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Bled Candidates Mirror
Compiled by WCC Editing Project

The 1959 Candidates Tournament was hosted by three cities in Yugoslavia. The first 14 rounds were played in Bled, rounds 15-21 in Zagreb, and rounds 22-28 in Belgrade. This event would select the next challenger to world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, who had just recaptured his title in the Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Rematch (1958). Mikhail Tal, Svetozar Gligorić, Pal Benko, Tigran Petrosian, Friđrik Ólafsson and Bobby Fischer qualified from the Portoroz Interzonal (1958). Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres were seeded directly into the candidates tournament on the strength of their 1-2 finish in the previous Amsterdam Candidates (1956). Harry Golombek was arbiter, and the seconds were Bent Larsen (Fischer), Yuri Averbakh, joined later by Alexander Koblents (Tal), Vladas Mikenas (Keres), Isaac Boleslavsky (Petrosian), Aleksandar Matanovic (Gligorić), Klaus Viktor Darga and Ingi Randver Johannsson (Ólafsson), and Rudolf Maric (Benko).1, 2

Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade 7 Sept - 29 Oct 3

1.Tal XXXX 0010 ==== 01=1 1111 1=11 111= 111= 20 2.Keres 1101 XXXX 0=== 1==0 0101 ==11 1110 1111 18.5 3.Petrosian ==== 1=== XXXX ==0= 11== 0==1 100= =11= 15.5 4.Smyslov 10=0 0==1 ==1= XXXX ==10 0=10 =1=1 =011 15 5.Fischer 0000 1010 00== ==01 XXXX 10=1 ==10 =1=1 12.5 6.Gligoric 0=00 ==00 1==0 1=01 01== XXXX ==10 =1== 12.5 7.Olafsson 000= 0001 011= =0=0 10=0 ==01 XXXX 00=1 10 8.Benko 000= 0000 =00= =100 =0=0 =0== 11=0 XXXX 8

The players would meet each other four times, twice in Bled and once in both Zagreb and Belgrade. In Bled, the players stayed at the Grand Hotel Toplice, the site of Alexander Alekhine's historic triumph in Bled (1931). 4 Mikhail Tal had just had his appendix removed less than two weeks earlier, but FIDE insisted he make it in time for the tournament. According to Tal, "I was not much troubled by the effects of the operation, apart from in a purely mechanical sense; during a game I did not feel inclined to stroll about..."5 This information may have come as a surprise to Harry Golombek, who commented after round 5 that "it is an impressive sight to see him (Tal) get up after he has made what he obviously thinks is a winning move and pace around the table like a man-eating tiger."6 It may also have surprised Bobby Fischer, who complained after his first game with Tal that whenever he "rose from the board... he'd begin talking to the other Soviet players, and they enjoyed whispering about their or others' positions."7 Pal Benko later revealed that due to his "demanding" job in a US brokerage firm, he "didn't prepare at all" for the event, although he reckoned "I did reasonably well."8 He didn't. After the first cycle Tal, Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian shared the lead.

During the second cycle, shortly after the beginning of round 8, Golombek remarked to Fischer on how many Caro Kans the Soviets had been playing. Bobby replied "they are all just chicken; they just don't want to face B-QB4 against the Sicilian."6 Tal emerged the hero of round 8 with his spectacular win over Vasily Smyslov. He won the brilliancy prize by crushing the ex-world champion with a series of sacrifices he later described as "pure improvisation": Tal vs Smyslov, 1959 9 Such improvisation did not serve him as well in his round 10 encounter with co-leader Keres, who "seemed to enjoy taking all the material Tal was offering": Tal vs Keres, 1959. According to Golombek, "most onlookers thought (Tal) might well have resigned ten moves earlier.10 Though Tal finished off the cycle with three straight wins, it was Keres who led by a half point when the players set off for Zagreb.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the first two cycles was the lackluster play of Smyslov, who trailed a full four points behind Keres. Golombek had noticed that in his round 11 game against Benko, "Smyslov seemed to be struggling, not only against his opponent, but against himself": Benko vs Smyslov, 1959 11 Now it seemed it was Petrosian's turn to struggle. Though he finished the second cycle respectably close to the leaders, he too would fall back to join Smyslov in the middle of the table. According to his biographer Vik Vasiliev, "It was... the uncompromising vigor of... Tal and Keres... which troubled Petrosian... He began to reckon his chances of success as extremely small."12 Petrosian's round 15 game can't have helped his spirits, though it became one of very few bright spots for Friđrik Ólafsson: Petrosian vs F Olafsson, 1959. Their adjourned game was finished on a balcony overlooking Zagreb's Republic Square, where a giant demonstration board had been erected: "A crowd of... 5,000 assembled to watch. Olafsson won to... great acclamations... When he tried to go back to the hotel... the crowd insisted on carrying him on their shoulders."13

