20. He had not played in enough international tournaments to qualify for the title of Grandmaster
International Grandmaster
The title Grandmaster is awarded to strong chess players by the world chess organization FIDE. Apart from World Champion, Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain....

, but FIDE decided at its 1957 Congress to waive the normal restrictions and award him the title because of his achievement in winning the Soviet Championship.

Tal made three appearances for the USSR at Student Olympiads, from 1956–1958, winning three team gold medals and three board gold medals. He won nineteen games, drew eight, and lost none, for 85.2 percent.

He retained the Soviet Championship title in 1958 at Riga, and competed in the World Chess Championship
World Chess Championship
The World Chess Championship is played to determine the World Champion in the board game chess. Men and women of any age are eligible to contest this title....

 for the first time. He won the 1958 Interzonal
Interzonal
Interzonal chess tournaments were tournaments organized by FIDE, the World Chess Federation, and were a stage in the triennial World Chess Championship cycle.- Zonal tournaments :...

 tournament at Portorož
Portorož
- External links :**...

, then helped the Soviet Union win their fourth consecutive Chess Olympiad
Chess Olympiad
The Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament in which teams from all over the world compete against each other. The event is organised by FIDE, which selects the host nation.-Birth of the Olympiad:The first Olympiad was unofficial...

 at Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

.

World champion

Tal won a very strong tournament at Zürich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

, 1959. Following the Interzonal, the top players carried on to the Candidates' Tournament, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 1959. Tal showed superior form by winning with 20/28 points, ahead of Paul Keres
Paul Keres
Paul Keres , was an Estonian chess grandmaster, and a renowned chess writer. He was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s....

 with 18½, followed by Tigran Petrosian
Tigran Petrosian
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian was a Soviet-Armenian grandmaster, and World Chess Champion from 1963 to 1969. He was nicknamed "Iron Tigran" due to his playing style because of his almost impenetrable defence, which emphasised safety above all else...

, Vasily Smyslov
Vasily Smyslov
Vasily Vasilyevich Smyslov was a Soviet and Russian chess grandmaster, and was World Chess Champion from 1957 to 1958. He was a Candidate for the World Chess Championship on eight occasions . Smyslov was twice equal first at the Soviet Championship , and his total of 17 Chess Olympiad medals won...

, Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer
Robert James "Bobby" Fischer was an American chess Grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion. He is widely considered one of the greatest chess players of all time. Fischer was also a best-selling chess author...

, Svetozar Gligorić
Svetozar Gligoric
Svetozar Gligorić is a Serbian chess grandmaster. He won the championship of Yugoslavia a record twelve times, and is considered the best player ever from Serbia...

, Friðrik Ólafsson
Friðrik Ólafsson
Friðrik Ólafsson is an Icelandic chess Grandmaster and former president of FIDE.Friðrik was born in Reykjavík, Iceland. A first-time winner of the Icelandic Championship in 1952 and of the Scandinavian Championship a year later, he rapidly became recognised as the strongest Icelandic player of his...

, and Pal Benko
Pál Benko
Pal Benko is a chess grandmaster, author, and composer of endgame studies and chess problems.- Early life :Benko was born in France but was raised in Hungary. He was Hungarian champion by age 20. He emigrated to the United States in 1958, after defecting following the World Student Team...

. Tal's victory was attributed to his dominance over the lower half of the field; whilst scoring only one win and three losses versus Keres, he won all four individual games against Fischer, and took 3½ points out of 4 from each of Gligorić, Olafsson, and Benko.

In 1960, at the age of 23, Tal thoroughly defeated the relatively staid and strategic Mikhail Botvinnik
Mikhail Botvinnik
Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik, Ph.D. was a Soviet and Russian International Grandmaster and three-time World Chess Champion. Working as an electrical engineer and computer scientist at the same time, he was one of the very few famous chess players who achieved distinction in another career while...

 in a World Championship match, held in Moscow, by 12½–8½ (six wins, two losses, and thirteen draws), making him the youngest-ever world champion (a record later broken by Garry Kasparov
Garry Kasparov
Garry Kimovich Kasparov is a Russian chess grandmaster, a former World Chess Champion, writer, political activist, and one of the greatest chess players of all time....

, who earned the title at 22). Botvinnik, who had never faced Tal before the title match began, won the return match against Tal in 1961, also held in Moscow, by 13–8 (ten wins to five, with six draws). In the period between the matches Botvinnik had thoroughly analyzed Tal's style, and turned most of the return match's games into slow wars of maneuver or endgames, rather than the complicated tactical melees which were Tal's happy hunting ground.
Tal's chronic kidney problems contributed to his defeat, and his doctors in Riga advised that he should postpone the match for health reasons. Yuri Averbakh
Yuri Averbakh
Yuri Lvovich Averbakh is a Soviet and Russian chess player and author. He is currently the oldest living chess grandmaster.-Life and career:...

 claimed that Botvinnik would agree to a postponement only if Tal was certified unfit by Moscow doctors, and that Tal then decided to play. His short reign atop the chess world made him one of the two so-called "winter kings
Frederick V, Elector Palatine
Frederick V was Elector Palatine , and, as Frederick I , King of Bohemia ....

