Mastery: Tactics

Combinations of Mikhail Tal

Combinations of Mikhail Tal

The 8th World Champion Mikhail Tal was one of the most brilliant chess players of all time. His games inspired not only the spectators, but his opponents as well. Sharp sacrifices were his trademark, often played by instinct rather than by calculating concrete variations.

  • Tal-Tringov, Munich Olympiad 1958

    Here we see a young Tal playing in his first chess Olympiad. Known as "The Magician from Riga", Tal had an extremely imaginative style of play. His sacrifices were often very intuitive, creating vast complications which his opponents were unable to solve. This position is from one of his simpler combinations.

    • 3 challenges
  • Tal- Skuja, Latvia ch 1958

    Mikhail Tal's amazing imagination and willingness to go on sacrificial adventures made him one of the most beloved chess players. Off the board he was very charming and friendly. He made frequent appearances before the chess-loving public in Moscow soon after he had won the World Championship in Moscow in 1960. For many years he would play in the open blitz championship in Moscow's oldest park. There was pandemonium around Tal's chess table and the younger fans climbed up trees to watch his games. Mikhail Tal made chess happy and turned it into an art.

    • 2 challenges
  • Tal-Perez, Havana 1963

    Here we see Tal finishing up one of his many checkmating attacks. Gary Kasparov had this to say about Tal: We calculate: he does this then I do that. And Tal, through all the thick layers of variants, saw that around the 8th move, it will be so and so. Some people can see the mathematical formula, they can imagine the whole picture instantly. An ordinary man has to calculate, to think this through, but they just see it all. It occurs in great musicians, great scientists. Tal was absolutely unique. His playing style was of course unrepeatable. I calculated the variants quickly enough, but these Tal insights were unique. He was a man in whose presence others sensed their mediocrity.

    • 2 challenges
  • Tal-Averkin, USSR 1973

    In the lesson you will try to find a simple but elegant tactic played by Tal. Mikhail Tal, considered by many to be the greatest attacking player ever, was born in Riga, Latvia in 1936. He learned chess at the age of 8 by watching his father play. He was fascinated with chess and sooned joined a club. He worked hard at chess but his play at first was nothing special. He started improving rapidly when Alexander Koblents began tutoring him in 1949.

    • 2 challenges
  • Tal-Portisch, Bled 1965

    Genna Sosonko wrote this about Tal in his book Russian Silhouettes: In the mid-50s a young man, practically a boy, with fiery black eyes and a manner of playing that surprised everyone, burst into the world of strictly positional chess. His manner of playing amazed some and shocked others. A Dutch newspaper made an observation that was typical of the general reaction to the entire chess world: 'For a player of world class, Tal's play is amazingly reckless, not to say foolhardy and irresponsible. For the moment he is successful, because even the most experienced and tested defenders are unable to withstand this terror on the chess board. He aims first and foremost for attack, and in his games one commonly sees sacrifices of one or even several pieces. Opinions are sharply divided about this foolhardy way of playing. Some see him as nothing more than a gambler who has luck on his side, while others think that he is a genius who is opening up unknown fields in chess.'"

    • 2 challenges
  • Tal-Teschner, Vienna 1957

    "Misha did not like and did not drink wine, preferring something stronger: vodka, cognac or rum-cola, for example. To avoid any misunderstanding, I must say immediately that this was no slow sipping through a straw. To this day I remember the face of the barman in Wijk aan Zee, at our first meeting outside Russia in January 1973, when he had to pur five portions of cognac into one glass. A few years ago, Misha, who by then found it hard to take his drink, simply fell asleep at the end of a banquet in Reykjavik. This happened to him increasingly often, especially in his last years. Kortchnoi and Spassky, who were also playing there, at that time had strained relations. But it couldn't be helped, and they looked at each other: 'Carry him out? asked one. 'Alright', replied the other. The distance was considerable, but the opponents of his youth coped admirably with their task, and to the dumbfounded hotel porter it was explained that this chess player had thought for a very long time, and he was very tired." - Genna Sosonko in his book Russian Silhouettes.

    • 2 challenges
  • Tal-Quinteros, Brazil 1987

    Tal is quote as saying "They compare me to Lasker, which is an exaggerated honor. He made mistakes in every game and I only in every second one!" Nevertheless, when asked about his opinion on who was the greatest player of all time, he answered: "Lasker, for he made miracles on the chessboard."

    • 2 challenges
  • Tal-Timman, Reykjavik 1988

    Here we see the great Mikhail Tal winning material by making use of a pin. Tal was not only a brilliant player, but very well liked. Gary Kasparov wrote of him: He led a very unusual life. He didn't think of anything. He lived here and now, and this enormous energy was always around him. The positive energy. Tal was one of the few completely positive people I knew, he wasn't contentious. Chess is very contentious game by its nature, and he wasn't.

    • 4 challenges
  • Maus-Tal, Tyskland 1991

    This is how Grandmaster Sosonko described training with Tal for the candidates matches in 1967: I would arrive at about eleven at his big flat in the centre of Riga, and within half an hour we would be sitting at the chess board. Now a quarter of a century later, I realize that variations were not especially necessary for him. The most important thing for him was to create a situation on the board, where his pieces came alive, and for him, as for no one else, they did indeed become alive. His credo was to create tension and to seize the initiative, to create a position such that the spiritual factor - that of giving mate - would prevail over and even laugh at material values.

    • 3 challenges
  • Tal-Ballon, Berlin 1986

    Referring to his piece sacrifices, Mikhail Tal said "They can only take them one at a time!"