Tal led Keres by a point and a half as the final cycle began in the 2,000 seat Belgrade Trade Union House, with the rest of the field trailing far behind.14 Smyslov's woes continued in round 22 when he blundered so badly against Tal that a Russian journalist actually sent in a report that Smyslov had won the game, and "later had to contact Moscow again by telephone and eat his words": Tal vs Smyslov, 1959. 14 Keres showed he was still full of fight in round 24 when he won the best game prize against Tal: Tal vs Keres, 1959. The hometown favorite, Yugoslavian grandmaster Gligorić, had played a disappointing tournament until he beat Smyslov in round 26 in just eighteen moves: Smyslov vs Gligoric, 1959. Needless to say, this created quite a stir. As Golombek later described the scene, "There came a full-throated roar from over 2,000 (spectators)... and it was quite impossible for the other players to continue their games. So I hurriedly asked Gligorić and Smyslov to vacate the stage at once."15 With one round to go, Tal only needed a half point against Benko to win the tournament. Benko showed up wearing dark sunglasses, "fearing- or pretending to fear the hypnotic power of Tal's eyes."16 Unfazed, Tal easily forced an early draw by perpetual check to emerge victorious over Keres and all the rest. He had earned the right to face Mikhail Botvinnik in the Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Match (1960).



Grand Hotel Toplice 1960

Zagreb Republic Square

Belgrade Trade Union House


1 Harry Golombek, "4th Candidates' Tournament, 1959- Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade- September 7th - October 29th" Hardinge Simpole, 2009 (First published as BCM Quarterly No.3, 1960),

2 "Tidskrift för Schack" (Oct. 1959), p.229

3 "De Tijd De Maasbode" (Sept. 7, 1959), p.12

"De waarheid" (Oct. 30, 1059), p.3

4 Golombek, p.1

5 Mikhail Tal, "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal" (Cadogan 1997), p.117.

6 Golombek, p.77

7 Frank Brady, "Endgame" (Crown Publishers 2011), Chapter Five "The Gold War Gladiator."

8 Pal Benko and Jeremey Silman "Pal Benko- My Life, Games and Compositions" (Siles Press 2003), p.86

9 Tal, p.119

10 Golombek, p.98

11 Golombek, p.107

12 Vik L. Vasiliev, "Tigran Petrosian- His Life and Games" Michael Basman transl. (Batsford 1974), p.91

13 Golombek, pp.148-149

14 Golombek, p.218

15 Golombek, p.254

16 Golombek, p.272

Suggested readings could include: (1) Game Collection: WCC Index (Candidates Tournament 1959) by User: Resignation Trap , (2)


Cycle by Cycle Count


-<Cycle One> Petrosian/Keres/Tal 4.5, Gligoric 3.5, Fischer/Smyslov/Benko 3, Olafsson 1

-<Cycle Two> Keres 5.5, Tal 5, Gligoric 4.5, Petrosian 4, Smyslov 3, Fischer 2.5, Benko 2, Olafsson 1.5

TOTALS: Keres 10, Tal 9.5, Petrosian 8.5, Gligoric 8, Smyslov 6, Fischer 5.5, Benko 5, Olafsson 3.5


-<Cycle Three> Tal 6, Smyslov 5.5, Keres 4, Petrosian/Fischer 3, Olafsson/Gligoric 2.5, Benko 1.5

TOTALS: Tal 15.5, Keres 14, Petrosian/Smyslov 11.5, Gligoric 10.5, Fischer 8.5, Benko 6.5, Olafsson 6


-<Cycle Four> Tal/Keres 4.5, Petrosian/Olafsson/Fischer/Smyslov 4, Gligoric 2, Benko 1.5

FINAL TOTAL: Tal 20, Keres 18.5, Petrosian 15.5, Smyslov 15, Gligoric/Fischer 12.5, Olafsson 10, Benko 8




-<Arbiter> Harry Golombek -<Seconds> Larsen (Fischer), Averbakh, then later Koblents (Tal), Mikenas (Keres), Boleslavsky (Petrosian), Matanovic (Gligorić), Johannsen (Ólafsson), Rudolf Marić (Benko).


