The Chess Terminator's Ultimate Solution

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jul 13, 2014

If the title of this article sounds like the action movie "The Bourne Ultimatum," it is pure coincidence, since here we are talking about Mikhail "Chess Terminator" Tal and his first win in the national championship.

As you probably remember, after a wonderful start (4 points in the first 4 rounds) Tal scored only 3 points in the following 8 games in rounds 5-12, where he missed a bunch of promising opportunities. Especially painful was the game vs. Antoshin, where due to a weird hallucination Tal missed a marvelous combination.

Tal admits in his book that after that game his fighting spirit was ruined. The loss against Boleslavsky could have been his final straw, but fortunately he managed to beat Petrosian in round 13 before he lost to Boleslavsky in round 12!

Our young readers are probably confused, because today it is impossible to finish the 13th-round game before the 12th-round game. The simple explanation of this little mystery is that Tal's 12th-round game vs. Boleslavsky was adjourned and therefore played on the special day when all the adjourned games were supposed to be finished.  

So, by the time Tal resumed his adjourned game from round 12, he already won his game from round 13! Tal mentioned that the win over Petrosian boosted his mood tremendously!

Round 14: Just like in the game from round 9 vs. Spassky, the middlegame complications led to an endgame where opposite-colored bishops made White's extra pawn useless.  Except this time it was Tal who benefited from the drawish power of the opposite-colored bishops.

Round 15: This beautiful game is another example of Tal's favorite hobby of falling into his opponent's trap in order to turn the table, when a hunter becomes the prey.  We discussed this topic in the first part of this article as well as here.

Black really provoked Tal's combination because he saw the killer move that was supposed to finish the game instantly. Here is what Black hoped for when he played 22...f5:

Tal found a "hole" in his opponent's idea and confidently "fell" into a trap. Try to find how Tal refuted Black's scheme.

Round 16: Again Tal gets an endgame with opposite-colored bishops.

Tal remembers that at some point during the game, he thought that Keres would never lose such an endgame and apparently Keres thought the same way. So, another opposite-colored bishops endgame and another draw?  Nope! Tal found the ultimate solution of the opposite-colored bishops endgames.  Can you spot it?

Here Tal demonstrated that in some drawish looking opposite-colored bishop endgames, you should get rid of the opposite-colored bishops even if it means that you sacrifice your own bishop! To me the endgame Keres-Tal looks like a spiritual predecessor of the next famous game:

GM Shirov himself credits the following game as his inspiration:

As you can see, in all the games Black sacrificed his bishop to get a bunch of passed pawns. As Tal puts it: the White king can easily stop one pawn, the bishop will stop the second passed pawn, but who will stop the third passed pawn?

Since Tal was a brilliant attacking player, it is easy to forget about his non-attacking ideas. Try to remember what we learned today about Tal's ultimate solution of the opposite-colored bishops!



  • 2 years ago


    I like this article best, although I like everything about Tal. There is something beautiful about those endings. I can appreciate the bishop magic best for some reason, if only the rook maneuvers were as clear to me!

  • 2 years ago


    awesome article! Tal the Terminator!

  • 2 years ago


    tal is one a my favorite players this is a great article ever think of becoming an author;-)

  • 2 years ago


    Very good article

  • 2 years ago


    Really liked this! :D

  • 2 years ago


    Thank you for a good article!

  • 2 years ago

    NM blackknight2278

    Very good classic demostration of the power of king, and two passed pawns versus bishop!

  • 2 years ago


    and now that's what i call a chess article!!

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    awesome show of technique !

  • 2 years ago


    Amazing article. This made my day !

    Thank you GM Serper. Laughing

  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago


    Very nice... Would opposite colored bishops be more afraid of Tal or Chuck Norris?

  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago


    Thanks, Gserper. I like articles written for us lower-level players. Keep contributing.

  • 2 years ago


    Even opposite coloured bishops are afraid of Tal.

    May he rest in peace.

  • 2 years ago


    Nice article. Very instructive. Wonder what the final result of the tournament was. I especially apreciate that my chess engine does not find these endgame bishops sacs in less than 30 seconds.

  • 2 years ago


    nice TAL

  • 2 years ago


    Super-awesome! :D

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