Mikhail Tal

Famous for his swashbuckling attacks, Mikhail Tal was one of the most talented players never to really hold down the world championship.  He won it and held it for just a year or so in 1960.

From Wikipedia I learned this:

In 1960, at the age of 23, Tal thoroughly defeated the relatively staid and strategic Mikhail Botvinnik in a World Championship match, held in Moscow, by 12.58.5 (six wins, two losses, and thirteen draws), making him the youngest-ever world champion (a record later broken by Garry Kasparov, who earned the title at 22). Botvinnik won the return match against Tal in 1961, also held in Moscow, 138 (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.1 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 claimed that Botvinnik would agree to a postponement only if Tal was certified unfit by Moscow doctors, and that Tal then decided to play.2 His short reign atop the chess world made him one of the two so-called “winter kings” who interrupted Botvinnik’s long reign from 1948 to 1963 (the other was Smyslov, world champion 19571958).

Now you have learned it too!  

Anyway, the point of this post is that here’s a pretty wild example of his style I came across the other day for those who like that kind of thing.

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14 years ago

I love me a good Tal game, thanks. Maybe it’s just because of his wonderful name – it makes him sound like a Bond supervillian.

The story about Bottvinik’s come back is quite interesting; it’s probably happened several times in chess history. Some years ago I had the good fortune to read an excellent piece by Alekhine on his game strategy when playing Capablanca – like Bottvinik did, he studied Capablanca’s games carefully, identified his strengths and weaknesses, and contrived ways to steer the games into his favoured territory. It was quite fascinating to see how Alekhine didn’t just play the game, he played the personality of his opponents. (I imagine he undertook similar preparations in winning back the world title from Max Euwe.)

14 years ago

Bit of a chessy afternoon. I learned from this rare radio interview with Alekhine (though it could be a fake) that Alekhine played ping-pong to help himself relax. (Though he’s probably lying out of his rear end, because he says just before that ‘I lead a quiet, retiring country life’ – this from a man who virtually drunk himself to death.)

And this Wiki piece on Emmanuel Lasker has some great stories:

In 1909 Lasker drew a short match (two wins each) against Dawid Janowski, an all-out attacking Polish player who lived in Paris. Several months later they played a longer match, and chess historians still debate whether this was for the World Chess Championship.[48] Understanding Janowski’s style, Lasker chose to defend solidly so that Janowski unleashed his attacks too soon and left himself vulnerable. Lasker easily won the match 82 (seven wins, two draws, one loss).[49] This victory was convincing for everyone but Janowski, who asked for a revenge match. Lasker accepted and they played World Chess Championship match in Paris in NovemberDecember 1910. Lasker crushed his opponent, winning 9