The Chess Terminator, Part Two

The Chess Terminator, Part Two

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  • Tactics

Last week, we left our amicable chess terminator at a position where his opponent set a devilish trap for him. Many of you, my dear readers, correctly found the refutation of the trap. In his book, Tal wrote that White's move (25.Rd2) made him very suspicious.

Indeed, how could his very experienced opponent, who was an excellent tactician, miss a simple tactical shot 27...Nxe2 when Black wins an exchange? Then, of course, Tal easily discovered the trap and also found an intermediate move 29...Bxc3!! which turned the hunter into the prey!

Round 5:  After the impressive start (four out of four!), it looked like Tal was on the way to score another win.  His opponent's king was open and Tal was about to double his rooks on the open c-file to start a direct attack.  But Korchnoi was known as an excellent defender for a reason. He moved his knight to b5, and suddenly White's attack disappeared.

Fun fact about Viktor Korchnoi before moving on: Did you know he boasted a +13 -4 =27 record against Tal? By far the best record of any of Tal's peers. Considered by many to be the greatest player never to have become World Champion, holding "tough positions" against the great attacking skill of Tal was not uncommon for Korchnoi.

Viktor Korchnoi via Wikipedia

Round 6:  Another masterpiece! Unfortunately for Tal, he was on the receiving end of this gem. IM Rashid Nezhmetdinov was a very creative player and brilliant tactician who could play complicated positions as well as Tal! We analyzed his games here at Learning Openings With Rashid Nezhmetdinov and at How to Learn an Opening in One Hour.

Nezhmetdinov was traditionally a very difficult opponent for Tal, and had a positive lifetime score against the Magician from Riga. This is how Tal described Nezmetdinov's play: "His games reveal the beauty of chess and make you love in chess not so much the points and high placings, but the wonderful harmony and elegance of this particular world."

Indeed, the harmony and cooperation of White's pieces in the following game was very impressive! Nezhmetdinov's 23.h3!! created an amazing position of a zugzwang in the middlegame!

Round 7: This round's game could have been one of the most amazing combinations ever. Emphasis on could have been. We already discussed what happened here in a separate article: Fischer, Tal, and the Most Frequently Forgotten Chess Rule.

For those of you who didn't read the article, here's the puzzle. Try to find a forced win for White.

Round 8:  Another round, another miss for Tal. He had an extra pawn and technically winning position and then blundered it all away in one move.

Round 9:  The early complications led to an endgame where Tal's extra pawn was pretty useless due to the bishops of opposite color.

Round 10: A very strange game.  First Tal sacrificed an exchange to create a strong passed pawn and complicate the position. When Black's initiative fizzled out and White got a winning position, IM Khasin unexpectedly walked into a threefold repetition of the position and the game ended in a draw.

Round 11: Just like in some of the games from the previous rounds, crazy complications in the middlegame transformed into a drawish Rrook endgame.

Round 12:  In the previous five rounds, Tal made five draws. As the chess saying goes, long series of draws usually end with a loss. This game is mostly remembered not because of Boleslavsky's fine technique or Tal's stubborn defense, but for the following story from the Aleksandar Matanovic's book "Chess is Chess":

After adjourning a game with Boleslavksy at the Soviet championship in 1957, Tal went back to his hotel for dinner. Deep in thought over the position he had left on the chessboard, Tal ran afoul of the law by jaywalking across the street. As he had no papers on him to prove his identity, the policeman apprehending him took him down to the station. At the police station, the officer on duty was engrossed in a position on the chessboard.

Tal immediately recognized the position where he had adjourned his game with Boleslavsky, which had just been reported over the radio. "Name!" snapped the officer on duty, annoyed at having been interrupted. "Tal," came the reply. "What! Another Tal?" "You won't believe this, but I'm the Tal!" It was not long before the police officer and Tal were poring over the board together. At seven in the morning, Tal went home to his hotel, but despite police help he lost his game with Boleslavsky.

Another version of what happened after this game was told by Bernard Cafferty in his book about Tal: 

Mikhail Tal adjourned his game with Boleslavsky in a very difficult position. Straight after play, Tal went off to a date with a girl! While the other players were enjoying their sleep, Tal spent the time walking around the streets of Moscow. Next to the Bielorussky railway station they crossed the road in the wrong place and the policeman arrested them and brought to the police station.

The young lieutenant who was on duty turned to look at them with dissatisfaction and returned to the task he had had to break off -- he was sitting with a chess board in front of him. Tal glanced at the board and couldn't suppress a smile. The police officer was analyzing Tal's adjourned game with Boleslavsky. Obviously the adjourned game had been dictated in the evening sports bulletin on the radio.

Tal was unable to restrain himself and commented on a move made on the board. Instead of replying, the lieutenant pushed the board away from him with a sigh and in a bored voice asked, "Name?" "Tal." "What, another one?" "You'll laugh, I know," said Misha, "But I'm not another one, but the very man himself." A minute later, they were analyzing the position together. Tal went home only at seven am. Despite the help of the police, the game was still lost on resumption.

It is difficult today to say which version of the story is true. I knew Tal a bit since we played a couple of tournaments together and analyzed our games. Both the jaywalking and the date stories sound equally likely to happen to Tal. Besides, if we have our chess "terminator," then there had to be a Sarah Connor involved somewhere!  Anyway, date or no date, Tal played the remaining games of the tournament very well and deservedly won his first national title!


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