It's a Comet, It's an Asteroid, No, It's Mikhail Tal!
Tal-Smyslov, Candidates, 1959- A meeting between giants!
Tal had just won the Soviet Championship in 1958, defeating Spassky in dramatic fashion in the last round, and then also won the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal!
Smyslov had won the World Championship Match against Botvinnik in 1957, and lost the rematch in 1958, so he was at the peak of his career!
Now, Smyslov, was very hard to beat! He had great technique in all phases of the game. there is a famous story where David Bronstein and Smyslov agree to a draw after 13 moves, and the arbiter protested saying stuff like "A draw? There is still a lot of play in this position! You should play! You are paid by the State!", and Bronstein responded, "You want me to attack Smyslov, for 3 rubles a day?". This became one of Bronstein's most famous quotes, but also demonstrates how solid Smyslov was.
Back to the game....Tal has White, and Smyslov plays the Caro-Kann, one of his favorites. Tal chooses the move 2.d3, which is not the most aggressive...but 3 moves later, he plays 5.d4, and the position opens up, as if by magic!
This is what amazes me the most about Tal....he could take the most ordinary position, and within a few moves, make it exciting, with fireworks!
Take a look!
Tal-Smyslov, Candidates 1959, just before 7.Qxd4
Two quotes about this game from Tal's book, "The Life and Games of MIkhail Tal"!
A few months before the Candidates' Tournament in 1959, Tal played in a team event, called the Spartakiad. He thought he would play his first game against Botvinnik in that event, as they were on the same board. Talking about this, Tal said:
"Nevertheless, I prepared carefully for the first game in my life with Botvinnik. However, instead of him, the Moscow reserve Vasiukov turned out and, as a result of this, it was Smyslov who suffered "on the rebound". I was expecting Botvinnik to play the Caro-Kann Defense, and the position which Smyslov and I were to reach in the second cycle of the coming Candidates Tournament in Yugoslavia was already standing on a board in one of the rooms of the skycraper "Ukraine" hotel, during the Spartakiad in Moscow."
Later in the book, talking about the Candidates Tournament, Tal commented:
" The second cycle went roughly the same way, except that, in addition, I succeeded in winning a game against Smyslov that was important for my frame of mind. As you will recall, it was here that exploded the mine intended for Botvinnik in the USSR People's Spartakiad. However, the attack itself, and the sacrifices in this game- which won the brilliancy prize- were pure improvisation."