Mikhail Tal's Flawed Opera Game - Tal vs. Petrosian, 1975

Mikhail Tal's Flawed Opera Game - Tal vs. Petrosian, 1975

NM SamCopeland

I was pleasantly surprised when reviewing Tal's battles with Petrosian to come across a rare 20-move loss in a little-seen blitz game in 1975. Petrosian got his caught in the center and Tal unleashed a beautiful tactical sequence, winning almost immediately.

The game is really quite beautiful, and I was surprised I had never seen this game before. It reminded me of two beautiful and famous short masterpieces: Morphy's Opera Game (and final checkmate) and Fischer vs. Fine's concluding proffered queen exchange.

Why isn't this gorgeous miniature better known? Well... at the end, Petrosian missed a great save that would have refuted Tal's pretty queen sacrifice!

It's very surprising that neither of these great players saw this defense, and I wonder how much psychology and body language played into things. The whole game "feels" winning and convincing from Tal, and perhaps both players were caught up in the winning narrative and lost their objectivity just a little bit.


  • Know your classics and your checkmate patterns.
  • Never forget about your back rank.
  • Keep a clear eye. Just because it "feels" like you are losing doesn't mean there are no resources left.
  • When your opponent is uncastled, strive to keep them in the middle and underfire at all material cost.

My brief notes are below.

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