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Tal vs Botvinnik 1960
Moscow

No sooner did Mikhail Botvinnik regain his title, the chess world became entranced by charismatic young Latvian named Mikhail Tal. Tal won the 1958 interzonal tournament at Portoroz, then helped the Soviet Union to retain the Chess Olympiad; before going on to win the 1959 Candidates Tournament with 20 out of 28 points--a point and a half ahead of second place Paul Keres.

 Tal Botvinnik 1960
 Tal and Botvinnik, 1960
Tal often sacrificed material in search for the initiative in chess. With such intuitive sacrifices, he created vast complications, and many masters found it impossible to solve all the problems he created over the board, though deeper post-game analysis found flaws in some of his conceptions. Although this playing style was scorned by ex-World Champion Vasily Smyslov as nothing more than "tricks", Tal convincingly beat every notable grandmaster with his trademark aggression.[1]

Lev Khariton relates the electricity of the match:

This match played in Moscow in the spring of 1960 is forever engraved in my memory. Hundreds of chess fans who had failed to buy an entrance ticket stayed outside the Pushkin Theater watching on a big demonstration board the games of the match. I will never forget the famous 6th game in which Tal right after the opening moves sacrificed a knight. It was a challenge to Botvinnik, to all his followers who were trying to put the game into the Procrustean Bed of cold logic and algorithms. As if nothing had happened, Tal was pacing to and fro on the stage, and his famous opponent , who had scored victories over such legends as Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine, confronted with a surprise sacrifice was taking all possible pains to refute Tal's daring decision. All in vain! Botvinnik had already few minutes left on his clock when Stahlberg and Golombek, the arbiters of the match, transferred the game backstage. The spectators were so excited that the atmosphere in the playing hall was more reminiscent of a football match! Tal won this game, and in spite of Botvinnik's stubborn resistance, he won the whole match.[2]
The match was conducted in Moscow from March 15 to May 7, 1960. After 21 games, at the age of 23, Mikhail Tal became the 8th World Chess Champion.

click on a game number to replay game 123456789101112131415161718192021
Botvinnik0½½½½0011½0½½½½½0½0½½
Tal1½½½½1100½1½½½½½1½1½½

FINAL SCORE:  Tal 12½;  Botvinnik 8½
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Botvinnik-Tal 1960]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #6     Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960     0-1
    · Game #1     Tal vs Botvinnik, 1960     1-0
    · Game #9     Tal vs Botvinnik, 1960     0-1

FOOTNOTES
1. Mikhail Tal article at Wikipedia
2 Mikhail Tal, the Chess Player Ahead of Chess by Lev Khariton

 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-032 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchC18 French, Winawer
2. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½44 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchA61 Benoni
3. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½37 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchB11 Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4
4. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½40 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE27 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch Variation
5. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½43 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
6. Botvinnik vs Tal 0-147 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE69 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Classical Main line
7. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-052 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
8. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-041 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE10 Queen's Pawn Game
9. Tal vs Botvinnik 0-158 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
10. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½60 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE88 King's Indian, Samisch, Orthodox, 7.d5 c6
11. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-072 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchA05 Reti Opening
12. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½72 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
13. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½16 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchA30 English, Symmetrical
14. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½22 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
15. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½41 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
16. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½41 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
17. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-041 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
18. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½76 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
19. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-041 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchA87 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation
20. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½27 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
21. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½17 1960 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship MatchE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  
 

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Apr-10-10  Petrosianic: Amazingly little kibitzing on the championship victory of such a popular player. I haven't looked at these games in a long time. Usually Tal-Botvinnik discussions seems to center around asking why Tal lost in 1961. I'd like to ask it the other way: Why did he win in 1960?

Here are some pre-match comments about Tal:

<Bronstein: "Tal won't do it against Grandmasters."

Smyslov: "Tal wins by tricks. I consider it my duty as a grandmaster to beat him properly."

Pirc: "If Tal plays the way he did in the Challengers Tourney versus Keres and Smyslov, he hasn't got the slightest chance against Botvinnik."

Vukovic: "Tal has no chance against Botvinnik and would even lose a match against Keres."

Golombek: "Tal is certainly the riskiest player ever to have gotten so close to the world championship."

Borba (a Yugoslav newspaper): Took a poll of players and seconds asking who would win the 1959 Candidates. Smyslov got 7 votes, Petrosian 4, Tal 0.

Fischer: "My most dangerous opponent in [the 1959 Candidates] was Smyslov.">

Even if we toss that last one out on the grounds of cattiness (Fischer scored 2-2 vs. Smyslov; 0-4 vs. Tal), we see that Tal's victory was anything but a fait accompli.

(SIDE NOTE: You don't hear it much any more, but there used to be an "American Myth", that would appear in lots of chess articles written by non-chess players, to the effect that Fischer had lost all 4 games against Tal from superior middlegames. Anybody who has actually seen the games, knows that only in the last one did Fischer ever have a clear advantage.)

