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Mikhail Tal
Number of games in database: 2,829
Years covered: 1949 to 1992
Highest rating achieved in database: 2705

Overall record: +1118 -296 =1277 (65.3%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 138 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (344) 
    B43 B46 B32 B82 B96
 Ruy Lopez (254) 
    C95 C92 C96 C93 C84
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (162) 
    C92 C95 C93 C96 C84
 Caro-Kann (104) 
    B18 B17 B14 B12 B10
 French Defense (100) 
    C07 C18 C09 C05 C16
 English (94) 
    A15 A14 A13 A17 A16
With the Black pieces:
 Sicilian (327) 
    B43 B40 B46 B92 B22
 King's Indian (111) 
    E69 E92 E62 E80 E66
 Modern Benoni (84) 
    A56 A64 A61 A70 A62
 Nimzo Indian (81) 
    E48 E52 E56 E46 E53
 English (80) 
    A15 A14 A10 A13 A16
 Queen's Pawn Game (73) 
    A46 E10 A40 A41 E00
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Tal vs Larsen, 1965 1-0
   Tal vs Hjartarson, 1987 1-0
   Tal vs Smyslov, 1959 1-0
   Tal vs Hecht, 1962 1-0
   Tal vs Koblents, 1957 1-0
   Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960 0-1
   Tal vs Jack Miller, 1988 1-0
   M Bobotsov vs Tal, 1958 0-1
   Tal vs Karpov, 1987 1-0
   Spassky vs Tal, 1973 0-1

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Botvinnik - Tal World Championship Match (1960)
   Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   USSR Championship (1958)
   USSR Championship (1957)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Zurich (1959)
   Reykjavik (1964)
   Bled (1961)
   Palma de Mallorca (1966)
   Tallinn (1973)
   Riga Interzonal (1979)
   USSR Championship (1972)
   USSR Championship (1962)
   USSR Championship (1959)
   USSR Championship 1964/65 (1964)
   USSR Championship (1971)
   Amsterdam Interzonal (1964)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Tal Fever by chocobonbon
   Tal-ented Indeed is a FTB Understatement by fredthebear
   Match Tal! by amadeus
   Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973 by jessicafischerqueen
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by KingG
   Mikhail Tal: Selected Games by wanabe2000
   Tals Amazing ATTACKS!!! by Zhbugnoimt
   Tal king of chess by LESTRADAR
   The Magician, supplemental by Yopo
   remembering Tal by Yopo
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by Retarf
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by nakul1964
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by newfiex
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by MoonlitKnight

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Mikhail Tal
Search Google for Mikhail Tal

(born Nov-09-1936, died Jun-28-1992, 55 years old) Latvia
[what is this?]

Mikhail Nekhemievich Tal was born in Riga, Latvia (annexed by the USSR in 1940). At six, he learned chess from his father, a medical doctor (source: Tal interview in <Chess Life>, May 1967). Tal won his first Latvian Championship in 1953, and earned the title of Soviet Master the following year. In 1957, aged twenty, he became the youngest-ever Soviet Champion. In 1960, following a string of victories in strong tournaments (including a second consecutive Soviet Championship, the Portorož Interzonal and the Candidates in Yugoslavia), Tal became the youngest World Chess Champion with a match victory over Mikhail Botvinnik. This record was broken by Garry Kasparov in 1985. Suffering from poor health, Tal lost the rematch with Botvinnik in 1961. He never qualified for a title match again.

Tal continued to struggle with health problems for the rest of his career, which was often marked by inconsistent results. On a number of occasions, however, he was still able to achieve world-class successes. Tal added four more Soviet Championship victories to his resume (in 1967, 1972, 1974, and 1978), equalling Botvinnik's all-time record of six. In 1979, he won joint first place at Montreal with Anatoly Karpov, briefly climbing back to second place in the world rankings and becoming only the third player after Fischer and Karpov to reach a rating of 2700.* In 1988, Tal won the World Blitz Championship. He died of renal failure in 1992, at the age of 55.

Paul Keres was a font of inspiration for him and Tal won three Keres Memorials: 1977, 1981, and 1983. Renowned for his aggressive, sacrificial playing style, Tal was also a noted chess journalist and author. In his autobiography, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, he annotates 100 of his greatest games.

