Garry Kasparov talks about Mikhail Tal and Soviet chess history

| 25 | Chess Players

This is a translation of a one-hour radio feature about Mikhail Tal, aired on the radio "Echo Moskvy" on November 30th.

Mikhail Tal, the great Soviet chess player, wasn't a "classical" chess prodigy like Jose Raul Capablanca, who, as the legend says, learned to play at tender age, just watching the adults playing. The Riga schoolboy Misha Tal learned how to place and move the little wood figures soon after the war. In 1946, he was 10. Later than some of his peers. But when he learned to play, there was no doubt that he'd become a genius. Three years later, Tal would play for the Latvia youth team. At the age of 17 he would win the Latvian championship, and at 21, the USSR championship.

To say that chess were much popular in the Soviet Union then than in Russia now is to say nothing. Chess were something of a national sport. In most schools, there were chess circles. The world championship games were analyzed in newspapers and on TV. Millions of people were able to comprehend the style and beauty of leading chess players' games.

Mikhail Tal became so quickly popular and famous because he played completely different chess than most of the other Soviet grandmasters who more or less imitated their acknowledged leader, the world champion Mikhail Botvinnik who preferred quiet, calculating, rational if not somewhat boring playing style. Tal played "wrong" chess - entertaining, spectacular, dramatic, combinational. He was like the legendary American Paul Morphy, the unofficial world champion of the mid-19th century. And he was like Russian chess emigree Alexander Alekhine, the only chess world champion who died undefeated.

Tal would sacrifice minor and major pieces, creating positions so complicated that most of his partners couldn't calculate all the possible variants and choose the right one during the game. They got nervous, made mistakes and lost. Later, after the quiet analysis, especially in recent years when powerful chess computers became available, it was often proved that many Tal's combinations, with pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen sacrifices, were unsound and could have led him to defeat. But in the game, they brought Tal one win after another.

In 1960, before his 24th birthday, Tal met in a world championship match against Botvinnik, crushed him and became the then youngest world champion. It was his career peak. There were many more victories for him afterwards, but Tal didn't occupy the chess throne for long. Just a year later, in 1961, Tal was utterly destroyed by Botvinnik in the return match. Almost up to his death Tal remained in the chess ratings top 10. But he never managed to become first again.

His health, quite frail since his childhood, often failed him, as well as his habit of living at large. The charming, witty, highly educated, lady's man and a keen partygoer, Tal was very ill in his later years and died in 1992, just 56 years old.

Eugeny Kiselev: And now let me introduce today's guest. Here in the studio, across from me, the 13th world champion Garry Kasparov.

Garry Kasparov: Good day.

EK: Thank you for taking part in our program. The first question I'd like to ask, did you know Tal personally?

GK: Yes, indeed. I played against him.

EK: What's the score?

GK: We played some games, there were many draws, I won one. That's the classical chess score. The quick chess, blitz - the score is even, I think. But one game against Tal, I remember the most - a simul game, in March 1974. There was a competition in USSR: the Pioneer Palace teams played each other, captained by their grandmaster alumni. Our team reached the final and played against Riga. Tal gave us a simul. And this handshake... I wasn't 11 yet, and Tal himself was against me. I was so shocked that I couldn't play well and quickly lost. But I still remember those feelings. Then we played in 1978 USSR Championship, our first official game. Then we played a blitz match of 14 games, scoring 7:7. I looked through these games recently. After than, we met many times. Our relationship was good.

I worked a bit with Tal. Around 1980, he visited Baku, we played a couple of training games, and the chess contact wasn't lost until Tal's very last days. There was a blitz tournament in Moscow, one month before Tal's death. He looked horribly. But Tal was still Tal. In this blitz tournament, I lost my only game to him. I retaliated in the second round, but the fact was that until the very end, he still had this vision of games. He was the only one I knew who didn't calculate the variants, he saw them.

EK: Can you elaborate?

GK: 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 formulae, 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.

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.

EK: That is, he was an easy man.

GK: Well, not so much as easy as willing to be in normal relations with the world around him, not to enclose but to try to change something for the better. This easiness in a chess player of such level was unique.