Bled Players stayed at the Grand Hotel Toplice and played in the Bled Casino. p.1


Round Three <Benko-Fischer 1/2> Benko vs Fischer, 1959

Golombek: "This finish... came after resumption of pay and it should be observed that Fischer's over-night analysis was better than Benko's. As a matter of fact, it ws not exactly overnight as it appears that Fischer conceived the idea for the drawing line whilst lying in bed rather late in the morning." pp.27-28


A day before round 5:


"The players had had a rest day on Sunday in which some of them went on an excursion up the nearby Julian Alps, but the intervening day of rest seemed to unsettle them rather than to provide any refreshment of energies." p.46


Golombek on Tal:

" is an impressive sight to see him get up after he has made what he obviously thinks is a winning move and pace around the table like a man-eating tiger in search of fresh meat." p.77


Shortly after the beginning of Round Eight:

Golombek on Fischer:

"Shortly after the beginning of play I remarked to Fischer about the high number of Caro-Kanns that had been played in the tournament; to which he replied, 'they are all chicken; they just don't want to face B-QB4 against the Sicilian.'" p.77


Round Nine:

Golombek: "This round saw the meeting between the two experts at getting into time trouble, Benko and Olafsson..." p.89


Round Ten: <Tal-Keres 0-1> Tal vs Keres, 1959


"Now came the meeting between the two leaders, and anybody who may have expected a quick formal draw must have been most agreeably disappointed since both players were obviously intent on some clear-cut decision. Tal was in his most dare-devil, not to say reckless, mood. Keres, on the other hand, treated the position with the utmost sang-froid and seemed to enjoy taking all the material Tal was offering. However, it must be said that, by the time Tal went in for a double piece sacrifice of more than dubious nature, the Latvian Grandmaster was already in the inferior position. Faced with a position in which the ordinary player would have resigned himself to losing a pawn and then hoped for counter-attacking chances, Tal promptly produced a sacrifice first of a Knight and then of a Bishop. This was as imaginative as it was unsound; for Tal had completely overlooked a simple Queen move that nullifed any attempts at attack. In fact, he continued to try to extract some attack from a hopeless position and most onlookers thought he might well have resigned about ten moves earlier." p.98


Round Eleven: <Benko-Smyslov 1-0> Benko vs Smyslov, 1959


"About the Benko-Smyslov game one is compelled to exclaim, 'How are the mighty fallen'. Almost from the opening Smyslov seemed to be struggling, not only against his opponent, but against himself. Playing one against one is fair enough, but one against two is more than the human frame can stand. Smyslov lost a pawn in the later middlegame and though he fought on stubbornly enough for a very long time on adjournment game day it was always in a hopeless cause." p.107


Round Twelve

"Just before the adjourned game session started there was a pleasant little ceremony at which a Yugoslav soap manufacturing firm named Merima presented each player with a box of toilet soap and other toilet requisites."


After Round Fourteen- Last round in Bled

"...Keres emerged with the slender lead of half a point over Tal and was awarded a special prize for the best result achieved at Bled, a prize which he received amidst great acclaim at a banquet held to celebrate the end of the Bled stretch of the tournament." p.139



"...the players were conveyed by coach from Bled to Zagreb, that is from Slovenia to Croatia. On the way a stop was made at Ljubjana, the chief city of the first named republic, where the players were entertained to a reception by the government of Slovenia."