" who interrupted Botvinnik's long reign from 1948 to 1963 (the other was Smyslov, world champion 1957–1958).

His highest Elo rating
Elo rating system
The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in two-player games such as chess. It is named after its creator Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-born American physics professor....

 was 2705, achieved in 1980. His highest Historical Chessmetrics Rating was 2799, in September 1960. This capped his torrid stretch which had begun in early 1957.

Later achievements

Soon after losing the rematch with Botvinnik, Tal won the 1961 Bled
Bled
Bled is a municipality in northwestern Slovenia in the region of Upper Carniola. The area, within the Julian Alps, is a popular tourist destination.-History:...

 supertournament by one point over Fischer, despite losing their individual game, scoring 14½ from nineteen games (+11 −1 =7) with the world-class players Tigran Petrosian, Keres, Gligorić, Efim Geller
Efim Geller
Efim Petrovich Geller was a Soviet chess player and world-class grandmaster at his peak. He won the Soviet Championship twice and was a Candidate for the World Championship on six occasions...

, and Miguel Najdorf
Miguel Najdorf
Miguel Najdorf was a Polish-born Argentine chess grandmaster of Jewish origin, famous for his Najdorf Variation....

 among the other participants.

Tal played in a total of six Candidates' Tournaments and match cycles, though he never again earned the right to play for the world title. In 1962 at Curaçao
Curaçao
Curaçao is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the Venezuelan coast. The Country of Curaçao , which includes the main island plus the small, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao , is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, he had serious health problems, having undergone a major operation shortly before the tournament, and had to withdraw three-quarters of the way through, scoring just seven points (+3 −10 =8) from 21 games. He tied for first place at the 1964 Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 Interzonal to advance to matches. Then in 1965, he lost the final match against Boris Spassky
Boris Spassky
Boris Vasilievich Spassky is a Soviet-French chess grandmaster. He was the tenth World Chess Champion, holding the title from late 1969 to 1972...

, after defeating Lajos Portisch
Lajos Portisch
Lajos Portisch is a Hungarian chess Grandmaster, whose positional style earned him the nickname, the "Hungarian Botvinnik"...

 and Bent Larsen
Bent Larsen
Jørgen Bent Larsen was a Danish chess Grandmaster and author. Larsen was known for his imaginative and unorthodox style of play and he was the first western player to pose a serious challenge to the Soviet Union's dominance of chess...

 in matches. Exempt from the 1967 Interzonal, he lost a 1968 semi-final match against Viktor Korchnoi
Viktor Korchnoi
Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi ; pronounced in the original Russian as "karch NOY"; Ви́ктор Льво́вич Корчно́й, born March 23, 1931 is a professional chess player, author and currently the oldest active grandmaster on the tournament circuit...

, after defeating Gligoric.

Poor health caused a slump in his play from late 1968 to late 1969, but he recovered his form after having a kidney removed. He won the 1979 Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 Interzonal with an undefeated score of 14/17, but the next year lost a quarter-final match to Lev Polugaevsky
Lev Polugaevsky
Lev Abramovich Polugaevsky was an International Grandmaster of chess and frequent contender for the world chess championship, although he never achieved that title...

, one of the players to hold a positive score against him. He also played in the 1985 Montpellier
Montpellier
-Neighbourhoods:Since 2001, Montpellier has been divided into seven official neighbourhoods, themselves divided into sub-neighbourhoods. Each of them possesses a neighbourhood council....

 Candidates' Tournament, a round-robin
Round-robin tournament
A round-robin tournament is a competition "in which each contestant meets all other contestants in turn".-Terminology:...

 of 16 qualifiers, finishing in a tie for fourth and fifth places, and narrowly missing further advancement after drawing a playoff match with Jan Timman
Jan Timman
Jan Timman is a Dutch chess Grandmaster who was one of the world's leading players from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. At the peak of his career he was considered to be the best non-Soviet player and was known as "The Best of the West"...

, who held the tiebreak advantage from the tournament proper.

From July 1972 to April 1973, Tal played a record 86 consecutive games without a loss (47 wins and 39 draws). Between October 23, 1973 and October 16, 1974, he played 95 consecutive games without a loss (46 wins and 49 draws), shattering his previous record. These are the two longest unbeaten streaks in modern chess history.

Tal remained a formidable opponent as he got older, he played reigning champion Karpov 20 times with a record of 19 draws and one loss (at Bugojno
Bugojno
Bugojno is a town and municipality of the same name in central Bosnia and Herzegovina on the river Vrbas. It is located in the Central Bosnia Canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity. The town is to the northwest from Sarajevo, with an estimated population of 50,000 .To the west...

, 1980).

One of Tal's greatest achievements during his later career was an equal first place with Karpov (whom he seconded in a number of tournaments and world championships) in the 1979 Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

 "Tournament of Stars", with an unbeaten score of (+6 −0 =12), the only undefeated player in the field, which also included Spassky, Portisch, Vlastimil Hort
Vlastimil Hort
Vlastimil Hort is a chess Grandmaster of Czech nationality. During the 1960s and 1970s he was one of the world's strongest players and reached the Candidates stage of competition for the world chess championship, but was never able to compete for the actual title.Hort was born in Kladno,...

