Mikhail Tal Blitz Tournament Announced In Sochi

Mikhail Tal Blitz Tournament Announced In Sochi

| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

There will be a Mikhail Tal Memorial after all this year. Alongside the Carlsen-Anand match, a blitz tournament with some of the strongest players in the world will be held on Thursday and Friday.

It will be a spectacular side event of the world championship match: the Tal Memorial Blitz. Held in memory of the 8th world whampion — who would have turned 78 last Sunday — the tournament has an impressive total prize fund: U.S. $100,000. The winner gets U.S. $20,000.

The participants are Alexander Grischuk, Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Gelfand, Peter Leko, Alexander Morozevich, Ernesto Inarkiev, Sergey Karjakin, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Evgeny Tomashevsky.

The format is a double round robin (22 rounds) with a time control of 4 minutes plus 2 seconds increment.

The games will be played on the second floor of the Sochi Media Center, the same building where the Carlsen-Anand match is currently taking place.

The Sochi Media Center.

The first round starts Thursday, November 13 at 3 p.m. local time (noon GMT, 7 a.m. EST, 4 a.m. PST) — that's when the championship games normally start, but Thursday is a rest day. The second half of the tournament stats on Friday, November 14 at 11:30 Sochi time, so 3.5 hours before game five of the world championship. 

The Tal Memorial used to be an annual super tournament in classical chess, but the Petrosian Memorial was substituted for it this year. It was won by Alexander Grischuk. 

The news about the “new Tal Memorial” is an excellent opportunity to share the following article. It was written by chess journalist Stefan Löffler, who recently visited Tal's daughter Jeanna.

She shared some unpublished photos of her father:

A Memorable Comeback in Riga

Riga is where I met with the world champion's daughter Jeanna Tal. She is in full swing these days with preparations for the Tal Memorial -- not a super grandmaster event, but a tournament for school pupils from all over Latvia, that she has been organizing for a couple of years on occasion of her father's birthday on November 9.

School pupils enjoying chess in Latvia last weekend... | Photo © Diana Matisone
...and all receiving diplomas and medals.

Jeanna Tal is an energetic woman in her early 40s. She shares with her father the edgy face, unwieldy black hair and small stature. As a teenager she and her mother emigrated to Germany, where they lived near Cologne. Jeanna studied acting and music, and she performed occasionally on stage. To make ends meet she had to take other jobs.

Jeanna Tal, still popularizing the game of chess in Latvia.

Seven years ago she decided to go back to Riga. It was a lucky move. She established herself as a vocal teacher and started to take care of her father's heritage.

She fondly remembers his affectionate good mood and how without pretensions he was always open for a chat with anyone. Chess was his job, she says, otherwise he was different from other chess players Jeanna got to know.

Mikhail Tal in 1957. | Photo courtesy of Jeanna Tal.

“Dad didn't want me to play chess. He used to say: one chess player in the family is already more than enough.” She learned the game anyway and went to play in the pioneer palace without her father´s consent. Eventually they met at a simul he gave. He smiled at her, and their game was quickly drawn.

Soon after Jeanna stopped playing. Nowadays she thinks like him: “If I had children, I wouldn't want them to go into music. One musician in the family is already more than enough.”

A different kind of investor has already plugged the value of Mikhail Tal, as I discovered on my flight to Riga. The inflight magazine had a full page advert for the “Tal Residence.” The world champion's silhouette figured in the logo of luxury apartments that are currently being built in Riga's posh embassy quarter.

Mikhail Tal in 1957. | Photo courtesy of Jeanna Tal.

Apart from the name “Tal Residence” everything else in the advert was in Russian. Did the developers think only Russians would know the chess player? Or that only Russians would be paying top dollar for a luxury place in Riga?

As I would later find out, this is not even the only real estate project in town connected with Tal. On the first floor of an old-town-building I stumbled into the room of a chess club that is also the makeshift office of a former hockey professional and chess lover. He dreams of a unique chess space in a nearby old-town-basement, where the games can be followed by spectators through a street-level glass roof. It sounds fantastic, yet there is already an architectural plan on the wall, near a cartoon of Tal at the Leipzig Chess Olympiad in 1960.

Mikhail Tal in the 1970s. | Photo courtesy of Jeanna Tal.

This was the magical year when he was world champion. It was also when a photograph of him was taken that hung outside Latvia's National Opera. “Mikhails en Mikhails spela sahu” -– Michael and Michael play chess -– is the slightly misleading name of an opera that premiered in spring. It is not in Latvian but in Russian, which is the language of preference of half the population in Riga and of the much bigger neighbor country, where the composer hopes to get invited to.

The ambitious production with 60 musicians, vocalists and technicians was made possible by a European Capital of Culture grant. It is a move-by-move interpretation of the famous sixth game from the 1960 world championship which Tal won after a dare-devil out of the blue knight sacrifice.

Mikhail Tal in 1986 or 1987. | Photo courtesy of Jeanna Tal.

Stefan Löffler
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