Mikhail Tal's Attacking Secret
Tal was a deadly attacker.

Mikhail Tal's Attacking Secret

GM Gserper
May 6, 2018, 12:00 AM |
59 | Tactics

I bet many of you have heard the famous chess saying: "If Tal has an open file, there will be mate," but do you know how this expression was born?

Mikhail Tal's second, Alexander Koblencs, who coined this phrase, tells the story in his book On The Road Of Chess Battles.

The game Tal-Filip from the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal was extremely important for the young Tal since he'd lost his previous game and desperately tried to get revenge. However, the Czech grandmaster Miroslav Filip was well known for his ultra-solid style and the position after the first 27 moves didn't look too promising for Tal.

At that point GM Geller, who was there as Tigran Petrosian's second, came to Koblencs and said: "It looks like Misha didn't get anything special this time".

Koblencs knew that it was a very difficult to break Black's defense, but nevertheless he retorted what would be a very famous phrase: "If Misha has an open file, there will be mate!"

mikhail tal chess

Tal via Wikipedia.

At the same moment, Tal sacrificed his bishop!

The game was analyzed and re-analyzed for years. It was later established that Black could successfully defend against White's attack, and yet Koblencs' phrase became Tal's chess motto!

We've already analyzed three games by Tal where he was more than happy to sacrifice a pawn to open a file against his opponent's king. Indeed, in situations where both kings are castled opposite sides, such a sacrifice to open files for an attack is truly a no-brainer.

But how to open files for an attack if both kings have castled to the same side? Wouldn't pushing your kingside pawns make your own king vulnerable? The following Tal game provides a good example how to do it.

Tal's position looks very promising, but how can White add some fuel to his attack? Can you find it?

Notice how quickly Tal opened a file against his opponent's king and how safe his own king was throughout the game!

Here is how the game ended:

These days the h2-h4 pawn sacrifice to open a file against an opponent's king is common knowledge, as we saw with Levon Aronian in last week's column.

More from GM Gserper
The Unpredictable Ding Liren

The Unpredictable Ding Liren

Mamedyarov's Unstoppable Pawns

Mamedyarov's Unstoppable Pawns