Mikhail Tal

"The Magician from Riga", Mikhail Tal (Михаил Нехемьевич Тал) was a Latvian chess Grandmaster and the eighth World Chess Champion. He was widely regarded for his attacking style of play, creating highly complicated positions that would often overwhelm his opponents. He is considered the father of the "Latvian School of Chess", where many other Latvian-born Grandmasters including Alexei Shirov and Alexander Shabalov would emulate his aggressive style of play.

From a young age, Mikhail Tal was blessed with incredible talent but was cursed with ill health. He learned how to read at the age of three, and started at university at the age of fifteen. He learned how to play chess at the age of eight by watching his father play. Shortly afterwards, he joined the Riga Palace of Young Pioneers chess club. While Mikhail Tal was not a chess prodigy, he had an incredible work ethic and would spend countless hours studying chess. In 1949, the legendary Russian chess trainer Alexander Koblents started to tutor Mikhail Tal and the improvement was immediate. In less than two years, Mikhail Tal qualified for the 1951 Latvian Championship at the remarkable age of just twelve years old. At the 1952 Latvian Championship, Tal had a successful tournament and finished ahead of his trainer.

The following year, Mikhail had won the 1953 Latvian Championship at the age of fourteen and he received the title of Candidate Master. Tal's meteoric rise continued in 1954, when he was awarded the title of Soviet master and scored his first grandmaster scalp when he defeated legendary author Yuri Averbakh. Mikhail Tal first qualified for the U.S.S.R. Chess Championship in 1956, where he finished joint fifth. The following year, he became the youngest player to win the U.S.S.R. Chess Championships at the age of only twenty years old. FIDE, the World Chess Federation, recognized Tal's incredible accomplishment by waiving the international tournament requirement for the Grandmaster title and awarded him the title. In 1958, Mikhail Tal competed in his first World Chess Championship and won the interzonal tournament at Portoroz.


Mikhail Tal




November 9, 1936


June 29, 1992



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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.

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    CLEARANCE - Mikhail Tal Games
    1963 - 1972
    Catalog Code: CB0464RB

    The "Chess Stars" series of books are for players of all standards. In each book all the games of a brilliant player are analyzed.

    CLEARANCE - Mikhail Tal Games

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