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Bent Larsen vs Mikhail Tal
Tal - Larsen Candidates Semifinal (1965), Bled YUG, rd 9, Aug-06
English Opening: Symmetrical. Mecking Variation (A39)  ·  1/2-1/2


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Kibitzer's Corner
Oct-19-05  Poisonpawns: Another complicated gm from their 1965 match.A tactical melee like in gm 7 after 23..Rf8 Larsen played 24.Rxd6 but after 24.Bxh6 it seems black is in trouble but the mating threats keep in safe 24.Bxh6 Bxh6 25.Qxh6+ Kg8 26.Qe3 Qxe3 27.fxe3= now 24...g5!? (Re2)25.Bxg5 Be5 26.Be3!(Qxh6 only draws)if Rc6? Bh2!! wins 27.Kxh2 Rxf2+ Larsen must be winning after 26.Be3
Now after 26..Bxd6 i like 27.Qxh6+ Kg8 28.Qg5+ Kh7 29.Qh4+ Kg8 30.Bd4 f6 31.Nxe6 it is complicated though.It seems the text is winning also but Larsen doesnt land the knockout blow.It is amazing that Tal survived this attack to end with a book drawn rook and pawn ending.
Jun-27-09  percyblakeney: Larsen reached the candidates semifinals three times in a row, and against Tal in 1965 he came closest to the final. After eight games the match was even and here in the ninth game Tal saves a lost position, one of the wins Larsen missed seems to be 36. Rd1 Ke6 37. f4 Rxh5 38. Rd5 and with best play white will soon win.
Premium Chessgames Member
  4tmac: 55. Ke7! wins as it keeps black out of d8
Dec-03-10  acme: I'm not so sure. What if black just plays 55 ...Re3?

The white rook will have to fall back to a4 and the pawn can't advance without the king's support.

Premium Chessgames Member
  4tmac: This difficult ending is unfortunately :) relatively common. The rook comes back to a4 and then plays c4+ driving the black King to the b file. Note that it's best to do this "anyway" (say after 55.Ke7! Rh3) as black threatens to win the rook & the game by the skewer Rh7+. BTW, Tal should have played 51. ..Kd8 avoiding this problem and Larsen would not have been able to play Ke7!. As I have no other reference to this game on hand I am not 100% sure the game score is correct. ;)
Premium Chessgames Member
  sfm: I was surprised that Larsen didn't play the obvious 67.Ke7, so I visited the tablebase at
According to that, 67.Ke7 wins, so does Kf7, but all other moves are at most a draw.

These moves are very obvious, allowing the pawn to advance and shutting out the black king.

Blacks previous move 66.-,Rb3?? is a losing move, while 66.-,Rh3 is drawing, as the only move.

Not easy to believe that two of the largest brains in chess history made such simple mistakes, so maybe the game score is not correct as suggested.

Premium Chessgames Member
  sfm: According to same table-base, moves as played:
54.Kd6! - only winning move
55.Ke6? - Ke7 was winning
59.-,Rh1! - only move keeping the draw
66.-,Rb3? - gives White the win again
67.Rf8? - throws away the win, Ke7 won
67.-,Re3! - only drawing move
and from here the game stays a draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  sfm: After 55.Ke7,Rh3! is the strongest defense. White still wins with 56.Ra1 - not easy to understand, but playing through with the table base it is demonstrated.

When I wrote about "simple mistakes" I meant "mistakes in a simple position". Still my mistake, as it is anything else than simple.

Jan-15-12  Karpova: Mikhail Tal: <When, after the game, Koblents asked Larsen to comment on the move 24...g5, the Dane replied:

'For several minutes I thought that Tal had gone mad!'

Indeed, there is no other word for this move but mad.>

From page 302 of Tal, Mikhail 'The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal', London, 1997

Nov-04-13  RookFile: Wonderful resistance by Tal in a tough situation.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: In the afor mentioned book 'The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal' Tal talks about the adjourned position from this game.

"Larsen was a pawn ahead with a good position , and could do what he liked.

The one thing that we were able to find in analysis was a rather simple trap. Larsen fell for it!"

I've just been looking for this trap.

Assuming the game was adjourned just after move 40 the only thing I can find is here; Larsen to play his 47th move.

click for larger view

White's previous play indicates he has singled out the weak a-pawn and can now take it.

But if he does. 47.Rxa5 Rxd2+ and Bb4+ wins. (is that the simple trap?)

Larsen did not take the a-pawn, Black position has improved and a so-called theorectical draw was reached, though Tal does say before then both sides made mistakes. (he does not give this game in the book.)

Do you think I have found the trap or is there another lurking. It has to be within move 40 to keep it within range of credible adjourned analysis.


Nov-29-15  Howard: So, Larsen missed at least one win in this rook endgame! It could have made the difference,as far as the match result.
Dec-01-15  Howard: This was Game 9 in a 10-game match, and the score was tied after eight games. If Larsen had won this game...need I say more?
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