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Tal vs Botvinnik 1961
Moscow

In 1960, the chess world gained a new champion who seemed to breathe new life into the ancient game. Mikhail Tal seemed to have ushered in a new era; and perhaps he did, but his tenure as champion was soon to be nipped in the bud.

 Tal Botvinnik 1961
 Tal and Botvinnik, 1961
A chain-smoker and a heavy drinker, Tal pulsated nervous energy, pacing like a caged tiger in between moves. And as a young man with those famous fierce, hooded eyes and that imposing hooked nose, he bulldozed all before him. Until, that is, the return match with Botvinnik in 1961. "Iron Mike" sought closed positions and endgames in a very successful effort (+10 -5 =6) to make chess something other than ever-deeper plunges into unfathomable fantasy.[1]

The match took place in Moscow between March 23rd and May 20th, 1961. Tal's loss might be attributed to a health failure due to his serious kidney disorder. Tal, however, was not one to make excuses:

"I think that I lost to him, because he beat me! He was very well-prepared for the second match. Botvinnik knew my play better than I knew his." [1]
After 21 games, Mikhail Botvinnik won the match +10 -5 =6 to become the World Chess Champion for the third time.

click on a game number to replay game 123456789101112131415161718192021
Botvinnik101½½½1011101½1½010½1
Tal010½½½0100010½0½101½0

FINAL SCORE:  Botvinnik 13;  Tal 8
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Tal-Botvinnik 1961]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #8     Tal vs Botvinnik, 1961     1-0
    · Game #7     Botvinnik vs Tal, 1961     1-0
    · Game #17     Botvinnik vs Tal, 1961     0-1

FOOTNOTES
1. Kings of Chess: 21 Player Salute by Larry Parr

 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-041 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE48 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 d5
2. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-045 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
3. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-043 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE48 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 d5
4. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½41 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
5. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½73 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE48 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 d5
6. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½25 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
7. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-033 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
8. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-029 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
9. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-073 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchA23 English, Bremen System, Keres Variation
10. Tal vs Botvinnik 0-142 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
11. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-042 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchD14 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Exchange Variation
12. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-041 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchC18 French, Winawer
13. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-041 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE85 King's Indian, Samisch, Orthodox Variation
14. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½33 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
15. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-063 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE81 King's Indian, Samisch
16. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½90 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
17. Botvinnik vs Tal 0-183 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE80 King's Indian, Samisch Variation
18. Tal vs Botvinnik 0-141 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
19. Botvinnik vs Tal 0-175 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE81 King's Indian, Samisch
20. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½121 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchB12 Caro-Kann Defense
21. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-033 1961 Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Return MatchE80 King's Indian, Samisch Variation
 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 4 OF 4 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Feb-21-10  M.D. Wilson: Perhaps, but Tal loved chess in itself. He was quite happy to play blitz in Moscow's parks against all-comers while recovering from his various ailments. He just happened to be brilliant enough to become World Champion.
Nov-28-10
Premium Chessgames Member
  talisman: asked if he had any regrets shortly before he died, tal said that he wished he had postponed the 61 match.
Apr-09-11  bronkenstein: Botvinik likes beating sick people (the only way he could do it ;) ...

Smyslov mentioned , in his interwiew to Dimitrije Bjelica , that he was ill (pneumonia , or sthg alike , not sure how to translate it to english , lungs inflamatory stuff ) for good part of the only match he lost to Botvinnik .

When playing matches against healthy opponnents , Botvinnik was , ofc , losing and drawing eventually ... without a single victory (even including Flohr , and almost 50 years old Lowenfisch back there in 30s ).

Without draw odds and guaranteed rematch clause (not to mention huge USSR establishment support ), he would lose his title to Bronstein in 1951. , and people would remember his 3 (deserved) year reign like Euwe's , or something alike .

Apr-09-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  SatelliteDan: <bronkenstein>
Case in point though. I like Tal, and he was very generous in his praise after he lost. I think Tal is not only a great player but also a sportsmen and a good man.
Apr-09-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  SatelliteDan: Even Fischer had respect for Tal. RIP (both)
Jun-12-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  parisattack: Amazing to me this match was 50 years ago! It seems much more recent somehow.

Yet, when a few months after learning the game in 1966 I found a dusty original copy of New York 1924 in a bookshop - it seemed that span of 42 years was ancient history.

The years will do that to a person...

Jun-12-11  mworld: <Open Defence: <so please people stop spreading these myths that Botvinnik was a great match player. he was not, not anywhere as good as Kasparov anyway. > well I think Botvinnik was great at preparing for a known opponent, and of course Kasparov no doubt built on some of Botvinnik's methods the strongest thing about Botvinnik is how he took defeats, many do not like to face their nemeses but Botvinnik seemed to relish the chance for revenge>

exactly. I also admire that particular trait. With all the expectations and pressure, it is admirable to have such fortitude.

Jun-12-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  ray keene: i just love the games from this match-fifteen decisive games-amazing!!
Jun-13-11  bronkenstein: <i just love the games from this match-fifteen decisive games-amazing!!>

Ah, good old times...