, Robert Hübner
Robert Hübner
Robert Hübner is a respected German chess Grandmaster, chess writer, and papyrologist . At eighteen, he was joint winner of the West German Chess Championship...

, Ljubomir Ljubojevic
Ljubomir Ljubojevic
Ljubomir Ljubojević is a Grandmaster of chess. He was born on November 2, 1950, in Titovo Užice, Yugoslavia . Ljubojević was awarded the International Master title in 1970 and the GM title in 1971. He was Yugoslav champion in 1977 and 1982. He won the 1974 Canadian Open Chess Championship...

, Lubomir Kavalek, Timman and Larsen.

Tal played in 21 Soviet Championships
USSR Chess Championship
This is a list of all the winners of the USSR Chess Championship. It was the strongest national chess championship ever held, with eight world chess champions and four world championship finalists among its winners...

, winning it a record six times (1957, 1958, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978), a number only equalled by Botvinnik. He was also a five-time winner of the International Chess Tournament in Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

, Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, with victories in 1971, 1973, 1977, 1981, and 1983.

Tal also had successes in blitz chess
Blitz chess
Fast chess, also known as blitz chess, lightning chess, sudden death, speed chess, bullet chess and rapid chess, is a type of chess game in which each side is given less time to make their moves than under the normal tournament time controls of 60 to 180 minutes per player.-Overview:The different...

; in 1970, he took second place to Fischer, who scored 19/22, in a blitz tournament at Herceg Novi
Herceg Novi
Herceg Novi is a coastal town in Montenegro located at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor and at the foot of Mount Orjen. It is the administrative center of the Herceg Novi Municipality with around 33,000 inhabitants...

, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

, ahead of Korchnoi, Petrosian and Smyslov. In 1988, at the age of 51, he won the second official World Blitz Championship (the first was won by Kasparov the previous year in Brussels) at Saint John
Saint John, New Brunswick
City of Saint John , or commonly Saint John, is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick, and the first incorporated city in Canada. The city is situated along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. In 2006 the city proper had a population of 74,043...

, ahead of such players as Kasparov, the reigning world champion, and ex-champion Anatoly Karpov
Anatoly Karpov
Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov is a Russian chess grandmaster and former World Champion. He was the official world champion from 1975 to 1985 when he was defeated by Garry Kasparov. He played three matches against Kasparov for the title from 1986 to 1990, before becoming FIDE World Champion once...

. In the final, he defeated Rafael Vaganian
Rafael Vaganian
Rafael Artemovich Vaganian, also transliterated Vahanyan is an Armenian chess grandmaster known for his sharp tactical style of play...

 by 3½-½.

On May 28, 1992, at the Moscow blitz tournament (which he left hospital to play), he defeated Kasparov. He died one month later.

Team competitions

In Olympiad
Chess Olympiad
The Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament in which teams from all over the world compete against each other. The event is organised by FIDE, which selects the host nation.-Birth of the Olympiad:The first Olympiad was unofficial...

 play, Mikhail Tal was a member of eight Soviet teams, each of which won team gold medals (1958
13th Chess Olympiad
The 13th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between September 30 and October 23, 1958, in Munich, West Germany.-References:...

, 1960
14th Chess Olympiad
The 14th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between October 26 and November 9, 1960, in Leipzig, East Germany.-References:...

, 1962
15th Chess Olympiad
The 15th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between September 15 and October 10, 1962, in Varna, Bulgaria.-References:* OlimpBase...

, 1966
17th Chess Olympiad
The 17th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between October 23 and November 20, 1966, in Havana, Cuba.-References:* OlimpBase...

, 1972
20th Chess Olympiad
The 20th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between September 18 and October 13, 1972, in Skopje, Yugoslavia ....

, 1974
21st Chess Olympiad
The 21st Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between June 6 and June 30, 1974, in Nice, France.-References:* OlimpBase...

, 1980
24th Chess Olympiad
The 24th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between November 20 and December 6, 1980, in La Valletta, Malta.-References:* OlimpBase...

, and 1982
25th Chess Olympiad
The 25th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between October 29 and November 16, 1982, in Lucerne, Switzerland.-References:...

), won 65 games, drew 34, and lost only two games (81.2 percent). This percentage makes him the player with the best score among those participating in at least four Olympiads. Individually, Tal won seven Olympiad board medals, including five gold (1958, 1962, 1966, 1972, 1974), and two silver (1960, 1982).

Tal also represented the Soviet Union at six European Team Championships (1957, 1961, 1970, 1973, 1977, 1980), winning team gold medals each time, and three board gold medals (1957, 1970, and 1977). He scored 14 wins, 20 draws, and three losses, for 64.9 percent.
Tal played board nine for the USSR in the first match against the Rest of the World team at Belgrade
Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 1970, scoring 2 out of 4. He was on board seven for the USSR in the second match against the Rest of the World team at London 1984, scoring 2 out of 3. The USSR won both team matches. He was an Honoured Master of Sport.

