Is Tal's Queen Worth 12 Pawns?
Tal's queen was his favorite weapon.

Is Tal's Queen Worth 12 Pawns?

GM Gserper
Jun 24, 2018, 12:00 AM |
217 | Tactics

At the very end of my article about MVL's trapped rooks, I mentioned that Tal was famous for his queen play. There was even a joke that a regular queen is worth nine pawns and Tal's queen is worth 12 pawns!

The member "fiercebadger" asked in the comment section: "Perhaps you can show us these classic Tal 12-pt queen games?" Thank you for a very good suggestion, fiercebadger! 

If a beginner tries to determine a queen's value based on Tal's games, he will be confused for sure. In some of his games Tal gave away his queen for virtually nothing.

Look for example at the following famous game that we analyzed in this old article:

Of course the games where a piece is sacrificed for certain benefits don't provide a true picture of what such a piece is worth. If I sacrifice a rook for a pawn to start an attack it doesn't mean that a rook is worth just one pawn. It only means that in that particular position I am happy to give up a rook for an attack.

In order to answer the question how many points a piece is worth we need to see how it fights some other pieces. And that's how you can come to an objective evaluation that on average a queen is worth about nine points. But when you analyze Tal's games, you usually don't use the words "objective," "on average," etc.

mikhail tal chess

Tal via Wikipedia.

Tal's games are anything but that! One of the most popular Tal quotes says it best: "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."

Here is how he proves that the queen is worth more than traditional nine points.

Look at the position on the diagram. White's queen fights two rooks and three minor pieces (a total of 19 points!) and beats them all! In order to create this piece of beauty, Tal sacrificed a rook and a bishop with his last two moves! By the way, it is not uncommon in Tal's games that he sacrifices all his pieces and leaves himself with just a lonely queen. It almost feels like he got rid of the pieces that got in the way of her majesty!

Here is a similar game. Can you play like Tal?

Tal didn't always use this trick to win a game. Sometimes his super queen let him save a hopeless position:

Do you see the same pattern? Again Tal gets rid of his rook, so his lonely queen does the whole job. By the way, at the end Tal's queen is not any worse than White's queen, rook and bishop (17 points in total).

Now can you see that the joke about Tal's queen being worth 12 points has a lot of truth to it?

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