"If the audiences had been surprisingly large at Bled, then they were still more impressive in their numbers at Zagreb where popular enthusiasm for chess is clearly very great indeed. The hall of play had some 700 seats, but all the tickets were sold well in advance and it was the custom for crowds to assemble outside the playing room at each session. One method of dealing with the problem was the demonstration of games as they were being played in the outer halls in Zagreb, whilst a similar process was used in the other Yugoslav towns that were in direct communication with Zagreb such as Ljubljana..." p.148


-<Petrosian-Olafsson 0-1> Petrosian vs F Olafsson, 1959

"Adjourned games were held in a smaller room in a building that looked out on the chief square of Zagreb, the Republic Square. To compensate for the fact that there could be but few actual spectators of the play, demonstration boards were installed on an outside balcony and on this occasion a crowd of not fewer than 5,000 assembled to watch. Tram-cars slowed down as they approached the square, partly because the drivers wanted to see the game and partly because the passengers were also interested... this impediment to the flow of traffic proved too much for the police who forbade the demonstration of games in the square on subsequent days... Olaffson won to the great acclamations of the crowd who cried out for him to appear on the balcony rather as though he was a visiting royalty or distinguished foreign minister. When he tried to go back to the hotel, the younger members of the crowd insisted on carrying him on his shoulders." pp. 148-149


Round Sixteen

"A crucial round as regards the lead. Tal... the only player to win in this round, went ahead of Keres in the lead, a position he was to retain right till the very end of the tournament." p.159


Round Seventeen

-<Keres-Tal 0-1> Keres vs Tal, 1959

"In an interview at the end of the tournament Tal was asked what he regarded as the turning point of the event and he replied 'The game against Keres in Round 17'." P.169


Round Nineteen

-<Petrosian-Tal 1/2> Petrosian vs Tal, 1959

"That Tal and Petrosian are very good friends away from the chess-board is an undoubted fact. They enjoy the same sort of jokes together and appear to have a great deal of mutual interests. This seems to have some inhibiting effect when they meet in a tournament. Neither player makes any real effort to attack the other and they indulge in the most shadowy of shadow-boxing over the board. This was emphatically the case in the nineteenth round and the early draw..." p.191



Round Twenty-Two

"There was quite a considerable interval between the third and fourth tours of the tournament. After two days... the whole party... embarked on the seven-hour train journey from Zagreb to Belgrade. It having proved impossible to book seats on the international express that was stopping at Zagreb on its way to Belgrade, special instructions were issued from Belgrade by which a coach was attached to the train solely for the use of the chess players so that we all travelled in lordly fashion to our destination.

"...the first round of the Belgrade part... commenced at...the... Trade Union House, before an audience of 2,000. Despite this being the biggest hall of its kind in Belgrade, it was regularly full throughout the seven rounds played in the Yugoslav capital and on a number of occasions police had to be called in to deal with and turn back the disappointed crowds that had failed to gain admission." p.218


-<Tal-Smyslov 1-0> Tal vs Smyslov, 1959

In the "Tal-Smyslov game... Tal sacrificed a piece for an attack that certainly should not have been sufficient. All seemed over and I had left the scene to type out my report giving the result as Smyslov 1 Tal 0, when the assistant director of the tournament came over to me and said that Smyslov had resigned. In fact Smyslov's last move was a complete blunder thorwing away the game. I had to rewrite my report whilst the Russian journalist who had already informed Moscow that Tal had lost had to contact Moscow agian by telephone and eat his words." p.218


Round Twenty-Four

-<Tal-Keres 0-1> Tal vs Keres, 1959

"Keres returned to his best form against Tal in this round and won a most difficult game that earned him the prize for the best game of the tournament... This win made the individual score between the two leaders Keres 3 and Tal 1- an impressive result for Keres but all the same it was now too late for him to have any significant chacne of overhauling Tal." p.237


Round Twenty-Five

-<Petrosian-Keres 1/2> Petrosian vs Keres, 1959

Keres to Golombek: "One cannot always play for a win." p.247


Round Twenty-Six

-<Smyslov-Gligoric 0-1> Smyslov vs Gligoric, 1959

"...the unfortunate Smyslov who chose to play the worst game of his career and achieve the dubious distinction of losing the shortest game on the tournament. Never can he have made so many errors in such a brief space and to all the assembled experts the game seemed very much the sort of tragedy one comes across in simultaneous displays. Not that the Yugoslav audience regarded it as a tragic moment. Here was the national idol, Gligoric, beating the ex-world champion and, wht is more, taking only 18 moves to achieve this. There came a full-throated roar from over 2,000 of them and it was quite impossible for teh other players to continue their games. So I hurriedly asked Gligoric and Smyslov to vacate the stage at once..." p.254


