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Boris Spassky vs Mikhail Tal
USSR Championship (1958)  ·  Nimzo-Indian Defense: Saemisch Variation (E26)  ·  0-1
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Nov-04-05  lopium: Ahahaha!! Seems Tal played for a draw and Spassky for a win!!! ahahazz!! Tal got the win and Spassky the loss.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: From the book "Tigran petrosian His Life & Games" by Vasiliev:

"Up until the 14th round Petrosian was in the leading group, then he drew level with the leader, Spssky, and after 16 rounds he was alone in first place. For a while he retained this position, but in the 18th - penultimate - round, Tal caught him up. [This championship was played in Riga] On the last day Averbakh vs Petrosian, 1958 was played and Tal, also black, played Spassky. Tal and Petrosian had 11, and Spassky and Averbakh had 10 (Bronstein had 11). The game with Averbakh was drawn in 22 moves, but full of concealed tensions. At one point Petrosian offered the sacrifice of a rook, but this was declined, and the game went back to equality. After Bronstein vs Korchnoi, 1958 was drawn, there remained only one game outstanding: Spassky-Tal. The position there arrived at approximate equality, and black proposed a draw, which would have allowed him to share 1st-2nd places with Petrosian. However, Spassky declined, and the game was later adjourned with winning chances for him. "On his way to the tournament hall the following morning Spassky met Petrosian, and with a smile said: 'Today you will become champion.' [I.e. Spassky would win.] "Petrosian did not reply - nor even return the smile. "For most of the second session Spassky energetically pursued the black king, and at one point could have played a decisive combination. But, overlooking this possibility, he gradually lost the initiative. He nonetheless continued to play for the attack, and very soon Black was attacking. Spassky went down to defeat [as the more attentive of readers will already have observed]. Thus Petrosian was not even able to share first place, let alone become sole champion. And Spassky deprived himself of a place in the interzonal tournament...."

An example of the seismic effects that a single game can have.

Nov-05-05  percyblakeney: In games played before 1972 Spassky had 9-2 in wins against Tal in this database, and it could have been 10-1... There are more than six pages on this game in OMGP III, at the end Kasparov writes:

<As a result of this game the 'devilishly lucky' Tal finished half a point ahead of Petrosian and was carried from the stage by his madly delighted supporters, while the 'emotionally unstable' Spassky, furtively wiping away his tears, retired downcast behind the scenes. What drama - to remain the 'unlucky fifth'! The collapse of all his hopes...

After this truly historic encounter the roads to the top of these friends and rivals diverged for a long time. Tal soared upwards like a comet, he brilliantly won the Interzonal, and the Candidates tournament, and the match with Botvinnik. Whereas Spassky, by contrast, missed out on the whole battle for the world crown for six whole years>

Premium Chessgames Member
  dakgootje: pretty nice game, good example that youll have to consider a draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  meloncio: Kasparov also says that, 'according to one eyewitness' (who?), Spassky offered a draw after move 64.Rc8, but Tahl declined moving 64... Qa6 and just saying "Let's play a little more".
Aug-17-06  Eatman: In his 1961 book "In whirlwind of chess battles", Koblenz (Tal's long time second and teacher who was at the game) also mentions that Spassky offered the draw after Rc8.
Mar-14-08  Cibator: Was Spassky wanting to avoid a play-off with Averbakh for the fourth Interzonal slot? That was the prospect if he drew the Tal game - but he had a 2.5-0.5 record against Averbakh up to that point, so it seems unlikely.
Mar-14-08  Cibator: Lots of discussion about Spassky's missed win, but just where did he let the draw slip away?

In "The Delights of Chess", p95, Assiac puts a question mark by White's 64th (and a sparkle-mark for Tal's reply), but doesn't give any analysis. Did Spassky suddenly realise this was a mistake, hence the draw offer?

Anyway, after 64...Qa6, White is suddenly unable to prevent an invasion of his K-side. The R alone is helpless, and the Q is stuck in a remote corner without even any checks available.

Mar-14-08  whatthefat: <Cibator: In "The Delights of Chess", p95, Assiac puts a question mark by White's 64th (and a sparkle-mark for Tal's reply), but doesn't give any analysis. Did Spassky suddenly realise this was a mistake, hence the draw offer?>

From studying my own games, I'm vastly more likely to make an error on a move where I offer the draw. I think it's due to the psychology of temporarily disconnecting from the game and considering the possibility of an immediate result.

Tal perhaps saw some poetic justice in rejecting Spassky's draw offer to win, after Spassky had earlier rejected his own offer.

