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Snapshots in History: November 9 - Remembering Mikhail Tal

November 10, 2015 | John P. | Comments (1)


Mikhail Tal in play against Bobby Fischer at the 1960 Chess Olympics in Leipzig, East Germany.

(Source: )

Even if you have never played a game of chess, you might have heard of Robert James “Bobby” Fischer and Boris Spassky, especially when they faced off for the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland when the American Fischer defeated the current World Champion Russian (then-Soviet) Spassky. However, take a moment to remember the contributions to the competitive chess world of one Mikhail “Misha” Nekhem’evich Tal (also known in Latvian as Mihails Tals) (Born: November 9, 1936 in Riga, Latvia; Died: June 28, 1992 in Moscow, Russia) who won the 1960 World Chess Championship from Mikhail Botvinnik with a 12.5-8.5 point score (6 wins 2 losses 13 draws), only to lose the title in the 1961 return match with Botvinnik by an 8-13 score (5 wins 10 losses 6 draws).

Misha Tal was known for his daring attacking and sacrificial style of play with the chess pieces. Winning the competitive 24th Soviet Chess Championship in 1957 for the first time (without even having first obtained an International title) propelled him to International Grandmaster status from the World Chess Federation (known by its French acronym FIDÉ from la Fédération Internationale des Échecs) and drew global attention to his exploits. Repeating as Champion in the 25th Soviet Championship qualified Tal to represent the Soviet Union in the 1958 Portorož Interzonal tournament to compete for the right to play for the World Championship. Tal won the Interzonal tournament and went on to win the 1959 Candidates Tournament in Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade in dramatic fashion with 20 out of a possible 28 points, including four wins over a 15-year old named Bobby Fischer (who at the time was the youngest International Grandmaster in chess history!). By winning the 1959 Candidates tournament, Tal became the challenger to World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik the following year.

Mikhail Tal was World Chess Champion for barely one year and his subsequent successes alternated with some failures as well as having ill-health thrown into the mix (not helped by excessive chain smoking and drinking). Needless to say, Mikhail Tal was one of the most popular chess players on the international competitive circuit, well-liked for his sense of humour and his love of chess, including his willingness to play casual games with chess players below the ranks of candidate master and master. Tal was also an accomplished blitz (speed) chess player, winning the second World Blitz Chess Championship in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1988. In addition, he was an excellent writer and journalist with many articles and several books to his credit on chess.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

Study chess with Tal My great predecessors Volume 2 from Euwe to Tal Garry Kasparov on my great predecessors Part IV Fischer The most instructive games of chess ever played 62 masterpieces of modern chess strategy



The magic tactics of Mikhail Tal learn from the legend On the attack the art of attacking chess according to the modern masters Bobby Fischer for beginners the most famous chess player explained The mammoth book of the world's greatest chess games





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