Round Twenty-Eight

-<Tal-Benko 1/2> Tal vs Benko, 1959

"The situation when the last round commenced was that Tal needed only a draw to make sure of first place alone... Benko, fearing- or pretending to fear- the hypnotic power of Tal's eyes, turned up wearing dark sunglasses. The effect of these, however, seemed to be deleterious since, after refusing the offer of a draw on the eleventh move, Benko lost two pawns by an arrant blunder some five moves later... Tal was content to force a draw by perpetual check." p.272


- Harry Golombek, "4th Candidates' Tournament, 1959- Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade- September 7th - October 29th" Hardinge Simpole, 2009 (First published as BCM Quarterly No.3, 1960),



In the spring of 1959, I went to Riga, to begin preparing Tal for the Candidates' tournament. His manner of analysing was very unique. Whereas Botvinnik, in the first instance, tried to find the most expedient plan, the most rational arrangement of his forces, the Rigan looked instead for the most aggressive plan, leading to sharp play, rich with combinational possibilities. Whereas Botvinnik sought the rule, Tal sought the exception. The Candidates' tournament was due to take place that autumn. When there were only a few days to go before we were to leave, the news came fro Riga that Tal had appendicitis, and had undergone an operation to remove his appendix. Seeing him in Moscow, I was horrified- he was pale, and noticeably haggard. Only his eyes were the same- piercing and burning like fire. Koblents had been delayed in getting his travel doucments, so Misha and I went to Yugoslavia together. He had still not recovered fully from the operation, and I had to carry his suitcase for him. We had to develop our tactis at the start of the tournament, to suit his state of health.

I suggested that in the first cycle... Tal should try to avoid adjournments. Even if he only scored 50%, that would be fine. The important thing was to conserve his strength fully at first. Before the tournament, each of the players and their seconds were asked by the newspaper "Borba" to place the participants in the order they expected them to finish. As Tal wrote in his book... <In the Flames of Attack>... he was surprised that nobody but I put him first. However, there was a simple explanation for this- after his operation, Tal just looked so weak, and all the others noticed this. To be honest, I also had doubts about his success, but I understood that, as his second, I was simply obliged to list him in first place. As we later saw, my prognosis was correct.

The first two cycles of the event took place in the mountain resort of Bled, in the Alps, on the banks of the magical mountainside lake. The beautiful nature and fresh mountain air proved excellent medicine, and already after the first cycle, Tal was both feeling and looking much better than at the start. In addition, Koblents arrived, and after consulting, we agreed that Tal could now give it his all. Even so, after the second cycle it was Keres who was leading, with Misha half a point behind him. It was clear that the main battle for victory would be between these two.

In the third cycle, Tal demnstrated complete superiority over his opponents. He scored six points out of seven, leading the second-placed Keres by one and a half points. The other competitors were far behind. It was surprising how everything was going for Tal, and in tactical fights, he easily outplayed his opponents. The only game he could have lost was against Smyslov. However, in his opponent's time-trouble, having a piece less, he sacrificed a rook to force perpetual check.

The fourth and final cycle took place in Belgrade. In his game with Smyslov, Tal was again in trouble, and again had a piece less, but in time-trouble, he showed fantastic ingenuity and in tactical complications he even won. If someone had told me before the tournament, that in two games with the ex-world champion, and having a piece less in each, Tal would end up taking one and a half points, I would never have believed it.

There were not only four rounds to go, and Tal led Keres by two and a half points. It seemed that first place was decided. The task just consisted of not losing this advantage. But here, we committed a mistake. Misha faced his last encounter with Keres, and he had White. It was decided that he should play quietly, maintain equality, and try most of all not to lose. This piece of advice did not suite Tal, but unfortunately Koblents and I only realised this later. The game Tal-Keres proceeded as a slow manoeuvring battle. Step by step, Keres gradually increased his positional advantage, and step by step, Misha gave ground. The game was adjourned. In our analysis, we tried to get everything we could out of the position, but we could not find a draw. On resumption, Tal defended desperately, but Keres played the ending faultlessly and scored an important victory, reducing his deficit by a point.