EK: What if we'd try and compare him with other chess history figures? There was Botvinnik, for instance. He didn't lose just to Tal, but also to Smyslov, and finally resigned his chess crown to Petrosian. But still, the late 40s and 50s is the Botvinnik era. What changed in the chess after Tal? There's a theory that Tal was a part of Krushchev Thaw.

GK: I think that the world champions conformed to the spirit of their respective eras. This can be traced back to the first world champions, and this quite nicely fits Botvinnik's bio in particular. Botvinnik's domination was actually in the 30s. He was already the leading Soviet chess player. All those congratulations from the Soviet government, Botvinnik's letter to Stalin, the special privileges for the first Soviet chess player who competes at the world championship level, it's 1936-1937.

When Botvinnik met Tal, there was a 25-year era behind him. Botvinnik's style, it's very important, conformed to the spirit of that era, very rational, cold, scientific, he tried to divide chess into individual squares and analyze all them one by one. That was a revolutionary breakthrough in chess. This dogmatism worked. Smyslov was different, but also played in that classical style.

EK: How was Smyslov different from Botvinnik?

GK: Smyslov was a practitioner, while Botvinnik was a researcher. Vasily Vasilievich played more intuitive chess. Botvinnik wanted to study all the nuances, and Smyslov's playing was like a stream of chess consciousness. Though in his best years his principle was quite simple: I make 40 good moves, and if my partner also makes 40 good moves, then there's a draw.

So the quality of the moves was incredibly high, but in the eyes of general chess society, those were two different, but ultimately similar chess philosophies. Tal's difference was complete. From the very beginning, he played chess that should have been condemned by those classical canons. But the problem wasn't just that he played, and he won. He created such situations on chessboard... Today, with computers, it becomes clear what happened there.

But then, the people were just shocked, they weren't used to such playing, and at 21 Tal becomes a USSR champion, and in the 1958 - a two-time USSR champion. It's impossible to comprehend that now, the USSR Championship was by far the world's strongest tournament in those times.

EK: Almost a world championship.

GK: Botvinnik didn't play, but it still was a super-elite tournament, stronger than any other in the world. It was incredible to win a USSR championship twice in a row.

EK: Well, yes. There weren't many strong players in the world. Reshevsky, the young Fischer...

GK: But still, Reshevsky already wasn't a competitor, and Fischer wasn't yet. The very young Larsen appears. But still, the USSR Championship was first-class. In 1959, he didn't play too good and shared 2nd-3rd with Spassky, Petrosian won. The championship was held in Tbilisi. Tal with his playing very quickly reached the base of chess Olympus. Many thought that the USSR Championship had a number of weaker players, but in the Candidates' Tournament, where it's needed to play Smyslov four times, Tal wouldn't achieve much.

But he won that Candidates' Tournament in Yugoslavia. A splendid victory, in style to which commentators weren't used. He'd win a game against Smyslov, sacrificing material, and Smyslov couldn't find defence. It's still a question whether there was any defence. And the next game, he would win it while a piece behind. He played completely different chess. It was a great sensation. But many still thought that it wouldn't work against Botvinnik. But it worked! Botvinnik was crushed.

But in the return match, Botvinnik found Tal's weaknesses, and Tal, due to his youth and openness, failed to prepare well. He played worse. But the very fact of the win against Botvinnik was impressive. It was really a thaw. Politically, it coincided very well. Tal's open style conformed well to the current political era. If you allow me to continue this analogy, Tal's victory couldn't last long because the thaw was coming to an end.

EK: Still, what happened in that year? What happened with Tal?

GK: I think that he wasn't prepare for the thick and thin, to begin really working, to continue the self-perfection. His playing style required an enormous strain, also he had to understand the threats of the return match against Botvinnik. Botvinnik prepared, despite being 50 years old he had that ability to dissect and study the causes of his defeat and find the playing concept which would be inconvenient for Tal. It's revealing that Tal defeated Botvinnik five times in the return match.

EK: And six times in the first one.

GK: But he also lost ten games. Tal still won many enough games, but the novelty that struck Botvinnik was gone. And, of course, Tal should have prepared differently for the return match. But if he prepared, he wouldn't be Tal. He lived differently, it was simpler to him than to us. From my conversations with Tal, I think he didn't consider the things obvious to us to be of any importance. Tal was much lighter on his feet, much more prone to anxiety than other chess players.

EK: Do you want to say that results didn't mean as much to him as to other chess players?