Jul-30-08  dTal: Tal also mentions this game in his outstanding "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal". Spassky needed to win this in order to avoid a play off with Averbakh for a place in the Interzonal. A draw would have resulted in the playoff, and for a long time he pressed. Tal had a couple of adjourned games and he turned up quite tired for the final session. Apparently Spassky was also tired, and he was feverishly drinking "Kefir" (a yoghurt drink) from the buffet.

Tal was quite bad throughout almost the whole game, and he describes how Spassky could initially press for a win without risk, but gradually there came a point when he either had to force a draw, or risk all three possible outcomes. He still kept going for the win, but eventually got nervous and quickly lost. Somewhere at this point Tal refused a draw offer, slightly miffed by an earlier refusal of a draw offer he himself had made (I am not 100% sure of this, I have to check the book which is not next to me right now) and also enticed by the possibility of retaining the title of champion of the Soviet Union before his adoring home fans, who (rightly) considered him the cat's whiskers. So Spassky didnt even get the playoff.

Tal also describes how he was somewhat ambivalent (my word) about the victory, depriving as it did Spassky's chances, because as he put it, he "always had some sympathy for Boris". Spassky understood this, and the pair always remained good friends, probably the two most sportsmanlike and gentlemanly WCs ever.

Oct-10-08  Whitehat1963: Treacherous on both sides. Great game!
Oct-10-08  Jim Bartle: At what move was the adjournment?
Mar-28-09  AlbertoDominguez: The adjournment was after Black's 45th move. 46.Qf4 was sealed.
Premium Chessgames Member
  wwall: In an interview with Leonard Barden, Spassky said this of the game. "The game was adjourned, and I had a good position; but I was very tired from analyzing and went to resume next morning unshaven. On this occasion I had analyzed incessantly and came to the board looking very disheveled and fatigued. Then I was like a stubborn mule. I remember that Tal offered me a draw, but I refused. Then I felt my strength ebb away, and I lost the thread of the game. My position deteriorated; I proposed a draw, but Tal refused. When I resigned, there was a thunder of applause, but I was in a daze and hardly understood what was happening. After this game I went on the street and cried like a child. I remembered that in 1951 when I lost to Smyslov in his clock simultaneous was the last time I cried, and I promised myself then never to cry again; but after losing to Tal I couldn't keep my word."
Dec-20-09  zanshin: At deeper plies, Rybka evaluates <57.Qb8> higher:

click for larger view

[+5.72] d=15 57.Qb8 (0:22.09) 38702kN
[+0.60] d=13 57.Rc8 Ra6 58.Qe5 Qe6 59.Rc7 Kd8 60.Qxe6 fxe6 61.Rg7 Ra2 62.Kg3 Ra4 63.Rxg6 Ke7 64.Kf4 Kf7 65.Rh6 (0:00.39) 703kN ...

[+0.34] d=5 57.g3 Qc7 (0:00.00) 3kN

Premium Chessgames Member
  sevenseaman: Who'd think Tal to work so hard for a win!
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: funny, Tal wins by trapping his own King!
Jul-31-11  DrMAL: In his book, Tal mentions winning this last round game would give him clear first place, while a win for Spassky would make certain he qualified for the upcoming Interzonal. This explains the incessant battling of clearly drawn positions.

Tal gave 55...h5! an exclamation mark stating, "The attempt to give perpetual would be unsuccessful" and apparently Spassky's notes claimed a win with 58.g4! In reality, 55...h5?? was a totally losing move. They both missed 57.Qb8! Then after 57.Rc8? Rd6?? losing again Spassky started with the strongest move 58.Qf8+! but then played 59.Re8? for a draw again (missed 59.Qh8+ or 59.g4 for a quick win either way).

After several more moves of again pounding on a draw, Spassky blundered with 67.g3?? (instead of 67.g4 the only move) Tal missed 67...Qa6! playing 67...Rg1? for continued draw.

But then after 69.Rc2? yet another mistake (this time merely losing a pawn not the game), Spassky moved 70.Rf2?? and this last blunder (actually, forced mate) was finally punished. Comedy of errors mostly unnoticed back then, oh the drama of such an important game for both!

Jul-31-11  cwcarlson: After 65.Qd8 White is not losing.
Feb-25-12  AlphaMale: A bespectacled and bowtied Spassky before the start of this fateful game:

Pictures and game commmentary here:

By 1960, Spassky cut a more familiar figure:

Feb-25-12  Penguincw: It's an all new ending when the queens are born again on the board.
Oct-30-12  wildrookie: f5 was like the last nail to the White's coffin.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: One of those games that goes Opening - Middlegame - Endgame then back to Middlegame.
Oct-11-14  thulium: What's wrong with 61.....RxR?
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <thulium> 61...Rxe8?? 62.Qg5+ Ke6 63.Qe5#.
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