Mikhail Tal was a Soviet Latvian chess player and the eighth World Chess Champion. Widely regarded as a creative genius and one of the best attacking players of all time, Tal played in a daring, combinatorial style. His play was known above all for improvisation and unpredictability.

His play was not exceptional at first, but he worked hard to improve. Alexander Koblents began tutoring him in 1949, after which Tal's game rapidly improved, and by 1951 he had qualified for the Latvian Championship. In the 1952 Latvian Championship, Tal finished ahead of his trainer. Tal won his first Latvian title in 1953, and was awarded the title of Candidate Master. He became a Soviet Master in 1954 by defeating Vladimir Saigin in a qualifying match. That same year he also scored his first win over a Grandmaster when Yuri Averbakh lost on time in a drawn position. Tal graduated in Literature from the University of Latvia, writing a thesis on the satirical works of Ilf and Petrov, and taught school in Riga for a time in his early twenties. He was a member of the Daugava Sports Society, and represented Latvia in internal Soviet team competitions.

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