From 1950 (when he won the Latvian junior championship) to 1991, Tal won or tied for first in 68 tournaments (see table below). During his 41-year career he played about 2,700 tournament or match games, winning over 65% of them.

1950–1966

Year Tournament / Championship Match / Team competition
1950 Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 - Latvia Junior championship, 1st
1953 Riga - 10th Latvian championship, 1st (14,5/19)
1955 Riga - 23rd Soviet Championship Semifinal, 1st (12,5/18)
1956 Uppsala
Uppsala
- Economy :Today Uppsala is well established in medical research and recognized for its leading position in biotechnology.*Abbott Medical Optics *GE Healthcare*Pfizer *Phadia, an offshoot of Pharmacia*Fresenius*Q-Med...

 - World students team championship, board 3 (6/7)
1957 Moscow - 24th URS-ch, 1st (14/21) Reykjavik
Reykjavík
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city in Iceland.Its latitude at 64°08' N makes it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay...

 - Wch-team students, board 1 (8,5/10)
Baden
Baden
Baden is a historical state on the east bank of the Rhine in the southwest of Germany, now the western part of the Baden-Württemberg of Germany....

/Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 - European Team Championship, board 4, 1st-2nd (3/5)
1958 Riga - 25th URS-ch, 1st (12/19)
Portorož Interzonal, 1st (13,5/20)
Varna
Varna
Varna is the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and third-largest in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, with a population of 334,870 inhabitants according to Census 2011...

- Wch-team students, board 1 (8,5/10)
Munich 1958
13th Chess Olympiad
The 13th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between September 30 and October 23, 1958, in Munich, West Germany.-References:...

 Olympiad, board 5 (13,5/15)
1959 Riga - Latvian Olympiad, 1st (7/7)
Zürich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 tournament, 1st (11,5/15)
Bled
Bled
Bled is a municipality in northwestern Slovenia in the region of Upper Carniola. The area, within the Julian Alps, is a popular tourist destination.-History:...

Zagreb
Zagreb
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb lies at an elevation of approximately above sea level. According to the last official census, Zagreb's city...

Belgrade
Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 - Candidates tournament, 1st (20/28)
1960 Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 - Match Germany vs USSR, 1st (7,5/8)
Moscow - Match for the World title with Mikhail Botvinnik
Mikhail Botvinnik
Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik, Ph.D. was a Soviet and Russian International Grandmaster and three-time World Chess Champion. Working as an electrical engineer and computer scientist at the same time, he was one of the very few famous chess players who achieved distinction in another career while...

: (+6 −2 =13)
1960/61 Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

 tournament, 1st (9,5/11)
1961 Bled
Bled
Bled is a municipality in northwestern Slovenia in the region of Upper Carniola. The area, within the Julian Alps, is a popular tourist destination.-History:...

 tournament, 1st (14,5/19)
1962 Varna 1962
15th Chess Olympiad
The 15th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between September 15 and October 10, 1962, in Varna, Bulgaria.-References:* OlimpBase...

 Olympiad, board 6 (10/13)
1963 Miskolc
Miskolc
Miskolc is a city in northeastern Hungary, mainly with heavy industrial background. With a population close to 170,000 Miskolc is the fourth largest city of Hungary It is also the county capital of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén and the regional centre of Northern Hungary.- Geography :Miskolc is located...

 tournament, 1st (12,5/15)
1963/64 Hastings
Hastings International Chess Congress
The Hastings International Chess Congress is an annual chess congress which takes place in Hastings, England, around the turn of the year. The main event is the Hastings Premier tournament, which was traditionally a 10 to 16 player round-robin tournament. In 2004/05 the tournament was played in the...

 Premier tournament, 1st (7/9)
1964 Reykjavik
Reykjavík
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city in Iceland.Its latitude at 64°08' N makes it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay...

 tournament, 1st (12,5/13)
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 Interzonal, 1st-4th (17/23)
Kislovodsk
Kislovodsk
Kislovodsk is a city in Stavropol Krai, Russia, which lies in the North Caucasian region of the country, between the Black and Caspian Seas. The closest airport is located in the city of Mineralnye Vody. Population:...

 tournament, 1st (7,5/10)
1965 Riga, Latvian championship, 1st (10/13) Match with Lajos Portisch
Lajos Portisch
Lajos Portisch is a Hungarian chess Grandmaster, whose positional style earned him the nickname, the "Hungarian Botvinnik"...

: (+4 −1 =3)
Match with Bent Larsen
Bent Larsen
Jørgen Bent Larsen was a Danish chess Grandmaster and author. Larsen was known for his imaginative and unorthodox style of play and he was the first western player to pose a serious challenge to the Soviet Union's dominance of chess...

