Mikhail Tal's interview after winning his 5th USSR Championship in 1974
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What were your sporting targets at the 1974 Championship?
Essentially, I didn't play any chess in the first half of the year, but after the Olympiad, my schedule was very intense: 96 games in half a year, with short breaks. So I didn't count on any sporting success. I went to the championship to achieve the +2 score and remain in the High League. It was more than enough for me from the sporting point of view.
But I quickly learned that my age "colleagues" in this tournament - I don't know for how much longer I'll be counted as a veteran - wound up in the exact same situation. Polugaevsky played perhaps just one tournament less than me, Savon constantly travelled from one tournament to another, Taimanov also played very much, Vasyukov had just returned from his Philippines triumph. Kuzmin felt unwell. I don't know if they had to invite him to Leningrad so persistently. As a result, we all played without much fervour, tiredness did take its toll.
You're speaking about the experienced players. What about the youth?
The youth played, as always, with much appetite, fervour, ambition, and they fully deserved their successes. The opponents from different generations were worthy of each other. There's grandmaster Vaganian and grandmaster Polugaevsky, Beliavsky, who'd just become a grandmaster, and grandmaster Tal... And youth is an advantage that wears off as you age. We played the same chess, on the same board, with same pieces. We have our own advantages, and they have their own, and it's only natural. But I think that there's no sense in contrasting one generation with the other.
Which young player did you like the most?
I liked all young players. It's important that a beginning chess player shouldn't become somebody's imitator. In this tournament, there was only one player I've never faced before; I played my first game with him, and I was quite satisfied. I'm speaking about Romanishin. From the sporting point of view, he wasn't very stable. He's had his highs and lows: good start, decline in the middle, then a brilliant finish. I think that he was one of the most interesting players of the tournament. The prize he received - for amount of theoretical novelties - wasn't given for some particular novelty. It was awarded for Romanishin's improvisations on some opening themes. His ideas weren't always correct, but he's got his own, completely his own vision of chess.
And next to this very interesting, distinctive player, there's Beliavsky. Both are from Lviv, both were coached by Kart, but Beliavsky is very different. He plays "correct" chess. Beliavsky sees the board well, has a good tactical vision (which is characteristic for youth), but he'll never intentionally play a move that visually worsens his position. By the results of the First League, we could say that Romanishin was stronger than Beliavsky, now we can say that Beliavsky is stronger than Romanishin. Those players are still growing.
I just can't bring myself to call Vaganian a youth player - I played him in the USSR Championship as far back as 1971. He's a grandmaster with a very bright future ahead of him. His talent is visible very clearly.
Did the idea with High League justify itself?
It's hard for me to tell. I have played in both tournaments. In 1973, I performed very bad. Now - much better, at least from the sporting point of view. I'm not so sure that this total mobilization is justified. If you really need to hold a championship with all the strongest players taking part, then you should think about schedule. It would be ridiculous for Karpov and Korchnoi to take part in the tournament immediately after their match, for Geller, Furman and Dzindzichashvili to join after they spend half a year at the board. Or, for instance, Smyslov didn't play. If me and Polugaevsky both feel tired, what can be said about Smyslov, who's much older. Spassky felt unwell, and Petrosian's sense of danger is better than Vasyukov's. He played in Manila very well, but the climate there wasn't the best, so Vasyukov couldn't adapt to Leningrad after that...
Have you gone to a game already determined to achieve some concrete result?
Here, I played all my games for a win, except with Savon.
What couldn't you achieve?
I couldn't apply for a brilliancy prize. Though I'm flattered by the referee's board's decision to name my game against Dvoretsky "the best game of the tournament", but I think it was just an act of courtesy towards me.