Then it became clear to me that it was pointless to ask Tal to play quietly, and to interfere with his chosen path. What will be, will be! After another round, the penultimate, Tal was due to play Fischer. In this tournament Tal had already beaten the American three times. There could be no doubt that Fischer would try to restore some respectability to the score, and win at least one game, especially as he was White. And as you can understand, for the Rigan too, this game was of enormous significance. If he lost, Keres could catch him. In the process of preparing for the game, looking at the various very sharp Sicilian lines which Fischer usually played, we decided we would not duck the fight!

Nobody had any doubts that the game would be very sharp, and that Tal would have to balance on the precipice. But I believed in tal's lucky star, and that in the end it would turn out right. However, watching the balancing act taking place was beyond me. I only came into the playing hall after three hours of play. Misha had a completely winning position, and Koblents and Mikenas, who was Keres' second, were sitting down, holding their hearts, with sedative tablets in their mouths!

I must say as a witness, that the Candidates' Tournament was Tal's finest hour. Everything went right for him. Yes, he fell several times into difficult, even lost positions, but his ingenuity and unshakeable belief in himself enabled him to emerge unscathed.

At the closing ceremony, in front of a thousand spectators, Tal announced that in the world championship match, his first move would be 1.e2-e4! Of course, this seemed a little childish, but he was only 23 at the time."

-Yuri Averbakh, "Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes: The Personal Memoir of a Soviet Chess Legend" (New in Chess 2011), pp.120-123



...had his appendix removed. FIDE insisted he make it to Yugoslavia in time for the tournament. This allowed 10 days for recovery before traveling.



"I was not much troubled by the effects of the operation, apart from in a purely mechanical sense; during a game I did not feel inclined to stroll about, and I was unable to walk quickly. I was able to devote myself to the battle..."


Second cycle against Smyslov won "brilliancy prize"-

Round 8: Tal vs Smyslov, 1959 <1-0>

"...the attack... and the sacrifices in this game- which won the brilliancy prize- were pure improvisation."


"After a further three wins in a row, it was clear after the end of the second cycle (Standings after 2d cycle: Keres 10, Tal 9.5, Petrosian 8.5, Gligoric 8, Smyslov 6, Fischer 5.5, Benko 5, Olaffson 3.5) that if nothing extraordinary happened then either Keres or I would be the winner. The tournament moved on to Zagreb, but before this, a lightning event was held in Bled. I succeeded in winning it..."


<Round 16: Sunday 4th October 1959 Tal takes the lead for the first time. Gligoric stumbles in a complicated position against Tal. Benkö is unable to capitalise on his endgame advantage against Ólafsson. Petrosian and Fischer draw a complicated struggle that could have gone either way. Another complex struggle between Smyslov and Keres, and a draw is a fitting result.

Tal - Gligoric, 1-0 Tal vs Gligoric, 1959>


"I am now prepared to admit that in the 3d and 4th cycles Petrosian and I did not really play. This was a negative reaction to the practically unanimous comments in the press after our game from the second cycle ( Tal vs Petrosian, 1959 ). We had played seriously but then read the following opinion, which was not exactly complimentary to us:

'Of course, Tal and Petrosian are friends; there is nothing one can do about it, all their games finish in a draw.' This angered us, and we decided: 'Right, we'll show them how to really draw without a fight!' Over our next game we spent a total of 5 minutes, not more."


"I set ofF for the fourth cycle in Belgrade with a lead of 1.5 points.(Tal - 15˝ Keres - 14 Petrosian, Smyslov - 11˝ Gligoric - 10˝ Fischer - 8˝ Benkö - 6˝ Ólafsson - 6) Taking into account the fact that in my two most important games, with Smyslov and Keres, I had White, I assumed that this lead should suffice."