: (+3 −2 =5)
1966 Sarajevo
Sarajevo
Sarajevo |Bosnia]], surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans....

 tournament, 1st-2nd (11/15)
Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca
Palma is the major city and port on the island of Majorca and capital city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. The names Ciutat de Mallorca and Ciutat were used before the War of the Spanish Succession and are still used by people in Majorca. However, the official name...

 tournament, 1st (12/15)
Havana 1966
17th Chess Olympiad
The 17th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between October 23 and November 20, 1966, in Havana, Cuba.-References:* OlimpBase...

 Olympiad, board 3 (12/13)

1967–1979

Year Tournament / Championship Match / Team competition
1967 Kharkov 35th URS-ch, = 1st (12/15)
1968 Gori
Gori, Georgia
Gori is a city in eastern Georgia, which serves as the regional capital of Shida Kartli and the centre of the homonymous administrative district. The name is from Georgian gora , that is, "heap", or "hill"...

 tournament, 1st (7,5/10)
Belgrade, Match with Svetozar Gligorić
Svetozar Gligoric
Svetozar Gligorić is a Serbian chess grandmaster. He won the championship of Yugoslavia a record twelve times, and is considered the best player ever from Serbia...

: (+3 −1 =5)
1969/70 Tbilisi
Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River. The name is derived from an early Georgian form T'pilisi and it was officially known as Tiflis until 1936...

, Goglidze memorial tournament, 1st-2nd (10,5/15)
1970 Poti
Poti
Poti is a port city in Georgia, located on the eastern Black Sea coast in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti in the west of the country. Built near the site of the ancient Greek colony of Phasis, the city has become a major port city and industrial center since the early 20th century. It is also...

 - Georgian Open championship (hors concours), 1st (11/14)
Sochi
Sochi
Sochi is a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, situated just north of Russia's border with the de facto independent republic of Abkhazia, on the Black Sea coast. Greater Sochi sprawls for along the shores of the Black Sea near the Caucasus Mountains...

 - Grandmasters vs Young Masters, 1st (10,5/14)
Kapfenberg
Kapfenberg
Kapfenberg is a city in Styria, Austria, near Bruck an der Mur. The town's landmark is Burg Oberkapfenberg. Main employer in the city of Kapfenberg was and still is the steel manufacturer Böhler....

, European Team Championship, board 6 (5/6)
1971 Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 tournament, 1st-2nd (11,5/15)
1972 Sukhumi
Sukhumi
Sukhumi is the capital of Abkhazia, a disputed region on the Black Sea coast. The city suffered heavily during the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in the early 1990s.-Naming:...

 tournament, 1st (11/15)
Baku
Baku
Baku , sometimes spelled as Baki or Bakou, is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, which projects into the Caspian Sea. The city consists of two principal...

 40th URS-ch, 1st (15/21)
Skopje 1972
20th Chess Olympiad
The 20th Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between September 18 and October 13, 1972, in Skopje, Yugoslavia ....

 Olympiad, board 4 (14/16)
1973 Wijk aan Zee
Wijk aan Zee
Wijk aan Zee is a small town on the coast of the North Sea in the municipality of Beverwijk in the province of North Holland of the Netherlands. The prestigious Tata Steel chess tournament formerly Corus chess tournament and before that called Hoogovens tournament takes place there every year.Due...

 tournament, 1st (10,5/15)
Tallinn tournament, 1st (12/15)
Sochi
Sochi
Sochi is a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, situated just north of Russia's border with the de facto independent republic of Abkhazia, on the Black Sea coast. Greater Sochi sprawls for along the shores of the Black Sea near the Caucasus Mountains...

 - Mikhail Chigorin
Mikhail Chigorin
Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin also was a leading Russian chess player...

 memorial, 1st (11/15)
Dubna
Dubna
Dubna is a town in Moscow Oblast, Russia. It has a status of naukograd , being home to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, an international nuclear physics research centre and one of the largest scientific foundations in the country. It is also home to MKB Raduga, a defence aerospace company...

 tournament, 1st-2nd (10/15)
1973/74 Hastings tournament, 1st-4th (10/15)
1974 Lublin
Lublin
Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland. It is the capital of Lublin Voivodeship with a population of 350,392 . Lublin is also the largest Polish city east of the Vistula river...

 tournament, 1st (12,5/15)
Halle
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

 tournament, 1st (11,5/15)
Novi Sad
Novi Sad
Novi Sad is the capital of the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, and the administrative centre of the South Bačka District. The city is located in the southern part of Pannonian Plain on the Danube river....

 tournament, 1st (11,5/15)
Leningrad 42nd URS-ch, = 1st (9,5/15)
Nice 1974
21st Chess Olympiad
The 21st Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess, took place between June 6 and June 30, 1974, in Nice, France.-References:* OlimpBase...

 Olympiad, board 5 (11,5/15)
Moscow, USSR Club Team Championship, board 1, 1st (6,5/9)
1977 Tallinn - Keres
Paul Keres
Paul Keres , was an Estonian chess grandmaster, and a renowned chess writer. He was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s....

 memorial, 1st (11,5/17)
Leningrad
Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

 60th October Rev., 1st-2nd (11,5/17)
Sochi - Chigorin memorial, 1st (11/15)
1978 Tbilisi
Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River. The name is derived from an early Georgian form T'pilisi and it was officially known as Tiflis until 1936...

