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Ratmir Kholmov vs Mikhail Tal
"A Star is Born" (game of the day Apr-14-2014)
Simul (1949), Riga LAT
Semi-Slav Defense: Botvinnik Variation (D44)  ·  0-1
ANALYSIS [x]

FEN COPIED

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Sep-11-10
Premium Chessgames Member
  sisyphus: In "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal," he gives an alternative line for White: <If 20 R-N1 RxQBP!>. (That isn't the best defense, of course.)

As long as I'm putting my two cents in, 8.Bxf6 hands the advantage to Black. Perhaps the Botvinnik Variation wasn't as well known then as it is today.

Nov-09-11  DrMAL: First game in Life and Games of Tal book he was only 12 years old (not 13 yet as post above states) and playing in simul, where, as another post above states, opponent was master. And he finds himself in Botvinnik variation, wow! Fortunately, white played weaker version with 8.Bxf6 instead of 8.Bh4 for some analysis on the latter see my posts in early October starting with Kasparov vs G Timoshchenko, 1981. This does not "hand advantage to black" as post above states; actually it is equal game then, 8.Bh4 keeps advantage with white. 9.exf6 recapturing pawn simplified a bit more but opening was still complicated, with this instead of 9.g3 maybe black could have started to get some edge here (after 9...Qxf6 or 9...Bb7 or 9...Nd7 not 9...Bb4 played).

White's lead widened with 11...Bxc3?! instead of 11...Bb7 or 11...Nd7 but theory for this opening was not yet developed back then (one could hardly expect anyone let alone young boy to figure it all out OTB). 13.a4! was strong move, idea is to open Q-side so that black cannot safely castle there (either). At this point 14.Nd2 or 14.Rb1 would have been strong. Instead, white opened center with 14.Ne5?! giving advantage to Tal via 16...Rd8! played. Here, 17.Qc2?! was small inaccuracy (17.Qc1) but after 17...Rd3! 18...axb5?! seemingly innocuous move was another error (18.Rfe1) and Tal started winning combination with 18.Rxf3!! Here is eval on move 18. Tal's 19...Qxb5 was small inaccuracy but 20.gxf3? stepped into M5.

Houdini_20_x64: 27/86 13:31 8,608,288,140
-0.55 18.Rfe1 Qxc3 19.Qxc3 Rxc3 20.axb5 Rxf3
-1.32 18.axb5 Rxf3 19.Rxa7 Rxc3 20.Qb2 Bc8
-3.66 18.Qb1 Rxf3 19.gxf3 Rg8+ 20.Kh1 Qd5

Twelve year old boy playing Botvinnik variation against master and surviving is already amazing. But Tal's ability to spot tiny errors and win from them in such complications was even more impressive. Soviets were impressed with Fischer decade or so later when he played Tal, but Fischer was mostly just entertaining to Soviets whose attitude was something like, "very nice but we already have one, in fact he is already youngest ever WC!" (or about to be).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TAL!

Nov-09-11  AnalyzeThis: White didn't know what he was doing in the opening, and paid the price.
Nov-10-11  DrMAL: I'm not sure how much anyone knew about Botvinnik variation in 1949. White played well for a simul game, this opening requires time to calculate moves. But Tal's play at any age was great, it is totally amazing he was only 12!
May-27-12  MarkFinan: Wow!! Simul, or no simul, Tal plays great... I think I'm gonna declare him my favourite 'old player' after going through this and a few other of his early 49-50 Tal games..

He was 12 years old here (apparently <DrMal> ;)), and the ONLY other players games that iv'e looked at, and been kinda mesmorised with at that age are Carlsens...

Both Geniuses, It comes so easy to Carlsen, just like It did to Tal... They make me jealous lol

Jul-31-12  JCRchess: Not to take anything away from Tal. He's an all-time great, someone whose play I've been a fan of and admired for decades. I can't help but feel as though 14.) Ne5? is one of those moves that GM Kholmov must have been wondering about why he found himself committing to it.
Jan-28-14  kontoleon: my chessmaster the grandmaster editions desasgree to many moves by both players...

11.h3 Qxg2 12.Rh2 Bxf2+ 13.Kd1 Qxh2 14.Nxh2 Bc5 15.Nxc5 bxc5 16.Qd6 f6, which wins a rook, a knight, and two pawns for a queen and a bishop. Better is h6, leading to 11.Bd2 Bb4 12.Bxb4 Nxb4 13.Qe2 Nbd5 14.O-O Nf4 15.Nd6+ Kf8, which wins a bishop for a bishop. (trap Queen)

11...f6 12.h3 Qf5 13.g4 Qg6 14.Bf4 O-O 15.Nxc5 bxc5, which wins a bishop for a knight. Better is h3, leading to 11...Qxg2 12.Rh2 Bxf2+ 13.Kd1 Qxh2 14.Nxh2 Bc5 15.Nxc5 bxc5 16.Qd6 f6, which wins a queen and a bishop for a rook, a knight, and two pawns.

