Cute Little Beasts. Part Three.

Cute Little Beasts. Part Three.‎

GM Gserper
27 | Tactics

Today we'll take a look at the games of a very young Tal.  Despite the fact that there are so many books and articles written about "The Magician from Riga", his life is still the stuff of legends. Many sources contradict each other. For example, Wikipedia says:  "At the age of eight, Tal learned to play chess while watching his father, a doctor." Meanwhile an excellent book "Complete games of Mikhail Tal" by Hilary Thomas states: "He learned the moves around the age of seven by watching games played in the waiting room of his father - a medical doctor." Then, according to Wikipedia "shortly thereafter he joined the Riga Palace of Young Pioneers chess club." But according to the book, Tal joined the chess club only three years later at the age of 10. Unfortunately we don't have any games Tal played during that period. But again there are different opinions about those games.  According to Wikipedia "his play was not exceptional at first but he worked hard to improve."  But I clearly remember that I read in an old Soviet chess magazine an article where the author remembered that in one of the National Junior Team Championships he saw a very young kid who was down a lot of material in every single game (and consequently lost almost all of them) trying to checkmate his opponent's King. And that's how he remembered young Tal.

Anyway, let me show you the first of Tal's game that was published in a chess magazine.  Tal was 13 years old at that point.

(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your attacking skills, so the games are given as a Quiz.  Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)


Playing thru the above game some the readers may experience deja vu.  The idea to stop Black's f7 pawn from moving and stopping the White attack by sacrificing a Rook on the f6 square looks very familiar. And of course you are right.  Even if you have never seen the little known game Tal-Leonov, you are definitely familiar with the next very famous game by Fischer:
But let's get back to Tal. In 1949 the young Russian master (and future Grandmaster) Ratmir Kholmov was performing a simul in Tal's native Riga. If Kholmov had known about the sharp attacking style of his young opponent he would have payed more attention to the safety of his King, but...
The next two games show why Tal was widely known as "The Magician from Riga." It is amazing how quickly the solid looking-positions of his opponents get destroyed!
Just like in the early Spassky games the same thing amazes me in the early Tal games.  Being a very aggressive chess player, Tal based all his attacks on a solid positional ground.  It is a very unusual maturity in such an early age.  And since this is an opening column called "Tactics from move one!", I want you to notice Tal's choice of openings.  As it turns out, you don't need to play gambits to achieve an attack. For a skillful chess player even a classical Queen's Gambit or Ruy Lopez is a good starting point to checkmate an opponent.  So, if you like to attack and yet, somehow you never get a good opportunity or your attacks fizzle out pretty quickly, don't  blame the opening line you played and don't rush to change your opening repertoire.  Instead analyze the games of Alekhine, Tal, Spassky and notice the openings they played.  I am sure it will be an eye opener!
Good luck!
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