Mikhail Tal. "They don't offer draws to us", 1970

Jun 7, 2011, 1:47 PM |

Mikhail Tal's first report in 64 about the "grandmasters versus masters" tournament in Sochi 1970.

Recently, I received a valuable gift from chess fans of Ryazan: a file of the 64 newspaper published in 1935-37. Reading through the "grandmother" of our newspaper, I discovered many remarkable things. For instance, in one issue there was a very detailed article about an interesting young masters' tournament. They printed games, took interviews. It's strange that such tournaments weren't held for next twenty years.

The talented youngsters played each other, say, in the USSR students' championship. But that competition was too official, and, in essence, it was a qualifying tournament, determining the lineup of the USSR student national team. And this fettered the players, even though the veterans of students' championships now say that those tournaments were the most interesting they have ever played.

Before the beginning of the Komsomol tournament in Sochi, we could hear some concerns: the "professional" grandmasters don't have much motivation, so they would play at half their strength, gladly accepting draws. Such predictions, thankfully, were wrong. Firstly, the grandmasters that gathered in Sochi are quite combative, and they like to play chess. Secondly, we would have gladly accepted draws, but we weren't offered any. The examinees have quickly turned into talking partners that didn't fear to ask inconvenient questions.

It's clear that this tournament of grandmasters and country's strongest young masters will benefit the young players. Each game ends with a thorough joint analysis with different viewpoints and position evaluations. But the main thing is play, games themselves. And I must say that all 14 participants play with their full strength.

The tournament is played with Scheveningen system. In other words, grandmasters and masters don't play their team-mates. Another team competition feature is that all the masters attack with white pieces on one day and then defend with black on the next day.

The masters "served" first. They won the first round 3.5-2.5 with one adjourned game with Podgaets having a clear advantage against Suetin. They also won the fifth round 4-3. And grandmasters are a rancourous folk. We don't like to be pushed around like that. And, of course, we want revenge. That's why I think that this tournament can't be described only with educational terms: exam, interview, test, workship. Before all, this is a match! A friendly match, but nevertheless a match, which both teams want to win.

The first half of the match is near the end, and there were very few boring, dull games. The leader of our rivals, both by title and results, is IM V. Tukmakov from the Odessa Technology institute.

He recently achieved big success at the Buenos Aires international tournament, exceeding the grandmaster norm and finishing ahead of such aces as Smyslov, Reshevsky, Najdorf, Szabo, Panno and others. The last year, Volodya didn't achieve much at the USSR championship. The chess analysts said, with a good reason, that the main cause of his poor results was lack of his own creative style.

The Odessa-based player's games in recent months, especially at the start of the Komsomol tournament, shows that Tukmakov seemingly found his own style. He prefers an active positional style without excessive tactical play, he plays very solidly, and this is reinforced with broad opening repertoire and remarkable sporting qualities. Tukmakov's start was impressive: 3.5 of 4. To be honest, he could have scored even more, but I managed to save a very difficult position against Tukmakov. It's hard to pick out a single game of his. Here's a part of his game against Lutikov.


While Tukmakov seems the most practically strong player, the most impressive player from the creative point of view is Gennady Kuzmin. He knows less than his colleagues. His shortcomings are obvious. He breaks many "new grounds" in openings, his technique is far from perfect. But Kuzmin's main advantage is his freshness, strategical inspiration that never leaves him. Kuzmin made the greatest sporting sensation of this tournament. In an interesting, if not mistake-free game he managed to defeat Korchnoi.
Kuzmin is not a novice in chess. Five years ago, the 19 years-old master managed to qualify to the USSR Championship and play well. But everyone is under the impression that he plays every game as his first one. That's how he defeated Shamkovich.
In 1955, B. Spassky had become the youth world champion. After that there was a long 14-years pause. Only the last year, A. Karpov (who since became a grandmaster) managed to repeat Spassky's success. The years go by. Karpov won't be able to take part in the next youth championship due to "technical" reasons. Who will be his successor? One of the most possible candidates for this "post" is playing in this tournament. His name is Rafik Vaganian. His play in the first rounds leaves a very good impression. He's reasonable enough, and sometimes he's reckless enough (or even more than enough). This game shows the strong sides of this talented Yerevan master.
The "Mother Odessa" sent two of her children to this tournament. We already know the first one. Misha Podgaets is a student of the agricultural institute. Despite his youth, he's an experienced player who already played at the USSR Championship. At the end of this year, he's going to play in the championship's final stage again. Podgaets also has a characteristic style. He plays strategically, doesn't like unclear positions and prefers to win without drastic measures. I was impressed by his games against Korchnoi and Suetin, even though the first one was marred by a blunder at move 41. When Podgaets gets "his" position, he can be dangerous to everyone. I can only wish him to get more of "his" positions.
The adventurous Viktor Kupreichik from the Belorussian University is totally different from Podgaets. He prefers to rush into the unknown from the very first moves. Sacrifices, combinations, traps - there's a lot of them in Kupreichik's games. The Minsk player doesn't lose his optimism even in difficult positions, if there's any space left for fantasy and complicated combinations. Here's his game against GM Lutikov.
Vitaly Tseshkovsky from Omsk isn't in a good form; I think that he couldn't overcome his awe. It seems to me that he feels more like an examinee than most of his friends.
The Moscow master Boris Gulko was out of practice for several months, and it affected his game. Gulko began the tournament very passively and lost to Korchnoi and Stein without much struggle. But then he managed to get in shape and gave a good fight to Tal in the third round.
And in the fifth round, he finally managed to win his first game. In a complicated struggle he defeated GM Shamkovich.
That's how our opponents look. And how do we look ourselves?
After the Siegen chess olympiad, V. Korchnoi said in 64 that he's suffering from the lack of practice. To maintain a good form, Korchnoi said, he had to play at least 80 games a year. But he couldn't play that much. So now Korchnoi prepares for the USSR Championship and candidates' matches and plays at his full strength. His score wasn't very good at the start. But we know that the Leningrad grandmaster is a long-distance tournament runner, so perhaps he would show his real strength later. Let's look at his game against Tseshkovsky.
The same thing can be said about the USSR ex-champion L. Stein who's also playing too rarely. "When I'm in my best form", Stein says, "I fail only once per tournament." And in the first rounds of the Sochi tournament, Stein already had two failures: he lost points against Kupreichik and Tseshkovsky.
Shamkovich is the chess romantic of our team. I think he's the only player that still has no draws. "Either good or nothing!" We have already seen one of his games. He finished his game against Kupreichik with a pretty combination.
Grandmasters A. Suetin, V. Liberzon and A. Lutikov are currently far from their best form. They play diligently, but... can't do much.