1959 was the breakout year for Mikhail Tal. He started by winning the Zurich 1959 chess tournament, defeating such up-and-coming players as Bobby Fischer, Paul Keres and Bent Larsen. Mikhail success continued at the Yugoslavia 1959 Candidates' Tournament, where he scored an impressive 20/28 points, ahead of three future World Champions : Tigran Petrosian, Vasily Smyslov and Bobby Fischer. By winning the Candidates' Tournament, Mikhail Tal won the right to challenge the reigning World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik for the title.
In 1960, Mikhail Tal and his hyper-aggressive, tactical style of play went up against the strategic style of Mikhail Botvinnik for the World Chess Championship in Moscow. The match was the first time that Tal and Botvinnik faced each other across the chess board, and Botvinnik was ill-prepared for the unrelenting attacking style of Mikhail Tal. The matched ended 12.5-8.5 in favor of Mikhail Tal, who at the age of twenty two had become the youngest World Chess Champion ever. The following year, a rematch between these two champions was held, but it ended with a completely different outcome. Mikhail Tal's health was failing him and his doctors recommended that he postpone the match to address his kidney failure. Tal refused to postpone the match and was soundly defeated by Mikhail Botvinnik 13-8. It was later revealed that Botvinnik had spent the time between the World Chess Championship matches thoroughly analyzing Tal's games, discovering ways to neutralize his attacking style and turn the games into slow, methodical battles that would favor Botvinnik. Although Mikhail Tal played in six additional Candidates' Tournaments, he never earned the right to play for the World Championship title again.
In addition to winning the World Chess Championship in 1960, Mikhail Tal has an impressive list of chess accomplishments. He holds the record for the two longest unbeaten streaks in modern chess, including an incredible streak of 95 consecutive games (46 wins and 49 draws) between October 23, 1973 and October 16, 1974.