    • 3 challenges
  • Spassky-Tal, Montreal 1979

    Genna Sosonko writes of Mikhail Tal in his book Russian Silhouettes: "Why did he play like he did, and why did he win? Of course, it is easy to hide behind the words of talent or genius. Tolush, after losing the game of his life in his best tournament in 1957, said to Spassky: 'You know, Borya, today I lost to a genius.' At the Interzonal tournament in Taxco, another strong grandmaster said to me me without any flattery: 'We are none of us worth Misha's little finger.' And Petrosian himself, who was sparing in his praise, said that in chess he knew only one living genius."

    • 6 challenges
  • Walther-Tal, Havana 1966

    As Black, Tal has a strong attack on the Queenside. Even though the White King appears to be safe, Black finds a way to win. Immediately after he lost his title back to Botvinnik in 1961, Tal won a very strong tournament in Bled, Yugoslavia, ahead of superstars such as Fischer, Petrosian, Keres, Najdorf, Geller, and Gligoric.

    • 2 challenges
  • Medina-Tal, Palma de Mallorca 1979

    Despite the simplified nature of the position, Tal finds a way to quickly force his opponent to resign. Bobby Fischer said this about Mikhail Tal: "He is not so much interested in who has the better game, or in the essential soundness of his own game, but in finding that one shot, that dramatic breakthrough that will give him the win."

    • 3 challenges
  • Szukszta - Tal, Uppsala 1956

    Here we see a combination played by Tal before he was TAL and had become world famous. Tal loved the game and considered that "Chess, first of all, is Art." He would play countless blitz games against unknown or relatively weak players purely for the joy of playing.

    • 4 challenges
  • Tal-Rantanen, Tallin 1979

    Tal has a strong attack on the Black King, but finding the right move here will make the difference. Despite having serious health problems in his later years, Tal remained one of the world's strongest players. For example, he won the 1979 Riga Interzonal with a dominant score of 14/17. A measure of Tal's strength during this time is given by his score against Karpov: one loss and nineteen draws, one of the best results of almost anyone against Karpov when he was in his prime.

    • 3 challenges
  • Tal-Tringov, Amersterdam 1964

    Having your King vulnerable in the center against Tal, as is the case in this position, is a recipe for disaster. After winning the World Championship in 1960, Tal would suffer from serious health problems that would affect his results. However, he made a great comeback in the 1970s. From July 1972 to April 1973, he played 86 consecutive games without a loss (47 wins and 39 draws) and then between October 1973 and October 1974, Tal played 95 consecutive games without a loss (46 wins and 49 draws). These are two of the longest unbeaten streaks ever.

    • 5 challenges
  • Tal-Dvoryetsky, Leningrad 1972

    Despite a physical defect - from birth Tal had only 3 fingers on his right hand - he played the piano very well. Grandmaster Genna Sosonko writes of Tal: He never enjoyed good health. At that time (1967), both in Riga and at the seaside, he suffered kidney failure, and frequently an ambulence had to be summoned. He was often in hospital, and during his life he underwent twelve surgical operations. His forehead bore the scars of a fearful blow to the head by a bottle in a Havana night bar during the Olympiad in Cuba in 1966.

    • 5 challenges
  • Tal-Wade, Tallinn 1971

    Here we see another example of Tal brilliant attacking the opponent's King. Beginning in 1957, Mikhail rapidly rose the chess heights. That year he became the youngest player to win the Soviet championship. In 1960, at the age of 23, Tal became the youngest-ever world champion by defeating Mikhail Botvinnik 12.5-8.5.

    • 4 challenges
  • Tal-Botvinnik, Moscow 1960

    Here we see Tal on the hunt for Mikhail Botvinnik's King from the 1960 World Championship match. How does White make the breakthrough? After Tal won the world championship in 1960, he started having serious health problems. He would never again play in the finals of the world championship after losing a rematch to Botvinnik in 1961. He would remain one of the best players in the world and played in many world championship candidates matches for many years to come.

    • 4 challenges
  • Tal-Holmov, USSR Ch 1969

    "He showed little interest in his health or appearance, or in what others thought of him. He was from another planet, and there was only one thing that really excited and interested him: chess" Genna Sosonko on Mikhail Tal.

    • 4 challenges
  • Tal-Botvinnik, World Championship 1961

    This game is from the World Championship in 1961, in which Botvinnik won the title back from Tal. Tal was starting to have serious health problems at this point. However, he was able to still play sparkling combinations, as in this game.

    • 6 challenges
  • Tal-Platonov, Dubna 1974

    White's pieces are pointing at the Black King, but you need to find the correct moves to keep Black from escaping. Tal was an exceptional blitz player. In 1970 he took second place to Bobby Fischer in a very strong blitz tournament in Yugolslavia. In 1988, he won the World Blitz Championship in Canada at the age of 51, ahead of both Kasparov and Karpov.

    • 4 challenges
  • Tal-Tolush, Russian Championship 1958

    Black's Kingside has been weakened. Not something that you want to see happen when you're playing Tal! Mikhail Tal was a member of eight gold medal winning Soviet teams in Olympiad play from 1958 to1982 He scored 81.2 percent and lost only 2 games. He had the best score among those participating in at least four Olympiads.

    • 4 challenges
  • Tal-Gedevanishvili, Poti 1970

    Mikhail Tal was born in Riga, Latvia, on November 9, 1936. He was known as "The Magician from Riga" for his amazing tactical feats on the chessboard, often sacrificing material in search for the initiative. Mikhail Tal was ahead of his time - he made risk and intuition the driving forces on the chessboard. The world's best chess players today are in debt to him. For decades Tal suffered from bad health and had to be hospitalized frequently throughout his life. On June 28 1992, Mikhail Tal died of kidney failure in a Moscow hospital. Thank you for going through all these Chess Mentor exercises. I hope that you've gotten to know Mikhail Tal better and have become inspired by him.

    • 5 challenges
Lessons
What is Chess.com?