GK: Well, the result meant much to him, but bad results weren't such drama for him as for other players. Tal was an artist, he deemed any game worthy if it was interesting. Nevertheless, he was an immensely strong player, until the very end he was dangerous for any partner.

In 1988, there was a blitz world championship in Canada, all the leading players took part. And Tal became the blitz world champion.

EK: Did you play?

GK: I did. I lost in quarter-finals. Karpov lost even earlier. It was play-off. In the final, Tal defeated Vaganian. It was a very difficult tournament, and yet he won it. He was 51, his health was already declining. But he still remained Tal. He didn't even seek the truth in chess, he sought beauty. It was a concept completely different from most of ours.

EK: Why then couldn't he compete for a world championship again? As you just said, until his last days he remained one of the world's strongest players. If I remember correctly, he was always in Elo rating Top-10 list.

GK: Yes, we can say that Tal was in Top-10 until he was 50. Moreover, in 1973, there was a string of tournament wins that sadly ended in the Leningrad Interzonal. He was in the top three then, perhaps even second. Karpov probably didn't overtake him yet. And he rose again in 1978-1979. Another sequence of wins and, I think, world's second rating once again. Karpov was first then.

He probably lacked that solidity. Even after his superb win in 1979 Interzonal, he lost a quarter-final match against Polugaevsky. He was stronger than Polugaevsky, but he had to prepare, he needed other qualities, sporting, researching ones. Tal always lacked them, and this always hindered his efforts.

After 1961, he failed to find an adequate solution to his chess problems. Still, in 1965 he played a final match against Spassky.

EK: I just wanted to ask, was Spassky stronger?

GK: He was more versatile. Undoubtedly. By the way, Tal never played too good against Spassky. There were some "inconvenient" partners: Spassky, Korchnoi. And in 1965, it became obvious that it's too hard for Tal to make that final effort. The next generation arrived, they knew Tal's lessons.

EK: But wait, weren't Spassky and Tal about the same age?

GK: Spassky was a year younger, but in 1965, he already played other chess. The era of dogmatic Botvinnik ended. Tal made efforts, but he couldn't concentrate on the results.

EK: We compared Tal with other players. We can't help but remember Karpov. Did their ways ever cross?

GK: Tal worked with Karpov, very seriously worked. It seems to have began before the match against Fischer, but Tal played an important role when Karpov played Korchnoi.

EK: Did you mean the cancelled match against Fischer?

GK: Yes. In Bagio, and, I think, they were still in touch in Merano, when Karpov played Korchnoi again, but the peak of their collaboration was in 1978. This peak also indicated Tal's rise, because such collaboration helps both sides. It was very important for Karpov to have Tal's support, but Tal also learned a lot about the new trends in chess. So his rise in 1978-1979 was also a result of this work.

EK: They seem so different.

GK: Well, that's why their work helped them both. They are indeed different. But Tal played more pragmatically then. In the late 70s, he became a more technical player. He still could start a combinational storm, but it wasn't all-important to him anymore. He did understand that it was necessary to do some boring things at the chessboard and learned to do them quite well. He'd always find some peculiarities in the positions that his equally famous colleagues couldn't.

EK: Did Tal play Fischer?

GK: Of course, he did. And he was like a curse for Fischer, because he beat him viciously. In 1959, in that Candidates' Tournament, Tal finished ahead of Keres despite losing to him 3:1, because he thoroughly defeated all the foreign players. And he crushed Fischer 4:0. Fischer first won against Tal in 1961 Bled tournament. But still, Tal was always a trouble to Fischer, especially in his youth.

EK: Why?

GK: I think that Fischer also tried to be a "right" chess player, and Tal was "wrong". He played in the way that irritated Fischer. He was very emotional. And Tal's approach to chess unnerved Fischer, so he couldn't play well. It was pretty one-sided until a certain moment.

EK: You mentioned two more names. Talking of Tal, we're remembering the entire history of Soviet chess. Two men who very nearly missed the chess throne, Paul Keres and Viktor Korchnoi. Do you agree?

GK: Of course. Keres was called "forever second", he never could cross that barrier to become a candidate, even though he was a real competitor as early as the late 30s, and I think only because of the WWII he didn't get to play Alekhine. Because the young Keres' results were good enough to challenge Alekhine. It was a competition of sorts between Keres and Botvinnik.

