Attack and Defense from Mikhail Tal

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Jun 7, 2012

We all know that chess games can follow an almost infinite number of paths. Some become tactical battles from the very beginning, while in others the game might be heavy maneuvering the whole way through. In the game I will show you, after the opening both players spent five or six moves peacefully setting up the “artillery” before things got out of control – suddenly both players began trading captures, with both kings under threat. In the end, after incredible complications, the eighth world champion Mikhail Tal emerged on top. In an unbalanced endgame, where the players formally had equal material, Tal had seen that his position would be better. It is hard to imagine that he could have foreseen everything, and most likely both players were groping in the dark; but Tal’s intuition led the way.

There are few chess players who are not familiar with the name Mikhail Tal. Born in Riga, Latvia, he only held the world championship for one year, but nevertheless is named by many as their favorite player. He was famous for making sacrifices which straddled the boundary between the sound and the unsound – nevertheless, they created huge problems for his opponents, who inevitably made the final mistake.

This game was played in 1959, while Tal was on his unstoppable rise to the world championship. At this point he was a very formidable opponent – nevertheless, his lesser-known opponent, Alexander Nikitin, traded blows with him for a long time, also showing great imagination.

The remarkable thing about this game is that the series of moves between twenty-one and thirty, while not totally obvious, are completely forced. Tal’s 21…Nxe4!! set off this series of fireworks. Presumably he had to both anticipate Nikitin’s resource 25.Ba4 and see his answer 25…Rg1+ before playing his twenty-first move; if it were not for 25…Rg1+ he would be completely lost. Did he see the whole variation to move thirty and correctly evaluate the exchange-down endgame? Or did he operate partially by intuition, trusting that his positionally-superior game could not betray him in the tactics? What do you think?


  • 12 months ago


    I like it. Thanks for posting.

  • 3 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    Mi sono innamorato degli Scacchi, grazie a Tal.

  • 4 years ago


    Tal himself commented that after the game, Nikitin told him that he saw the Black's combination as well and just played along.

  • 4 years ago


    This became one of my favourite games!

  • 4 years ago


    Mikhail Tal vs her naively optimistic daughter
  • 4 years ago


    Tal is my Idol

  • 4 years ago


    Tal was a genius no doubt. his play was highly intuitive & tactical, not positional like other great player of his time, Botvinnik.

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    nice atticle

  • 4 years ago


    That's a great example!

  • 4 years ago


    Great article Smith, keep them coming!

  • 4 years ago


    very nice article with great battle by Tal! Smile

  • 4 years ago


    I think 27... Bxf3 is a great mistake. Much better is Kxg1.

    Anyway, great game 

  • 4 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    games 1 and 6 of the 1960 tal-botvinnik wc betray a fantastic intuition on how to play dynamic positions, principally, on the objective merits of the position.  the accuracy of his assessments in the long term positions he was aiming for were remarkable! i would point out his comments on the 14th move on game 6 of the 60' botvinnik match as to the direction of his thoughts - he knew what positions would manifest and found the objective and practical value suitable, and indeed he was right.  sometimes his calculations went awry, and indeed against the very best calculators of his time his results were not the very best. but against everybody else, it seemed, he could almost win at will, when he had to.  in tal's literature, and he is an excellent writer btw, he makes it seem like it was very simple to him, and i think, on the whole, it was. the pieces belong such and such, and this and this is the plan and the evaluation is accordingly as such. notably he liked to give away pieces that were in his way, especially in blitz. tal's middlegame and endgame technique were first rate, his best games are astonishing by today's standards, and even his less famous games. a very serene fellow, a child-like enthusiasm and positive energy permeates his literature.

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    Well, the thing is, white won material, but, looking at the queen all the way on a7, and the bishop on b6, the focus was so narrow! White takes out so much time just to win the queen for the bishop (at its basis, since the queen is protected); I think it's plausible that black might be able to do something in that time. Based on how well Tal calculates, I think he saw most of it; perhaps not all of it. Seeing most of the variations, with such a great intuition is more than enough for him to be completely satisfied!

  • 4 years ago


    great game

  • 4 years ago

    FM gauranga

    Great game. It looks like there might be an inaccuracy in the analysis of the line ( 22. Nxe4 Bxe4 23. Bb6 Qc6 ) White could now start a crushing attack with 24.Rxe4!, e.g., 24...Qxe4 25.Qa8+ Kd7 26.Ba4+!

    I believe 23...Nc6 is better when White could then enter an ending with an exchange up for only one pawn after 24.Qa8+ Kd7 25.Qxg8.

  • 4 years ago


    Alexander Nikitin didn't achieve much as a practical player, but he was Garry Kasparov's coach in 70's and 80's.

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