 46th URS-ch, 1st (11/17)
1979 Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

 tournament, 1st-2nd (12/18)
Riga Interzonal, 1st (14/17)

1981–1991

Year Tournament
1981 Tallinn - Keres memorial, 1st
Málaga
Málaga
Málaga is a city and a municipality in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. With a population of 568,507 in 2010, it is the second most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth largest in Spain. This is the southernmost large city in Europe...

 tournament, 1st
Riga tournament, 1st (11/15)
Porz
Porz
Porz is a city district or Stadtbezirk of Cologne, Germany. It is situated on the right side of the Rhine in the south-east of the city...

 tournament, 1st
Lviv
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

 tournament, 1st-2nd
1982 Moscow - Alekhine
Alexander Alekhine
Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine was the fourth World Chess Champion. He is often considered one of the greatest chess players ever.By the age of twenty-two, he was already among the strongest chess players in the world. During the 1920s, he won most of the tournaments in which he played...

 memorial, 1st (9/13)
Erevan tournament, 1st (10/15)
Sochi - Chigorin memorial, 1st (10/15)
Pforzheim
Pforzheim
Pforzheim is a town of nearly 119,000 inhabitants in the state of Baden-Württemberg, southwest Germany at the gate to the Black Forest. It is world-famous for its jewelry and watch-making industry. Until 1565 it was the home to the Margraves of Baden. Because of that it gained the nickname...

 tournament, 1st (9/11)
1983 Tallinn - Keres memorial, 1st (10/15)
1984 Albena
Albena
Albena is a major Black Sea resort in northeastern Bulgaria, situated 12 km from Balchik and 30 km from Varna. Albena is served by the international airport of Varna....

 tournament, 1st-2nd (7/11)
1985 Jūrmala
Jurmala
Jūrmala is a city in Latvia, about 25 kilometers west of Riga. Jūrmala is a resort town stretching and sandwiched between the Gulf of Riga and the Lielupe River...

 tournament, 1st (9/13)
1986 West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

 open, 1st-2nd (7,5/9)
Tbilisi - Goglidze memorial, 1st-2nd (9/13)
1987 Termas de Río Hondo
Termas de Río Hondo
Termas de Río Hondo is a city in the province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina. It has 27,838 inhabitants as per the . It is located on the banks of the Dulce River, 65 km north of the provincial capital Santiago del Estero, near the artificial Río Hondo Lake....

 (Argentina), 1st (8/11)
Jūrmala tournament, 1st-4th (7,5/13)
1988 Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 open, 1st-6th (5,5/6)
2nd World blitz Championship at Saint John
Saint John, New Brunswick
City of Saint John , or commonly Saint John, is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick, and the first incorporated city in Canada. The city is situated along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. In 2006 the city proper had a population of 74,043...

: 1st
1991 Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

 - Najdorf
Miguel Najdorf
Miguel Najdorf was a Polish-born Argentine chess grandmaster of Jewish origin, famous for his Najdorf Variation....

 memorial, 1st-3rd (8,5/13)

Score with some major Grandmasters

Only official tournament or match games have been taken into account. '+' corresponds to Tal's wins, '−' to his losses and '=' to draws.

  • Mikhail Botvinnik
    Mikhail Botvinnik
    Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik, Ph.D. was a Soviet and Russian International Grandmaster and three-time World Chess Champion. Working as an electrical engineer and computer scientist at the same time, he was one of the very few famous chess players who achieved distinction in another career while...

    : +12 −12 =20
  • David Bronstein
    David Bronstein
    David Ionovich Bronstein was a Soviet chess grandmaster, who narrowly missed becoming World Chess Champion in 1951. Bronstein was described by his peers as a creative genius and master of tactics...

    : +8 −5 =18
  • Viktor Korchnoi
    Viktor Korchnoi
    Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi ; pronounced in the original Russian as "karch NOY"; Ви́ктор Льво́вич Корчно́й, born March 23, 1931 is a professional chess player, author and currently the oldest active grandmaster on the tournament circuit...

    : +7 −11 =5
  • Bent Larsen
    Bent Larsen
    Jørgen Bent Larsen was a Danish chess Grandmaster and author. Larsen was known for his imaginative and unorthodox style of play and he was the first western player to pose a serious challenge to the Soviet Union's dominance of chess...

    : +12 −7 =18
  • Bobby Fischer
    Bobby Fischer
    Robert James "Bobby" Fischer was an American chess Grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion. He is widely considered one of the greatest chess players of all time. Fischer was also a best-selling chess author...

    : +4 −2 =5

  • Paul Keres
    Paul Keres
    Paul Keres , was an Estonian chess grandmaster, and a renowned chess writer. He was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s....

    : +4 −8 =20
  • Efim Geller
    Efim Geller
    Efim Petrovich Geller was a Soviet chess player and world-class grandmaster at his peak. He won the Soviet Championship twice and was a Candidate for the World Championship on six occasions...

    : +6 −6 =23
  • Lev Polugaevsky
    Lev Polugaevsky
    Lev Abramovich Polugaevsky was an International Grandmaster of chess and frequent contender for the world chess championship, although he never achieved that title...