So anyway, even at Tal's height, he never quite established superiority over the ultra-positional players. He won in 1959 by "Bunny Smashing". He lost 1-3 against Keres. He steered a wide berth around Petrosian with 4 limp draws. He did score 2˝-1˝ aainst Smyslov, but that still leaves him with a losing record against the 3 of them combined. Then he goes up against the Ultimate Positional Player, Botvinnik, and Botvinnik goes down hard.

Why is that? Was Botvinnik just rusty in 1960 (he never played much after winning the title). Had he not figured out Tal's style yet. Or did Tal just flat out play better the first time?

I won't really know until I can give the games some study. For the last few months, I've had one computer running almost constantly, subjecting the games of every world championship to Fritz analysis for later study. When that's done, I mean to have Fritz go through Selected Games of Mikhail Tal, to see how well his best 1950's brilliancies stand up to Fritz. I have a feeling I won't like the results, and that it will be a letdown comparable to seeing how the magician's trick is done. In fact, I might talk myself out of it before I do it.

Apr-10-10
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <Petrosianic>

Thanks for the pre-match quotes.

Looks like most of the CG user comments are on the individual games for this match.

Apr-11-10  Petrosianic: Now, here's something I never knew before:

Chess Life, April 1961: <"Much comment has been generated that Tal "is not playing up to form" or that his recent illness, in addition to a seize of influenza during the match accounted for his "spotty" and inconsistent play. We must remember, however, that when he won the championship last year from Botvinnik, it was Botvinnik who was ill - in addition to having great emotional upsets due to the death of his wife just before the match, which accounts for his "un-Botvinnik-like" play at that time.">

I hate to perpetuate excuses, but these cancel each other to some extent. And the death of a spouse seems like a pretty big thing to have never heard before.

In fact, I'd never heard anything about any Botvinnik marriages, one way or the other, but Wikipedia has a few bits:

<His wife was an Armenian Russian named Gayane Davidovna, the daughter of his algebra teacher.>

<In early winter, 1936, Botvinnik was invited to play in a tournament at Nottingham, England. Krylenko authorized his participation and, to help Botvinnik play at his best, allowed Botvinnik's wife to accompany him – a privilege rarely extended to chess players at any time in Soviet history.>

<In April 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Botvinnik's wife Gayane, a ballerina,[27] told him that her colleagues at the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre were being evacuated to the city of Perm,[28] then known as Molotov in honour of Vyacheslav Molotov.[29] The family found an apartment there, and Botvinnik obtained a job with the local electricity supply organization – at the lowest pay rate and on condition that he did no research, as he had only a Candidate's degree.>

Wiki links to a Sports Illustrated article about Tal's 1960 victory, which contains the following interesting story about Tal and Botvinnik's wife, when Tal was 11, right after Botvinnik became champion:

<Botvinnik was resting in seclusion at a resort near Riga. Tucking a chessboard under his arm, Tal threaded his way through pine trees to the beach to ask Botvinnik to play a game with him. He was met by Botvinnik's wife, the ballerina Gayane, who told him smilingly that the champion was taking a nap, and that, in addition, she had made him promise to give up chess during their vacation.>

I don't know whether I envy him (for marrying a ballerina) or feel sorry for him (for marrying the daughter of his algebra teacher).

Apr-11-10
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <Petrosianic:

Wiki links to a Sports Illustrated article about Tal's 1960 victory, which contains the following interesting story about Tal and Botvinnik's wife, when Tal was 11, right after Botvinnik became champion:

Botvinnik was resting in seclusion at a resort near Riga. Tucking a chessboard under his arm, Tal threaded his way through pine trees to the beach to ask Botvinnik to play a game with him. He was met by Botvinnik's wife, the ballerina Gayane, who told him smilingly that the champion was taking a nap, and that, in addition, she had made him promise to give up chess during their vacation.>

This story is not true. Tal said so in his autobiography, "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal", p.21:

"This story is widely known, and I always smile, however many times I hear it. But it is evidently tilme to explain that it is merely a story....When I told my family of my intentions they gently dissuaded me...But then your journalistic colleagues heard about it, and immediately 'placed' a chessboard under my arm, sent me off to play Botvinnik, and - how can there be any intrigue without women! - introduced int the act a woman, who barred my way at the World Champion's door."

Apr-11-10
Premium Chessgames Member
  Kazzak: Chessgames should fix the list of 1960 games. Several are marked wrongly in sequence. Game 17 is marked as 15, for instance.
Apr-11-10  Petrosianic: <This story is not true.>

Well, SI wrote it in 1960, so no time for Tal to set the record straight. I wonder where they ever got it in the first place. And I'm more curious as to what happened to Botvinnik's wife, and why she died in (I guess) her 40's. That's pretty rough. Did he ever remarry, I wonder?

