Master Study: Tal v. Fischer
Did he blunder his queen?

Master Study: Tal v. Fischer

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Master Study

Tal v. Fischer

Mikhail Tal and Bobby Fischer were two of the strongest chess champions in the 20th century. Mikhail Tal is known for his stunning queen sacrifices to pull off wins, and Bobby Fischer is remembered as being the only American world champion. The game is set in 1962 at the candidates being held in the Netherlands. Tal has the white pieces, while Bobby is playing black. 

Tal starts the game off with e4, and Bobby plays the Sicilian. The position continues to develop into a standard Najdorf Sicilian. Bobby continues to restrict any sort of entry point by white, while Tal is able to gain fairly good control of the center. 

Tal  continues by developing his bishop and preparing to castle. However, Bobby lashes out with e5. This is a fairly aggressive line that knocks out white's knight from the center.  e5 is a sharp move that requires black to fight for the center rather than take a more defensive position such as with e6.

And you can see how Bobby quickly develops all of his pieces into the center of the board as quickly as possible, supporting his d and e pawns. Tal notices that the center seems to be locked, and he pushes a4, perhaps seeking more play on the queenside. 

Tal then goes for an aggressive pawn break with f4. This is the only way to cause an imbalance to Bobby's center. However, Bobby develops his queen, preparing to castle either way, and taking dominant control of the lots of dark diagonals. Tal decides to try and cover his king's weak diagonal with Be3.

Tal continues with his advance on the queenside by playing a5. However, Bobby locks this pawn out with b5. Now Tal, being a true believer, takes en passant, and we have a trade of pawns. However, this completely stops Tal's attempt to have counterplay on the queenside. 

Tal continues his push, however, by pushing his f pawn to hit Bobby's bishop. However, Bobby decides to push his bishop forward and offer a trade of light square bishops. The bishop is guarded by Bobby's queen, but Tal takes on the knight that Bobby's queen is also protecting. At first glance, it looks like Bobby can't guard both knight and bishop. But remember that Bobby can take the dark square bishop with check and move his light square bishop to safety. 

Tal trades his light square bishop and the result is the rooks staring each other down the a file. Tal continues by putting his knight on an outpost square, forking Bobby's queen and bishop. As scary as this might look, Bobby has one simple move to trade knights. 

Tal takes the knight back with his queen to preserve his pawn structure. However, Bobby begins applying pressure on the a file by moving his rook forward, allowing for a potential doubling on the file. 

The game continues with Tal trying to double his queen and rook, and rerouting his knight. However, Bobby finds Rc8 and plays the best and only move to give black an advantage. Can you find it?

Did you find the move? It seems a little obscure at first, but b4 allows black to gain a material advantage. However, while Bobby would find this move, he would add an in between move. 

Bobby's iteration would harass white's queen before taking the free pawn. However, this move sequence actually leads to a drawn position. Can you find the only move for white that keeps the position equal. 

Even though Tal may be down material, his knight is able to reroute to an extremely powerful outpost, that hits a lot of critical squares and easily compensates for being down a single pawn. 

And the game continues with both players trying to gain a slight edge over the other by doubling on files or trying to control as many files as possible. Bobby tries to threaten Tal's outpost, but Tal defends with his rook.

Bobby tries to gain an edge with Rg3, hitting white's weak g2 pawn. But Tal defends the pawn with his queen. Bobby offers a queen trade, but Tal decides to decline, to which Bobby threatens g2 again, leading to a sort of forced queen trade. 

Bobby begins pushing his h pawn, but Tal begins quick counter play, pushing his f pawn and getting his rook to the second rank. It may seem odd that Bobby isn't stopping Tal's rooks from getting to the second rank, but in reality, Tal won't be able to do much with the second rank because Bobby's bishop protects the most crucial squares, and Bobby has his own quick counterplay with his open files. 

This is when Bobby decides to sack his rook for Tal's outpost. This just goes to show the power that a knight can obtain when put on a powerful outpost. However, Bobby is able to find the only move by bringing out his bishop to Bh6, controlling far more squares and greater mobility. 

Bobby improves the power of his bishop by building up his pawn structure around it, giving Bobby a lot of control of the dark squares. He also baits Tal into taking his pawn so that he could activate his king to a more active square. However, Bobby is still down some material from all his sacrifices. 

Tal is finally able to double on the second rank, but Bobby continues by trading a pawn, then, going to pick up Tal's other pawn. Tal tries to trade off Bobby's rook, but he just goes to the open a file, making Tal retreat his rook to protect the back rank. 

Tal and Fischer continue on for a few more moves, with Tal trying to route his rooks to attack with range. However, Bobby tucks his king away into a position, where it is near impossible for Tal to give any checks or make progress. And on move 58, the players agree to a draw. 

But what are your thoughts on this game? Who is your favorite chess champion? Let me know!

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