A list of books about Tal can be found at

Wikipedia article: Mikhail Tal

A chronological list of Tal's Tournaments and Matches 1949-1973: Game Collection: Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973


Last updated: 2018-07-24 17:47:20

 page 1 of 114; games 1-25 of 2,829  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. J Klavins vs Tal 0-1181949RigaC10 French
2. Tal vs J I Zilber 1-0331949RigaC07 French, Tarrasch
3. A Nevitsky vs Tal 0-1431949Semi Finals Youth ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
4. Kholmov vs Tal 0-1211949SimulD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
5. Tal vs M Strelkov 1-0161949RigaC10 French
6. Tal vs Ripatti ½-½411949RigaB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
7. Tal vs Leonov 1-0251949RigaB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
8. A Parnas vs Tal 0-1291949RigaC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
9. Tal vs C Weldon 1-0651949VilniusB40 Sicilian
10. Leonov vs Tal 0-1341950URSE17 Queen's Indian
11. Lavrinenko vs Tal 0-1381950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
12. Ivanov vs Tal 1-0251950URSC90 Ruy Lopez, Closed
13. K Klasup vs Tal ½-½411950RigaD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
14. Tal vs Pliss 1-0371950RigaC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
15. Jullik vs Tal 0-1391950RigaA16 English
16. Tal vs N Darsniek 0-1261950RigaC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
17. Tal vs Miglan 1-0211950URS jrC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
18. Tal vs J Klavins 1-0541950Latvian jr ChampB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
19. Pakala vs Tal 0-1291950RigaD02 Queen's Pawn Game
20. Tal vs Sodell 0-1231950URSC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
21. Liepin vs Tal 0-1441950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
22. Tal vs T Zeids 1-0291951RigaD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
23. Tal vs S Giterman 1-0631951LeningradD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
24. Tal vs Gipslis 1-0241951RigaE30 Nimzo-Indian, Leningrad
25. Tal vs J Fride 1-0401951RigaB28 Sicilian, O'Kelly Variation
 page 1 of 114; games 1-25 of 2,829  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Tal wins | Tal loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 113 OF 113 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: One looks at a typical FIDE rating list from the 1960's and '70's and finds only about 10 players 2600 or above. It takes no Einstein to compare that to today's top ratings to see that rating inflation is somewhere about 100 points. Probably a much more interesting question is whether, say, an 1800 player today equates to one of that rating in, say, 1970.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <andy>, true, yet there are those who persist in proclaiming that 2600 nowadays is impressive, when that figure and a couple quid get a coffee at the corner shop, not an invitation to an elite event. 'Course, even 2700 doesn't get you there most of the time, for more than one reason.
Feb-11-19  nok: Funny how AK & I, each in our own style and number of keystrokes, get about the same result.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Violin sonata>

I'm actually not sure how many FIDE rated players there were in 1970, but it's safe to say significantly fewer than there are today. If so, "top 10" today is a higher percentile ranking than it was in 1970, which invalidates some of the arguments above.

But roughly speaking, <in the 1970s to 1980s, a rating of 2700 like a rating of 2800 in nowadays> by some definition of the terms.

Feb-11-19  nok: You weren't rated below 2200 then so percentiles aren't of much help.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: Under any reasonable assumptions, "top 10 out of 300,000 players" is a greater distinction than "top 10 out of 100,000 players." If we treat "top 10" as some kind of fixed benchmark, we'd need to explain how we take that into account.
Feb-11-19  nok: Top 10 is easy to grasp as it's roughly what's considered candidates' level. If you're saying yesteryear's top 10 is closer to today's top 30, well maybe. What's 40 points between friends.
Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: <perf> Thank you.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<perfidious> are those who persist in proclaiming that 2600 nowadays is impressive>

I don't know your rating but for to me a rating of 2600+ is indeed impressive, and a rating of 2700+ is even more impressive! The current FIDE rating list (Feb-2019) has 168,346 <active> rated players and 159,590 <inactive> rated players for a total of 327,937 rated players (FIDE starting reporting the number of active and inactive rated players separately in 1991). The active list contains 42 players rated 2700+ and 247 rated 2600+, about 0.026% and 0.155% respectively. Among the inactive players only Kasparov and Leinier-Dominguez are rated 2700+, about 0.00125% and there are 23 players (including Kasparov and Leinier-Dominguez) are rated 2600+, about 0.0144%, both a much smaller percentage than for the active players. The effect of ratings inflation perhaps?

So, on a percentage basis, the number of active players rated 2700+ and 2600+ seems impressive to me, although you're right in that having a 2600+ or even a 2700+ rating does not guarantee an invitation to a top international tournament, although it certainly helps. Still, I think it's an impressive accomplishment to have reached those rating levels even though it won't pay your bills.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<nok> Funny how AK & I, each in our own style and number of keystrokes, get about the same result.>

I don't know, I've been saying the same thing for several years so perhaps you were subliminally influenced by reading my repeated posts on the subject. You certainly never presented any data to back up what you said. On what did you base your opinion?

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<beatgiant> I'm actually not sure how many FIDE rated players there were in 1970, but it's safe to say significantly fewer than there are today.>

I'm sure by looking at the FIDE rating lists, and you can check it by downloading the small spreadsheet whose link I posted in my forum's header. At 1970 year-end there were 547 rated players and, as I mention in my response to <perfidious> above, in the current FIDE rating list there are 168,346 active rated players and 159,590 inactive players.