Botvinnik succeeded. He got the right position in this historical dispute. Botvinnik represented the Soviet Union, Keres couldn't find a place for himself because he lived in Estonia during the war, on German territory, he played in German tournaments, he played Alekhine there. And that was a serious problem that could have ended tragically for Keres, because he didn't emigrate, there are many versions why this didn't happen. The first years of living in the Soviet Union were a severe ordeal to him, and the broken man had no strength to challenge Botvinnik.

And then he just couldn't. Someone was always a step ahead: first Smyslov, then Tal, then Petrosian. Keres always came second in those tournaments. Korchnoi's situation was different, he played a world championship match, but later, when the performance of other players of his age declined. Korchnoi played in USSR Championships since the 50s, he won silver medal in 1954. He couldn't surpass Tal, Petrosian, Spassky. And when their results declined, Korchnoi was able to progress rapidly, especially after his escape, emigration from the USSR. Korchnoi played very well in 1977.

He had several more years, despite his age. He approached 50, played extremely well, his playing was fresh. Well, he wasn't strong enough to beat Karpov. But Korchnoi's contribution to chess is enormous. Viktor Lvovich is near 80 now but still plays inventively, with interest. It was interesting to watch how a 75 years old veteran defeats those who could be his great-grandchildren.

EK: They say that Korchnoi had a particular style, he was very defensive. Was he?

GK: His playing was non-standard, as Tal's was, it was unbalancing. But while Tal attacked, Korchnoi accepted those attacks. That's why it was so hard for Tal to play against him, Korchnoi didn't react to his attacks. Korchnoi drew the fire. Tal created a storm, and Korchnoi waited patiently until it calms. But don't forget that it's just the distinctive features of their styles. Don't think that their other aspects of playing were worse. Korchnoi's technique grew with age, his endgame technique in the 80s was so strong that even Karpov had serious troubles against him.

EK: Could you tell me what you think about the cause of the phenomena called the great Soviet chess?

GK: It's hard to tell, but don't forget that chess was rapidly developing in Russia even before 1917. There was a Russian chess school. Chigorin was its most prominent player, but there were good players before him, and with him, it had just gone to a new level. So in the early 20th century there were some brilliant chess players from the Russian Empire, not just Alekhine: for instance, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch, it's all Russian Empire. Baltic states, Poland, but still it was Russia then. There was Germany, but Russia was among the most prominent chess nations.

And the regular chess tournaments, two greatest pre-WWI tournaments were in Saint-Petersburg in 1909 and 1914. They contributed a lot to the development of chess. And then this effort was exploited by the Soviet government. They attracted very many young talented chess players. Chess became an integral part of a new, incipient culture. And again, the international tournaments. Moscow 1925. The famous movie "Chess Fever". In addition to many internal tournaments, there were international ones. And all that, the attention to chess, the state support, led to the development of a chess school. And it developed. Talent is everywhere, you just have to create the conditions to search for it.

Sadly, in Russia, something completely opposite happens. Then intelligence seemed very important, and everything possible was done to find and develop this intelligence, but the current disdain for intelligence also has an impact on chess. I think that the results of Russian national chess teams, both men and women, are disastrous...

EK: I remember my school childhood. In my class, it was considered that if you're getting good marks, you should also play good chess.

GK: It was a part of some culture. Chess was one of Soviet Union's calling cards. Hockey, chess, figure skating - we knew that we're better than everyone else there. But now, sadly, it's all lost mainly because the regard for intelligence declined sharply, especially from the government.

EK: There were the Pioneer Palaces, various tournaments.

GK: Yes, there was a system.

EK: The "White Rook".

GK: Yes, there was the "White Rook", the Pioneer Palace tournaments for the prizes from Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper - another system. They allowed to pass the experience from generation to generation. There were chess schools, there was Botvinnik's chess school, later to become Botvinnik and Kasparov's chess school. There was always a possibility to get that past experience. The generations change took many different forms. Speaking of Tal, I became a world champion on Tal's birthday, November 9th.

EK: On Tal's birthday?

