Mikhail Tal's Greatest Game! - Best of the 60s - Botvinnik vs. Tal, 1960

Mikhail Tal's Greatest Game! - Best of the 60s - Botvinnik vs. Tal, 1960

NM SamCopeland

Mikhail Tal is the 8th World Chess Champion, reigning from 1960-1961. At that time, he was the youngest world champion of all time, and his meteoric rise to the top of the chess world was unprecedented in the modern chess world.

We now know that although Tal had a brilliant career featuring numerous achievements and brilliant games, it was sadly impacted by regular health issues. Perhaps it is also true that his temperament was not well-suited to the repeated rigors of world championship match play; after winning the 1960 World Chess Championship match against Mikhail Botvinnik, he was not able to bring the same level of focus and preparation to the rematch a year later. Ultimately, Tal was not to dominate the 1960s with the decade-long success that Kasparov and later Carlsen would establish in their reigns, but we should not lose sight of what it must have been like for the chess world to witness his incredible victory run at the world championship title in 1960.

Not only did Tal win the match, he did so with vivid, imaginative, and daring play. Game six was his masterpiece. His 21st move in the game is considered by many Tal fans to be the greatest chess move of all time, and it is probably the most gutsy chess move ever played in chess. Tal surrenders a knight for almost no immediate returns to fully activate his forces and refuse to retreat.

Tal's book on the match, "Tal-Botvinnik 1960: Match for the World Chess Championship" is a classic, probably the greatest book written about a world championship, and Tal breaks down the game and the match circumstances with incredibly accurate annotations and explanations as well as great stories.

Top 10 Games of the 1960s

The game begins with a sharp classical King's Indian Defense. While Tal's acclaim for his conduct in the game is deserved, the opening DOES favor Botvinnik. Botvinnik establishes a small advantage and is effectively acting to minimize Tal's counterplay and turn his small advantage into a very large one. Tal senses the positional threats acutely and on move 21, faced with the decision to retreat from the threat of 22.g4! or to attack at all cost, he gives up a whole knight with the incredible 21...Nf4!! to ensure that his pieces remain active and the position remains messy.

Faced with a radical transformation of the position, Botvinnik misses the winning line 23.a3!! and after a couple more inaccuracies from both players, Botvinnik makes the fatal mistake of trading queens when Tal's pawn on e2 becomes too strong. Tal easily converts the pawn up position with the bishop pair that emerges.

Annotations with comments from Tal's classic work, "Tal-Botvinnik 1960: Match for the World Chess Championship" [Amazon affiliate link supports the content.] are available below.

If you like the content and want to support it, subscribe and follow on YouTube and Twitch!