    : +2 −8 =25
  • Boris Spassky
    Boris Spassky
    Boris Vasilievich Spassky is a Soviet-French chess grandmaster. He was the tenth World Chess Champion, holding the title from late 1969 to 1972...

    : +6 −9 =25
  • Anatoly Karpov
    Anatoly Karpov
    Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov is a Russian chess grandmaster and former World Champion. He was the official world champion from 1975 to 1985 when he was defeated by Garry Kasparov. He played three matches against Kasparov for the title from 1986 to 1990, before becoming FIDE World Champion once...

    : +0 −1 =19

  • Vasily Smyslov
    Vasily Smyslov
    Vasily Vasilyevich Smyslov was a Soviet and Russian chess grandmaster, and was World Chess Champion from 1957 to 1958. He was a Candidate for the World Chess Championship on eight occasions . Smyslov was twice equal first at the Soviet Championship , and his total of 17 Chess Olympiad medals won...

    : +3 −4 =21
  • Tigran Petrosian
    Tigran Petrosian
    Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian was a Soviet-Armenian grandmaster, and World Chess Champion from 1963 to 1969. He was nicknamed "Iron Tigran" due to his playing style because of his almost impenetrable defence, which emphasised safety above all else...

    : +6 −9 =27
  • Leonid Stein
    Leonid Stein
    Leonid Zakharovich Stein was a Soviet chess Grandmaster from Ukraine. He won three USSR Chess Championships in the 1960s , and was among the world's top ten players during that era.- Early life :...

    : +0 −3 =15
  • Lajos Portisch
    Lajos Portisch
    Lajos Portisch is a Hungarian chess Grandmaster, whose positional style earned him the nickname, the "Hungarian Botvinnik"...

    : +9 −5 =18


Personality

His first wife Salli Landau, described Tal's personality:

Health problems

Tal led a dissolute personal life of womanizing, drinking, and chain smoking, all of which was an embarrassment to the Soviet authorities. His health suffered as a result, and he spent much time in the hospital, including an operation to remove a kidney in 1969. He was also briefly addicted to morphine
Morphine
Morphine is a potent opiate analgesic medication and is considered to be the prototypical opioid. It was first isolated in 1804 by Friedrich Sertürner, first distributed by same in 1817, and first commercially sold by Merck in 1827, which at the time was a single small chemists' shop. It was more...

. On June 28, 1992, Tal died in a Moscow hospital, officially of kidney failure. But his friend and fellow Soviet grandmaster Genna Sosonko reported that "in reality, all his organs had stopped functioning." Tal had the congenital deformity of ectrodactyly
Ectrodactyly
Ectrodactyly, sometimes referred to as the “Lobster-Claw Syndrome” involves the deficiency or absence of one or more central digits of the hand or foot and is also known as split hand/split foot malformation...

 in his right hand (visible in some photographs). Despite this, he was a very skilled piano player.

Playing style

Tal loved the game in itself and considered that "Chess, first of all, is Art." He was known to play numerous blitz
Blitz chess
Fast chess, also known as blitz chess, lightning chess, sudden death, speed chess, bullet chess and rapid chess, is a type of chess game in which each side is given less time to make their moves than under the normal tournament time controls of 60 to 180 minutes per player.-Overview:The different...

 games against unknown or relatively weak players purely for the joy of playing.

Known as "The Magician from Riga", Tal was the archetype
Archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

 of the attacking player, developing an extremely powerful and imaginative style of play. His approach over the board was very pragmatic – in that respect, he is one of the heirs of ex-World Champion Emanuel Lasker
Emanuel Lasker
Emanuel Lasker was a German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher who was World Chess Champion for 27 years...

. He often sacrificed
Sacrifice (chess)
In chess, a sacrifice is a move giving up a piece in the hopes of gaining tactical or positional compensation in other forms. A sacrifice could also be a deliberate exchange of a chess piece of higher value for an opponent's piece of lower value....

 material in search of the initiative
Initiative (chess)
Initiative in a chess position belongs to the player who can make threats that cannot be ignored. He thus puts his opponent in the position of having to use his turns responding to threats rather than making his own. A player with the initiative will often seek to maneuver his pieces into more and...

, which is defined by the ability to make threats to which the opponent must respond. With such intuitive sacrifices, he created vast complications, and many masters found it impossible to solve all the problems he created over the board, though deeper post-game analysis found flaws in some of his conceptions. The famous sixth game of his first world championship match with Botvinnik is typical in that regard: Tal sacrificed a knight with little compensation but prevailed when the unsettled Botvinnik failed to find the correct response.