GK: Yes. I remember than on November 8th, before the last game with Karpov, I got calls from my teacher Botvinnik and from Tal, with whom I was on friendly terms. Botvinnik gave me a speech. He was like, "You lead 12:11. No matter what happens, you have proved that this match should have been played". Very stern he was. Tal didn't say anything like that. He just reminded me, "Don't forget, young man, that tomorrow is my birthday". The bond of generations was always there. The chess teams constantly changed, in 1980 I played my first Chess Olympiad, and Tal also was in the team.

The generations changed. And it was obvious that it's all possible because there was fresh blood. It was. But now, even despite there are many talented chess players around, there's no such system that made parents search for a chess talent in their children.

EK: But we now play good tennis. That's also en example.

GK: They built a lot of tennis courts, that's actually good.

EK: Nothing bad. But there was some kind of a monarch's will. "Make it so".

GK: And the results came quite quickly. This also proves the conception that talents are everywhere. You just have to create conditions for them.

EK: We need a chess-loving president.

GK: You don't have to spend so much on chess as you have on tennis or soccer.

EK: That's true, no need to spend a lot.

GK: In 1989-1990, when Shamil Tarpischev just began his activities that later engulfed the whole country, there was already a strong chess base. Nothing needed to be reinvented. The remnants of those chess centers still exist. But the most interesting thing is that the chess activity has moved into the ex-Soviet republics. Who won the Olympics? Georgia and Ukraine woman teams tied for first.

EK: Georgia had a lot of strong woman chess players.

GK: Of course. In some cases, for instance in 1980, Georgians comprised the whole Soviet woman chess team. Nevertheless, Maya Chiburdanidze is 47, in 1976 we won USSR championships in Tbilisi, she won girls' championship, I won boys', she was 15, I was still 12. January 1976. She plays on the first board, she gets the best result. It was joked that of all her partners, only one was born before she became a world champion. That's the reserve they still have, even though there are many young Georgian players, and the Ukrainian team is also quite young. But they have different determination to win.

Who won the men's Olympics? Armenia. Twice in a row. Before that, Ukraine won in 2004. Different determination. They need to win. And I think there's no need to remind where did the whole Israel team, who claimed second place, come from.

EK: I can imagine.

GK: Even though there are many young players there. Determination for a result. There was an understanding that in USSR any place except the first is a failure. There's nothing like that now. I don't know how to explain that. But still, the Soviet chess history is something we can be proud of. It's worth noting that our relationship with Karpov could be very tense, but when we played for our country, we understood that we're pursuing a common goal and worked together quite well.

EK: Speaking of politics. Was Tal a dissident or not, was he interested in politics at all?

GK: He was a freedom lover. And, obviously, couldn't accept all that official frippery. He was indifferent to all that. He wasn't interested in the confrontation. He wasn't a contentous type. He could never accept Korchnoi's approach. But because of his personality, his intellectual determination Tal obviously didn't accept what was going on. But he just lived his own life, abstracted away from all that, and still he had some problems, some fallout with Karpov, and that had an impact on his ability to play in tournaments.

EK: Even like that?

GK: Very often.

EK: But why he fell out with Karpov?

GK: I can't tell exactly why he fell out with Karpov. They say that one of the reasons was that Tal highly valued my chances to become a world champion. Karpov considered that attitude defeatist. I can't say for sure. I think that Tal was a man who could say something, but never tried to conform to the moment. He could fall into troubles. Though then came perestroika, it became easier to go abroad and play in tournaments. But Tal in Soviet time constantly encoundered some troubles, both in the 60s and 70s, if he wasn't on top of the chess hierarchy, he could have been easily left out of the Olympic team.

He had those troubles when he wasn't on his peak.

EK: Non-standard, inconvenient. Health problems...

GK: Yes, they always could find them. And he was absolutely incontrollable. One couldn't expect from him some Korchnoi-style escapades. Tal would make statements, go abroad... He was, to put it that way, socially alien to the system.

EK: Well, there were very few chess players who emigrated to the West.

GK: Well, there were some, but we have to make distinction between emigration and defection, like Korchnoi's.

EK: Well, I'm not saying... As far as I remember, only Korchnoi openly stated about his defection.

GK: And what about Lyova Alburt and, for that matter, Gata Kamsky in 1989?

EK: Different times.

GK: Of course. From that era, it's, of course, Alburt and Korchnoi. They were players of different level, but Lev Alburt nevertheless was also a grandmaster, played in the USSR Championship finals. And Tal, I think, was free everywhere. He didn't care where he was.

