The Happiest Day of Mikhail Tal's Life - Nezhmetdinov vs. Tal, 1961
What's the happiest loss you've ever had? To be honest, it's hard to think of any which bring me much joy... 😛

The Happiest Day of Mikhail Tal's Life - Nezhmetdinov vs. Tal, 1961

NM SamCopeland

Mikhail Tal once said the happiest day of his life was the day he lost to Rashid Nezhmetdinov. What was this miraculous game that so inspired Tal and who was Rashid Nezhmetdinov?

Nezhmetdinov is a fascinating figure in chess history. A five-time Russian champion, he was never awarded the grandmaster title (more on that in this fantastic blog by Spektrowski), but he did also posses the "Master of Sport" title in checkers as well as chess - a testament to his great talent and creativity in games. His most famous legacy is his two masterpieces, Polugaevsky vs. Nezhmetdinov and Nezhmetdinov vs. Chernikov, both of which are some of the greatest attacking chess games ever played.

Nezhmetdinov's friendship with Tal is known to have included lengthy late-night blitz sessions, but their most famous collaboration was the 1960 World Championship match in which Nezhmetdinov was a second for the young Tal and was credited by Tal with increasing the inspiration and creativity in the analysis room - a creative recipe that was obviously successful and resulted in the incredible 21...Nf4!?

In today's game in question, Nezhmetdinov plays an audacious 15.Nh6!? to prevent castling and when Tal misses a saving resource he unleashes a dangerous sacrificial assault.

I really love how Tal credited this game with creating the happiest day in his life. It's a testament to sportsmanship and the objective beauty of chess, but most of all, I think it's a generous gesture to a true friend who never received the accolades he deserved in his lifetime.

I've annotated the game below, but (like Tal) Nezhmetdinov's play is best enjoyed without too much analysis

If you liked the game analysis and video, please subscribe and follow on YouTube and Twitch!