Leads to 12.h3 Qf5 13.g4 Ne5 14.gxf5 Nxd3+ 15.Bxd3 Nxf5 16.Nxc5 bxc5 17.Bxf5 exf5 18.Rhe1, which wins a queen, a bishop, a knight, and a pawn for a queen, a bishop, and two knights. Better is f6, leading to 12.h3 Qf5 13.g4 Qg6 14.Bf4 O-O 15.Nxc5 bxc5, which wins a knight for a bishop.

Yikes! Hangs the bishop at f6. Leads to 12...Nb4 13.Qe2 Qf4+ 14.Kb1 gxf6 15.g3 Qf5 16.Nd4 Qe5 17.Nb3, which loses a bishop. Much better is h3, leading to 12...Qf5 13.g4 Ne5 14.gxf5 Nxd3+ 15.Bxd3 Nxf5 16.Nxc5 bxc5 17.Bxf5 exf5 18.Rhe1, which wins a queen, a bishop, and two knights for a queen, a bishop, a knight, and a pawn. This was white's most serious miscue, but white was able to stay close and eventually mated.

Leads to 18...Nce5 19.Qe2 Nxc4 20.Nh3 Na3+ 21.bxa3 Qe5 22.Qf3 Bb7 23.Nf6+ Kh8 24.Qxb7 Qxf6, which wins a bishop and a knight for a bishop and a knight. Better is Qh3, leading to 18...Qh4 19.Qxh4 Nxh4 20.Nf6+ Kh8 21.Ngxh7 Rd8 22.Ng5 Rxd1+ 23.Rxd1, which wins a queen, a rook, and a pawn for a queen and a rook.

Leads to 19.Qc3 Be7 20.h5 Ne5 21.Rhg1 Kh8 22.Nf3 Nc6 23.Nxe5 Nxe5, which wins a knight for a knight. Better is Nce5, leading to 19.Qe2 Nxc4 20.Nh3 Na3+ 21.bxa3 Qe5 22.Qf3 Bb7 23.Nf6+ Kh8 24.Qxb7 Qxf6, which wins a bishop and a knight for a bishop and a knight.

Pins own pawn at f7. Leads to 20.Qg2 Be7 21.Nxf7 Bf5 22.Nfd6+ Kh8 23.Nxf5 Qxf5 24.h5, which wins a knight for a bishop and a pawn. Better is h6, leading to 20.Qf3 Qxf3 21.Nxf3 Bb7 22.Nfd2 Rad8 23.Rhg1 Bxe4 24.Nxe4 Rxd1+ 25.Rxd1 Nxh4, which wins a queen, a rook, a knight, and a pawn for a queen, a rook, and a bishop.

Leads to 21.h5 Be7 22.hxg6 Bxg6 23.Nxh7 Qxe4 24.Qxe4 Bxe4 25.Rdg1+ Kh8 26.Nxf8+ Bxh1 27.Rxh1+ Kg8, which wins a queen, a rook, a knight, and a pawn for a queen, a rook, a bishop, a knight, and a pawn. Better is Be7, leading to 21.Nxf7 Bf5 22.Nfd6+ Kh8 23.Nxf5 Qxf5 24.h5, which wins a knight for a bishop and a pawn.

Black steps into the forced mate. Much better is Bxc2+. Qxf2 leads to 26.Ne6+ Kxf7 27.Qg7+ Kxe6 28.Rh6+ Bg6 29.Qxg6+ Ke7 30.Rh7+ Kf8 31.Qg7+ Ke8 32.Qxe5+ Be7 33.Qxe7# and checkmate. This was black's most crucial mistake. White didn't carry the mate through just yet, but was later able to mate.

Maybe my computer Play much more from material...

Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: Does the "pun" have a ref. to 'Ratner's Star'? Not sure what the connection is (except Ratner/Ratmir) though except the book by Delillo is pretty crazy with a boy maths genius in it...

Quite a nice game typical of a young attacking player.

One of the first book of games I got in 1962 or so was P.H. Clarke's book of Tal's games. I don't think I have ever played them all through. Some of the positions remind me of those of the younger Anand - excruciatingly complex. It's almost as if Clarke put too many variations in the book. But it and his book on Petrosian were good to have.

Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Prudov: < Richard Taylor: Does the "pun" have a ref. to 'Ratner's Star'?> Ratmir is a character from a famous opera by Glinka (after Pushkin) who sets out to free the maiden Ludmila, but takes the wrong path and fails.
Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: Fascinating stuff. We have an experienced Master playing a simul versus a 12 year old Tal.

For the most part, the Master follows the text book advice for playing simuls. He keeps the play relatively simple and aims for strategic holes that he can exploit with minimal calculation. After 13. Bb7 we arrive here:


click for larger view

Fritzie calls this mostly level with a barely perceptible edge to white. But I imagine that Kholmov was pretty happy at this point. His own king is "safely" castled, he is nearly developed and has few weaknesses. By contrast, black is going to find it hard to castle and he has weak pawns all over the board.

Kholmov probably looked over the board at the 12 year old facing him and thought that the rest was going to be easy. Open lines against the uncastled black king, double rooks on an open file, pressurise weak black pawns. Something is bound to give.