Although his playing style was scorned by ex-World Champion Vasily Smyslov as nothing more than "tricks", Tal convincingly beat virtually every notable grandmaster with his trademark aggression. Viktor Korchnoi
Viktor Korchnoi
Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi ; pronounced in the original Russian as "karch NOY"; Ви́ктор Льво́вич Корчно́й, born March 23, 1931 is a professional chess player, author and currently the oldest active grandmaster on the tournament circuit...

 and Paul Keres
Paul Keres
Paul Keres , was an Estonian chess grandmaster, and a renowned chess writer. He was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s....

 are two of the very few with a significant plus record against him. It is also notable that he adopted a more sedate and positional style in his later years; for many chess lovers, the apex of Tal's style corresponds with the period (approximately from 1971 to 1979) when he was able to integrate the solidity of classical chess with the imagination of his youth.

Of the current top-level players, the Latvian-born Spaniard Alexei Shirov
Alexei Shirov
Alexei Dmitrievich Shirov is a Soviet-born Latvian chess grandmaster. He has consistently ranked among the world's top players since the early 1990s, and reached a ranking as high as number four in 1998...

 has probably been most influenced or inspired by Tal's sacrificial style. In fact, he studied with Tal as a youth. Many other Latvian grandmasters and masters, for instance Alexander Shabalov
Alexander Shabalov
Alexander Shabalov is an American chess grandmaster, the multiple winner of the U.S. Chess Championships; he was the 2007 US Champion. He was born in Latvia, and like his fellow Latvians Alexei Shirov and Mikhail Tal he is known for courting complications even at the cost of objective soundness...

 and Alvis Vitolins
Alvis Vitolinš
Alvis Vītoliņš was a Latvian chess master.Awarded the International Master title in 1980, he was Latvian Champion in 1973 , 1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983 and 1985...

, have played in a similar vein, causing some to speak of a "Latvian School of Chess."
Tal contributed little to opening theory, despite a deep knowledge of most systems, the Sicilian
Sicilian Defence
The Sicilian Defence is a chess opening that begins with the moves:The Sicilian is the most popular and best-scoring response to White's first move 1.e4...

 and the Ruy Lopez
Ruy Lopez
The Ruy Lopez, also called the Spanish Opening or Spanish Game, is a chess opening characterised by the moves:-History:The opening is named after the 16th century Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura, who made a systematic study of this and other openings in the 150-page book on chess Libro del...

 in particular. But his aggressive use of the Modern Benoni Defense
Benoni Defense
The Benoni Defense is a group of chess openings generally characterized by the opening moves 1. d4 c5 2. d5, although Black's ...c5 and White's answer d5 are often delayed. The most usual opening sequence for the Benoni is 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5...

, particularly in his early years, led to a complete re-evaluation of this variation at the time, though it is seldom seen in top-class tournament play in the 21st century.

Quotations on chess

  • "There are two kinds of sacrifices: sound ones, and mine."
  • "To play for a draw, at any rate with White, is to some degree a crime against chess."
  • "If Black is going for victory, he is practically forced to allow his opponent to get some kind of well-known positional advantage."
  • "It is also important to remember that Bobby Fischer
    Bobby Fischer
    Robert James "Bobby" Fischer was an American chess Grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion. He is widely considered one of the greatest chess players of all time. Fischer was also a best-selling chess author...

     was a real chess gentleman during games. He was always very fair and very correct."
  • "I drink, I smoke, I gamble, I chase girls – but postal chess is one vice I don't have."
  • "They compare me to Lasker, which is an exaggerated honor. He made mistakes in every game and I only in every second one!"
  • Nevertheless, when asked about his opinion on who was the greatest player of all time, he answered: "Lasker, for he made miracles on the chessboard."
  • Referring to his piece sacrifices: "They can only take them one at a time!"
  • "If playing chess were made illegal by law, I would become an outlaw."
  • "You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one."

Notable chess games


Writings

Tal was a prolific and highly respected chess writer, serving as editor of the Latvian chess magazine Šahs ("Chess") from 1960 to 1970. He also wrote four books: one on his 1960 World Championship with Botvinnik, his autobiography The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, Attack with Mikhail Tal coauthored by Iakov Damsky, and Tal's Winning Chess Combinations coauthored by Viktor Khenkin. His books are renowned for the detailed narrative of his thinking during the games. American Grandmaster Andrew Soltis
Andrew Soltis
Andrew Eden Soltis is a chess Grandmaster, author and columnist.He won at Reggio Emilia 1971–72 and was equal first at New York 1977. He was awarded the International Master title in 1974 and became a Grandmaster in 1980...

 reviewed his book on the world championship match as "simply the best book written about a world championship match by a contestant. That shouldn't be a surprise because Tal was the finest writer to become world champion". New Zealand Grandmaster Murray Chandler
Murray Chandler
Murray Graham Chandler is a New Zealand chess grandmaster who has played internationally for that nation and for England, after gaining citizenship there in the early 1980s...

 wrote in the introduction to the 1997 reissued algebraic edition of The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal that the book was possibly the best chess book ever written.

One amusing anecdote frequently quoted from Tal's autobiography takes the form of a hypothetical conversation between Tal and a journalist (actually co-author Yakov Damsky). It offers a modest, self-deprecating view of his reputation for unerring calculation at the board:

Further reading

This covers Tal's career post 1975, and can therefore be seen as a sort of sequel to Tal's own autobiography and games collection, which covers his career up to that point.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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