Jun-13-11  DrMAL: Very humble afterword from Tal, one whose amazing career and creative contribution to chess was abruptly stifled by substance abuse.
Aug-29-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  talisman: <DrMal> very good post up until the last word.
Sep-08-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <DrMAL: Very humble afterword from Tal, one whose amazing career and creative contribution to chess was abruptly stifled by substance abuse.>

While I can't agree more that Tal was a tremendous combinative player and wonderful ambassador for chess, to say that he was 'abruptly stifled by substance abuse' is both incorrect and irresponsible; his health, even in his youth, was never at its best, and this is well documented.

Sep-08-11  I play the Fred: <perfidious>, this is a classic manifestation of the <MAL-AJ> discussion paradigm; I was going to make this same point, but I anticipated two likely outcomes:

1) No discussion of the matter thanks to the IGNORE list

2) No discussion of the matter thanks to the good doctor's apparent belief that a difference of opinion is a challenge to one's manhood, an act of trolling

I don't want to disagree with <DrMAL> for the sheer sport of it, but I don't care to just let things go when I don't agree, either - I will say that there is something to what he says. <perfidious>, You are correct that Tal suffered from poor health his whole life, but I would agree with <DrMAL> to the extent that Tal didn't do himself any favors with his frequent drinking and smoking.

I guess Tal understood that he wouldn't live too long and decided to enjoy himself as much as he could.

Sep-08-11  ughaibu: Tal was 55 when he died, "abruptly stifled" is nonsense.
Sep-08-11  I play the Fred: <My contention was merely that it was irresponsible to imply that he came to a sudden end due to all this.>

Oh, absolutely. I guess my reason for posting what I posted was just to show that I'm not here to antagonize, but to discuss. If it gets back to <DrMAL> and he cares to respond, that would be a nice step in the right direction. He doesn't have to agree with me, nor does he have to like me. I hope he examined the link that I cited as being a good, healthy, normal discussion. But if he wants to stay on the <AJ> side of the street, so be it.

<When I played a set of rapid games with Tal in 1988>

I <hate> you. :D

Sep-08-11  Petrosianic: When you play rapid chess with Tal, it's even more rapid than usual.
Sep-08-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <I play the Fred: <When I played a set of rapid games with Tal in 1988>

I <hate> you. :D>

I have my moments too, lol.

<Petrosianic: When you play rapid chess with Tal, it's even more rapid than usual.>

They were all at 5-2, so that was indeed the case.

Just days before, he'd taken Vaganian 3.5-.5 in the world blitz final at St John's, so I don't suspect he'd have had much trouble with me straight up.

May-09-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: If this match had been the first to 6 wins (like in 1927, 1978, 1981 and others) then it would have ended at game 11 - shorter than Anand-Gelfand World Chess Championship (2012)!
Aug-05-12  teddysalad: 21 games with only 6 draws. Even 3 of the draws went over 70 moves. Imagine how popular chess would be today with opponents playing to win like this instead of bailing out *cough* Anand-Gelfand *cough* at the earliest discreet opportunity.
Apr-15-13  Shelter417: I do like Botvinnik and think he's under-appreciated these days, but this match was a huge loss for chess simply because it denied us Tal-Patrosian in 1963 (I presume Botvinnik would have refused to fight his way back through the Candidates). How great would that match have been? The greatest positional player of the era versus the greatest tactician...
Apr-15-13  Petrosianic: Botvinnik is under-appreciated because he was so seldmon in action in the 50's and 60's. He's the mountain that someone else was always trying to climb. His own heyday, the 1940's, isn't as well remembered.
Apr-15-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Of no other player in the following event (other than possibly Keres) would one speak of equal fifth in USSR Championship (1940) as a relative failure, such was Botvinnik's stature already in 1940.

For Botvinnik, the remainder of the decade was progress from one success to another, culminating in his title win.

No question as to who the greatest player was in the forties.

Apr-15-13  Petrosianic: It was more than just modesty. It would have been extremely uncomfortable if Alekhine had become available just at that moment, and Botvinnik had been told "Gee, we'd like to give you the title shot, but Lilienthal is Soviet Champion. Comrade Krylenko thinks it should go to him... What's that? Comrade Krylenko has been purged? Well, whoever replaced him thinks the shot should go to Lilienthal."

That's why Botvinnik pulled strings to get the Absolute Championship arranged next year, to settle once and for all the question of which Soviet player got to challenge Alekhine.

Mar-04-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Behold Tal's score with black in the first 15 games.

He had 8 blacks in those fifteen games, scoring a less-than-sparkling +0 -7 =1.

Mar-30-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: By the way, the footnote link is stale. Who wrote this page, or rather, who maintains it?

I think "Kings of Chess: 21 Player Salute" was written by Larry Parr (a respected former editor of Chess Life). My understanding is that it was written by Parr for worldchessnetwork.com - the latter of late another casualty of entropy.

You can find old archived pages which link to the cover page of the article. But since that originally linked to a series of articles the archived versions can't be navigated. Alas.

Did I mention that I think all these history articles should be timestamped - with both the "creation date", and the "last modified date"?

PS - Did Parr ever finish the series? My forensics suggest he only got as far as Spassky (leaving Fischer/Karpov/Kasparov/Khalifman).

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