And that probably explains white's next few moves. He sacrifices a pawn for activity and a soupcon of an attack. A mini attack. An attack lite.

14. Ne5? Nxe5 15. dxe5 Qxe5 16. Bf3


click for larger view

This is the position that Kholmov wanted. His Bf3 pressurises the weak c6 pawn, the open d file stops black from castling long, the black Qe5 could get harassed by Re1. He probably reckoned that all that was worth a pawn, especially against a kid.

Roll on a few more moves. 16...Rd8 17. Qc2 Rd3 18. axb5


click for larger view

I imagine that Kholmov is still happy here. He has strong pressure against the black queenside with threats against a7 and c6. 18...Rxc3 is met by 19. Qb2 pinning the rook.

The move that wins from here is one that a 12 year old shouldn't be able to find. 18...Rxf3 turns the table. Suddenly we don't have a master playing low-risk chess and winning on autopilot. He is fighting for survival against a rabbit that bit back.

Fritzie agrees with <sfm>'s spot of eight years ago. White can stay in the game with 19. Rxa7 Qxb5 (19...Rxc3 was stronger) 20. Rxb7 Qxb7 21. gxf3.


click for larger view

The point is that the black queen can't get to the g file in one move to force mate.

Instead, Kholmov tries to keep his material but allows a mate. Tal finishes clinically with 20. gxf3? Qg5+ 21. Kh1 Rg8

A powerful game by a ridiculously young Tal. But I can't help thinking that Kholmov would have given a much better account of himself if it hadn't been a simul and if he had known in advance how strong his opponent was.

Who would have known that the rabbit would have had such sharp teeth?

Apr-14-14  BattleSquare: what happens if 20. Rb1 ? I donīt know chess deeply.
Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: That's a great question! 20. Rb1 seems to give black lots of problems...


click for larger view

Just about every black piece is threatened or could become threatened soon.

Fritzie finds 20...Rxc3!


click for larger view

However white responds, black will emerge a piece up - eg 21. Qd1 Rd3 22. Qf1 Rb3


click for larger view

That was not easy to spot.

Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Mate will follow by the queen at g2!
Apr-14-14  Strelets: I think the "star" refers to none other than the player with the black pieces-the twelve year old Misha Tal. As for White, Ratmir Kholmov was a formidable Soviet grandmaster who deserves to be better known, kind of a second Leonid Shtein. He had plus scores against Bronshtein, Petrosian, Korchnoi, and Ivkov (not to mention a defeat of Kasparov in their only game) and an equal record in games with Fischer, Karpov, Keres, and Taimanov. Incidentally, Tal would prove to be his most difficult opponent (+0 =17 -6).
Apr-14-14  Howard: Kholmov was probably one of the top 20 players in the world during the early-to-mid-60's. He certainly deserved to be better known---that is correct.
Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: The problem is Top Soviet GM's were a dime a dozen. There were a lot of people who could have been huge names if they'd grown up in some other country (Kholmov, Tolush, Furman, Nezhmetdinov, and others), but there were just too many bigger fish in the pond. Supply and Demand.
Apr-14-14  BattleSquare: To Once: Thanks for your comment
Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <DrMAL: Twelve year old boy playing Botvinnik variation against master and surviving is already amazing. But Tal's ability to spot tiny errors and win from them in such complications was even more impressive.>

This says it all--pure genius from a lad of twelve.

Apr-14-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: <Once> An excellent description of the thought process of a master playing a simul -- I think you get it mostly right. The exception, maybe, is Tal's exchange sac, which was obviously a real threat. Perhaps White believed that his counter-threats were sufficient.
Apr-14-14  BOSTER: After 13.Bb7 <Once> gave the diagram and wrote : <I imagine that Kholmov was pretty happy at this point>.

What is better to castle or to leave the king in the center if pawns block the center, where there is no hurry to do so.

My guess that Tal tried to disrupt Kholmov's logical play right from the opening.

In the pos. on the diagram ,where black has open "g" file, and very strong bishop on b7, a good pos. for his queen on f6 white has to think about defense, but not how to attack.

Maybe the good plan was to play Re1, Bf1,Re3.

Apr-14-14  celtrusco: Tribute to a genius.
Apr-15-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: <Prudov: < Richard Taylor: Does the "pun" have a ref. to 'Ratner's Star'?> Ratmir is a character from a famous opera by Glinka (after Pushkin) who sets out to free the maiden Ludmila, but takes the wrong path and fails.>

I had heard of that opera, and may even have heard it. I've read a book of Pushkin's poems and shorter plays translated by D. M. Thomas. They were great to read. Interesting the connections.

So the pun could have been something such as 'The path not taken...' Or some such thing.

Here Ratmir was hoping I think for an easy win and took the young Tal too casually so he went down the wrong pathway!

Apr-15-14  Moszkowski012273: Wish Tal had gone with 19...Rh3!
Aug-04-15  saturn2: I did not know this game so far. The three black subsequent rook moves 16-18 are really nice.
Aug-10-17  gars: A beautiful game!
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