<If we treat "top 10" as some kind of fixed benchmark, we'd need to explain how we take that into account.>

What do you mean "we", Kemo Sabey? <Violin Sonata>'s original question referred to players rated 2700 from the 1970s to the 1980s and players rated 2800 today. Certainly in the 1970s to 1980s being rated 2700+ put you in the top 10 rated players in the world just like today being rated 2800+ put you in the top 10 rated players in the world. What relevance do the other 300,000+ rated players have that needs to be taken into account?

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <AylerKupp>
A rating is an indicator of relative performance. All else being equal, the 10th rank out of 160,000 is a higher relative performance than the 10th rank out of 550.

To account for that, we could compare more than 10 today versus 10 in 1970 by using some scaling method, or we could state our special assumptions about the distribution of performances at the top to explain why it still makes sense to use only 10.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <AylerKupp>
I invite you to my forum for any further math discussions.
Feb-12-19  nok: <perhaps you were subliminally influenced by reading my repeated posts> Or not.

<You certainly never presented any data to back up what you said.> Maybe my post was too short and you blinked. First, I think Violin was talking about 1980, when Tal got to 2700. I said he was +100 over #10 ie. candidate level. That would be 2860 today.

<beat>'s argument is the pool may be denser now, which makes sense but isn't that obvious. You can't reason on total number on players because there used to be a cutoff at 2200.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<nok> First, I think Violin was talking about 1980, when Tal got to 2700>

I don't know why you would think that since <Violin sonata> explicitly said "so i just found out that in the 1970s to 1980s, a rating of 2700 like a rating of 2800 in nowadays" that this meant that he was talking only about 1980 and Tal in particular. Why would you think that?

And, yes, you said that because Tal's rating was about 2700 in 1980 (and he wasn't, he was rated 2705 in 1979 and 2555 in 1980, a 150 rating point drop in only 1 year) and he was rated 100 points over the #10 rated player (Gheorghiu) that he would be 2860 today.

How did you come up with that rating of 2860? Did you just make it up because it seemed like a good number? I can't see any basis for you reaching that conclusion. And how would the hypothetical rating growth of <one> player have any significant influence on the hypothetical ratings growth of <all> the other players? Is it just because you decided to post that magic number in Tal's page?

Feb-15-19  nok: <a rating of 2700 like a rating of 2800 in nowadays" that this meant that he was talking only about 1980 and Tal in particular. Why would you think that?> A wild guess is that we're on Tal's page.

<he was rated 2705 in 1979 and 2555 in 1980>

<How did you come up with that rating of 2860?>
Read it again, Sam. Mikhail Tal (kibitz #2827)

Feb-19-19  Violin sonata: first of all I want to apologize because the arguments I made above are not based on concrete sources (it is just my opinion), but after I searched on internet, this is what I found on wikipedia, although there is no list in the year of 1980.

<A rating is an indicator of relative performance.> but I would agree with <beatgiant>

Jul-22-19  diagonal: A sad moment for Mikhail Tal, the <Great Attacker>, last week-end he lost his NOTABLE GAMES, NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS, and GAME COLLECTIONS on Chessgames.

Apparently the same day as Viktor Korchnoi, the <Great Counter-Attacker>, who is now dismantled, too.

Premium Chessgames Member
  James Demery: I just saw that diagonal. I wonder what happened? Tal was a World Champion. VK was never WC, but he was a great player! Both players had some great games.
Jul-22-19  diagonal: They belong, indubitably, to the greatest chess players of modern times.

Hope, <Chessgames> fix these bugs soon.

Aug-17-19  fabelhaft: Tal and Kasparov played a blitz match in December 1978. The 15-year-old Kasparov did not yet have any Elo rating then, but in January 1980 he appeared as shared 15th while Tal was #2 on the same list.

The 1978 blitz match consisted of 14 games and finished 7-7. The game scores are included in Nikitin’s new Coaching Kasparov book.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: YT comment: <Tom Knezovic 3 days ago

Tal may not be the G.O.A.T. but he looks the most like a goat.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: What a dweeb. Tal was a chick magnet.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <AK>, I was a halfway strong player in my best days, with a FIDE rating of 2186 at the time of retirement eighteen years ago, and got to sit across the board from a number of titled players in my day. Nowhere near the class of those GMs or IMs, but no milksop, either.

For all that, I stand by my post above: 2600 today does not even get one near the top 100 players overall, so certainly while that player will be a GM, there are a powerful lot more of those than formerly.

Sep-13-19  diagonal: The <Notable Games> (and corresponding cg. features) of Tal, Korchnoi and all other players who were concerned, are back and fixed properly. <Good news, and many thanks!>

Grandmaster Zenon Franco Ocampos on legendary Mikhail Tal:

(with various pictures from the Dutch Anefo archive, Tal played five times in the traditional Wijk aan Zee Hoogovens series, and won it in 1973; main focus of the article is on Tal's last tournament in classical chess at Barcelona 1992, that year, the city was hosting the Summer Olympic games).

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