"I was leading by 2.5 points with five rounds to go (Tal - 17˝ Keres - 15 Smyslov, Petrosian - 12˝ Gligoric - 11 Fischer - 9 Ólafsson - 7˝ Benkö - 7). I had only to draw with my closest pursuer Keres, who at that moment was already resigned to taking second place, and victory was in the bag. I realised this perfectly well, but as White nevertheless decided to attempt, if possible, to make the score in our individual match 2-2. Here I found out, for the first time in my life, that to play simultaeously for two results... is not possible. I began with the intention of playing a complicated positional five-hour game, but then a couple of times I had a certain change of heart, and Keres very keenly sensed this indecision on my part. From around move 15, he himself began playing for a win. From inertia I avoided exchanges on a couple of moves, and when I made up my mind to play only for a draw, it proved to be too late. This win gained for Keres the prize for the 'Best Game.'

Two rounds later, the distance between us had narrowed to one point, and in the penultimate round I had to play the quite revitalised Fischer...( Fischer vs Tal, 1959 ) Aferwards I was told that Bobby had sworn in public to at least exact his revenge at the finish, so as to have the last word...

Fischer was playing very keenly and accurately, while Keres, 'scenting blood', had as Black set himself to do everything he could to crush Gligoric....( Gligoric vs Keres, 1959 )

However, Fischer, not wishing to remain a pawn down for long, hastened to reestablish material equality, and in doing so lost part of his advantage. On the 18th move I was faced with a choice: I could either go into a slightly inferior ending, or else I could accept a piece sacrifice, thereby subjecting myself to a very strong attack....


...I chose the second path, and within three moves the following famous position was reached.

After 21...Qxb8

click for larger view

It is famous, because it was here that a widely-known psychological duel took place between us.

Every player has his own habit: one will mirst make his move and then write it down, while another will do things the other way around.... Fischer first wrote down the move 22.Rae1!, without doubt the strongest, and wrote it not in his usual English notation but in European, almost Russian! Then he not very deftly pushed the scoresheet towards me. 'He's asking for an endorsement', I thought to myself, but how was I to react? To frown was impossible, if I smiled he would suspect 'trickery', and so I did the natural thing. I got up and began to calmly walk up and down the stage. I met Petrosian, made some joke to him, and he replied. The 15-year old Fischer, who was essentially still only a large child, sat with a confused expression on his face, looking first at the front row of the spectator where his second (Larsen) was sitting, and tehn at me. Then he wrote down another mofe: 22.Qc6+?

... I held on to my extra piece and adjourned the game in a won position. When I later asked Fischer why he hadn't played 22.Rae1, he replied: 'Well, you laughed at me when I wrote it down!'

-<Tal won, then drew Benko in the final round to win the tournament>


"In the third cycle, when we sat down at the board Benko, who had earlier suspected me of hypnotising him, took out of his pocket a pair of dark glasses and put them on. This 'innovation', like any that the opponent knows about beforehand, was met by a 'counter-stroke'. I had borrowed some enormous dark glasses from Petrosian, and following Benko I straight away put them on. Not only the spectators laughed, as well as the other participants and the controllers, but also Benko himself. Unlike me, however, he did not remove his glasses until as late as the twentieth move, by which time his position was already hopeless."


Mikhail Tal, "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal" Cadogan, 1997



Benko had a job in the US in a brokerage firm.


"I did reasonably well... in the Zagreb Candidates Tournament, though I didn't prepare at all. In fact, I was already working in teh U.S. before Zagreb and ws no longer able to pay much attention to chess. Who could? My job was very demanding- I had to rise at 6am every morning, fully concentrate on my duties, and also find teh time to study English."


"I arrived (in Zagreb) a week before the tournament started so I could get acclimatized. I didn't have an early reservation at the international hotel where the event was going to be held, so I found a smaller place to stay while waiting for everything to begin. This hotel officially cost $1.25 a day, but on the black market you could arrange a price of one dollar.


"I became acquainted with Fischer at... Portoroz... He was just a teenager at that time, a nice kid. Sometimes he would cry if he lost a game, and I quickly became fond of him, almost protective. Once I asked him what he wanted to be, and he said 'I want to be an international playboy, just like Benko!'


Pal Benko and Jeremey Silman "Pal Benko- My Life, Games and Compositions" (Siles Press 2003)




"Bobby's second... Bent Larsen... criticized his charge... Larsen told Bobby 'Most people think you are unpleasant to play against.'...'You walk funny'... 'And you are ugly.' Bobby insisted that Larsen wasn't joking and that the insults 'hurt.' His self-esteem and confidence seemed to have slipped a notch."

