The Chess Terminator's Ultimate Solution

The Chess Terminator's Ultimate Solution

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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.

Black Bishop _1311669 by Christopher Irwin | CC

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!



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