EK: But the people emigrated.

GK: Yes, a lot of people. Not the elite players, but they did emigrate. And speaking of defectors, we may remember Igor Ivanov. He was an international master from Uzbekistan.

EK: I can't remember him.

GK: His greatest achievement - he defeated Karpov at the USSR Spartakiad of Nations in 1979.

EK: I remember Leonid Stein, a strong player.

GK: Lyonia Stein died. He didn't go anywhere. His career was also very distinguished and unique. He was unlucky because there were quotas on Soviet players. Tournaments comprised only of Soviet players were unacceptable. Stein twice fell victim of those quotas, because there were Keres, Tal, Spassky ahead of him. He always narrowly missed his chances. And his three USSR Championship titles is a unique result.

Still, to win a USSR Championship in these times was quite an achievement. Those who won it more than once were undoubtedly extra-class players. He died very early, he was 38 years old. In 1973, right before the Interzonal.

EK: What did Tal think of your competition with Karpov. You said that he just reminded you of his birthday...

GK: It was before the last game.

EK: And in the previous years and months? Especially during the first, most dramatic match.

GK: Tal openly sympathized me. The most momentous event happened before the play-off of the 27th game, which I lost, and the score became 5:0. Tal visited us in the "Russia" hotel, we analyzed the game a bit, it was clear that my position wasn't good, and I went to finish the game without much enthusiasm. Though when I analyzed the game recently for the book about this match against Karpov, I learned that I had good chances to save the game. Many things become clearer with computers. Tal said that this position is unlikely to be saved.

And after this game, when the score became 5:0, I again met him, and he said, "Young man, you stand no chance now. Now all you can do is to shut the door with a bang". Tal sympathized me and gave some playing tips.

EK: And what did he say when the score was 5:3?

GK: We weren't in touch at that point, Tal wasn't in Moscow. For the older generation of chess players, what happened in this match wasn't unlike a miracle. An omen. They understood that a new era had begun, because 5:0 is a diagnosis. And if Karpov can't win after 5:0, then something had happened. Both Botvinnik and Tal felt that very sharply.

The fresh style that I brought into chess and that was finally formed in the match against Karpov seemed to them, the patriarchs of our chess, an important breakthrough. Chess can't be in a balanced state for long. Something always should be moved. These matches, the playing level I managed to show, drew positive reactions from Botvinnik and Tal, this style was more favourable for Tal.

EK: I never had an opportunity to ask you this question before, though other people most likely did. If the match wasn't stopped, could you have equalized?

GK: It's too hard to analyze hypothetically.

EK: And how about your feelings?

GK: If to analyze it now, we have to take in account that Karpov was in a very depressed mood: how's that, he can't win just one more game and keeps losing. And I started to play stronger. That was the thing that unnerved and depressed Karpov the most. It was obvious that I progressed in the match's course. And my playing in the end was very different from what whas in the beginning. That was pressing.

Most probably, I could've won a fourth game. And then... that's not a question of whether I win or not anymore. I could have lost. One mistake is enough. It's actually the law of averages - how long can you hang down the rope. If the match continued after 5:4, anything was possible. It's very easy to make one mistake.

EK: It's still a game, isn't it?

GK: Of course. I think, the match would have ended soon enough, maybe 7 or 8 games or so, and I don't know if I'd have the strength to avoid that fatal mistake, or Karpov would have the strength to wait for it. I don't know. It was the first time Karpov faced the real threat of losing a match. It still wasn't 50:50, I believe in the law of averages, and it was, of course, on Karpov's side. But the risk of defeat had become apparent because Karpov could lose every week.

But still, Karpov is Karpov. The quality of last games suggested a high probability of me making... just one mistake, little more was needed. But there also was a chance to win. And so the match cancellation psychologically helped Karpov. But it also gave me a great psychological drive for the future.

EK: And Mikhail Tal probably helped you. I don't know if he was religious, but he prayed for you, for your victory.

GK: I think Tal never prayed for anybody. Tal just wanted some changes. He couldn't do anything else. He wanted the stiff, very much Karpov-oriented system to change. And he didn't even attempt to hide his sympathies and his expectations.

The link to the original article (in Russian):