"Bobby... was livid at the seeming collusion: 'I will teach those dirty Russians a lesson they won't forget for a long time,' he wrote from the Hotel Toplice."

"Tal's gestures and staring infuriated Fischer. He complained to the arbiter, but little was done... Whenever Tal rose from the board... he'd begin talking to the other Soviet players, and they enjoyed whispering about their or others' positions... Bobby couldn't understand why the chief arbiter didn't prevent this muttering..."

Fisher's letter to the arbiter:

'After the game is completed, analysis by the opponents must be prohibited to avoid disturbing the other players. Upon completion of the game, the Referee must immediately remove the chess pieces form the table to prevent analysis. We recommend that the organization prepare a special room for post-mortem analysis. The room must be completely out of earshot of all the participants.

-Robert J. Fischer, International Grandmaster

"Spectators, players, and journalists began asking how he could take two months off, September and October, during the school year to play in a tournament. Finally it was revealed: He'd dropped out of school."

"Just before Bobby and Tal were to play a third time, Bobby approached... Koblentz... and said... 'If Tal doesn't behave himself, I am going to smash out all of his front teeth.'"

(Bobby) "wrote: 'I am now in quite a good mood, and eating well. (Like) in Alic in Wonderland. Remember? The Red Queen cried before she got a piece of dirt in her eye. I am in a good mood before I win all of my games.'"

"His pocket money was running low after he lost seven traveler's checks, and he was having trouble extracting more from his mother.."

(Larsen) "kept discouraging him, telling him that he shouldn't expect to place higher than the bottom rank of those competing. When Larsen repeated this line publicly and it was published in the Belgrade newspaper 'Borba', Bobby was enraged and humiliated."

Frank Brady "Endgame" (Crown Publishers 2011) Chapter Five "The Gold War Gladiator."



"Petrosian travelled to the Candidates' tournament... with every intention of fighting for first place..." p.90

"It was precisely the uncompromising vigor of his rivals (Tal and Keres) which troubled Petrosian. He realized that one of teh two might not withstand the tension, but he could not suppose that this might happen to both. He began to reckon his chances of success as extremely small; and to act on the off-chance of success had never been a particular trait of Petrosian." p.91

Vik L. Vasiliev, "Tigran Petrosian- His Life and Games" Michael Basman transl. (Batsford 1974)



After Round Fourteen

"Smyslov's dragging pace... is quite the surprise of the tournament." p.345

After Round Twenty-One

"...Bobby's three losses to Tahl and half-point in three games with Petrosyan are spoiling what might otherwise be a strong bid." p.345

"Chess Review" (Nov 1959),


TheFocus: <Nosnibor> <WCCEP> With regard to the 1959 Candidates dates, I can confirm that the event ran from 6 September until 31 October 1959.> The last round was October 29. I have the Ragozin book in German and Russian; and the Golembek one in English. October 30 was put aside for adjournments, and the closing ceremony was on October 31. Golembek provides the dates for each round, but Ragozin does not.

Tabanus: <Can anyone help us with a newspaper report on this event from October 1959, particularly on what day the final round was played?> Well by now you should all know where to look: 1st round started 7 Sept., last round started 29 October (Keres-Olafsson was adjourned and finished 30 October).

Nosnibor: official tournament book edited by Gligoric and Ragosin.The book is "Turnir Kandidata 1959" The opening ceremony was 6 September and the prizes were distributed on 31 October.Immediately after this on November 1st Tal won a rapid play tournament with 18.5 points from 21 games,ahead of Petrosian,Keres,Averbach,Boleslavsky,Gligoric,Sm- yslov,Olafsson,Larsen et al

The results of the rapid play tournament I refered to are on the page following page 29.For some peculiar reason this page is not numbered and appears just before all of the biographies and photographs of all of the contestants.The next page that is actualy numbered is page 33 being the start of the first round results.


Suggested readings could include: (1) Game Collection: WCC Index (Candidates Tournament 1959) by User: Resignation Trap , (2)



Photo Bled

Photo Grand Hotel Toplice c1960


Smyslov vs Tal, 1959 
(B92) Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation, 65 moves, 1-0

1 game

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