Apr-11-10  Petrosianic: In light of Bronstein's earlier comment, here's a comment from Al Horowitz, who picked Tal to win:

<Tal plays Bronstein's style, only much better, and absolutely without Bronstein's weaknesses.>

Al opines that it was Bronstein's tendency to tire and blunder that kept him from winning the 1951 match, although to give Botvinnik his due, he hadn't played a game in 3 years when that match started.

Apr-11-10  A Karpov Fan: these games are amazing
Aug-25-10
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Newsreel footage with Russian commentary:

http://www.britishpathe.com/record....

Feb-12-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  talisman: <Lev Khariton> that was spot on.
Apr-21-11  bronkenstein: <Tal plays Bronstein's style, only much better, and absolutely without Bronstein's weaknesses.>

IMO Bronstein (esp @ his peak ) is much more complete and well rounded player than Tal of the 1960 .

Misha managed to ´complete´ his style , raising technique and positional strategy while still being able to play brilliant tactical game during his second peak , due to cooperation with Karpov ( they were toping the rating list together briefly at that time ) .

Horowitz was simply blinded by Tal´s winning streak and brilliant games i would say (not that he was alone :)

Apr-29-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  talisman: THE 2nd most famous championship of all time, 1960...without a 1960 picture.
Apr-30-11  kamalakanta: Many of us (myself included) were not aware of Nezhmetdinov's strong influence on Tal's "style" when looking at Tal's games in years past.

However, after looking at Nezhmetdinov's games, his influence on Tal becomes very obvious. He had a plus score (3-1) against Tal and was one of Tal's seconds during the match in 1960.

Apr-30-11  M.D. Wilson: <Although this playing style was scorned by ex-World Champion Vasily Smyslov as nothing more than "tricks", Tal convincingly beat every notable grandmaster with his trademark aggression.>

Ah, Korchnoi, as expected, owned Tal. Spassky wasn't a slouch, either. Almost everyone else, sure.

What I find more amazing is Botvinnik's absolute domination of Tal in 1961; he was like a man prepared, I mean, possessed.

Apr-30-11  M.D. Wilson: <bronkenstein: <Tal plays Bronstein's style, only much better, and absolutely without Bronstein's weaknesses.> IMO Bronstein (esp @ his peak ) is much more complete and well rounded player than Tal of the 1960 .

Misha managed to ´complete´ his style , raising technique and positional strategy while still being able to play brilliant tactical game during his second peak , due to cooperation with Karpov ( they were toping the rating list together briefly at that time ) >

The collaboration between Tal and Karpov in the 1970s hasn't been analysed in great depth, but it was a period of development for both players. Tal taught Karpov the essence of the initiative and when to play dynamically; Karpov's superlative technique and positional mastery helped to foster Tal's 1970s Renaissance, when he was stronger than ever before.

May-01-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: What a terrific book, written about this match.
Aug-20-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eggman: Chessgames.com: for the picture above the caption reads "Tal and Botvinnik, 1958." Is this a mistake? They didn't play any kind of serious game until 1960.
Aug-20-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Eggman> Must be, though I remember reading a story in which Tal somehow managed to learn where Botvinnik was staying on holiday. When young Misha knocked on the door of the cottage, board in hand, Mrs Botvinnik explained that the elder Misha was napping.
Aug-25-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  Cemoblanca: Ahhh Misha! 1 of my favorite players of all time & "Super Nez" falls also into this category! Please play a lot of chess in heaven & don't forget to sacrifice! ;0) RIP!
Jun-25-14  ACMEKINGKRUSHER: I have just barely started reading TAL's book on the match. It is FABULOUS! I am quite pleased so far with it. Much better than Topalov's "cry-baby" book on his later match.
Jun-25-14  penarol: Perhaps I have not read too many chess books, but I think that Tal´s book on the 1960 match is the best chess book I have ever read. I also think that it is not the best book for a chess beginner. Of course that happens with many chess books.
Jun-26-14  Petrosianic: Everybody liked the book, but nobody actually has anything good to say about it. Talk about damning with faint praise.
Jun-26-14  Olavi: The book is graet, but unfortunately Hanon Russell's translation is poor. Or has a revision been published?
Jun-26-14  Petrosianic: Yes, but what's great about it? Nobody seems to know. Is it great analysis, great behind the scenes stuff, great insight, or is it just that the author is popular therefore the book must be good? Generally, if people like a book, they have lots of good things to say about it. If they just say "Yeah, it was good", but not in any specific way, I feel that they really DIDN'T like it much, but are just being polite.
Jun-26-14  Olavi: The personality, I would say. He is witty, modest, sarcastic at times, and he gives the impression of being honest. Well you never know about that...
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