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Mikhail Tal
Number of games in database: 2,803
Years covered: 1949 to 1992
Highest rating achieved in database: 2705

Overall record: +1120 -298 =1279 (65.2%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 106 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (337) 
    B43 B46 B32 B82 B96
 Ruy Lopez (253) 
    C95 C92 C93 C96 C84
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (162) 
    C95 C92 C93 C96 C84
 Caro-Kann (104) 
    B18 B17 B14 B12 B10
 French Defense (95) 
    C07 C18 C09 C05 C16
 English (94) 
    A15 A14 A13 A17 A16
With the Black pieces:
 Sicilian (328) 
    B43 B40 B46 B92 B22
 King's Indian (111) 
    E69 E92 E98 E62 E66
 Modern Benoni (84) 
    A56 A64 A61 A70 A62
 Nimzo Indian (81) 
    E48 E56 E52 E46 E53
 English (80) 
    A15 A14 A10 A13 A17
 Queen's Pawn Game (73) 
    A46 E10 A40 E00 A41
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 Koblents, 1957 1-0
   Tal vs Hecht, 1962 1-0
   Tal vs Jack Miller, 1988 1-0
   Tal vs Karpov, 1987 1-0
   M Bobotsov vs Tal, 1958 0-1
   Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960 0-1
   Tal vs Sviridov, 1969 1-0

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

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

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Tal Fever by chocobonbon
   Match Tal! by amadeus
   Tal-ented Indeed is an Understatement by fredthebear
   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
   The Magician, supplemental by Yopo
   Tal king of chess by LESTRADAR
   remembering Tal by Yopo
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by Retarf
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by newfiex
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by nakul1964
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by MoonlitKnight

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Mikhail Tal
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(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 113; games 1-25 of 2,803  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Tal vs Leonov 1-0251949RigaB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
2. A Parnas vs Tal 0-1291949RigaC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
3. Tal vs C Weldon 1-0651949VilniusB40 Sicilian
4. J Klavins vs Tal 0-1181949RigaC10 French
5. A Nevitsky vs Tal 0-1431949Semi Finals Youth ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
6. Tal vs J I Zilber 1-0331949RigaC07 French, Tarrasch
7. Kholmov vs Tal 0-1211949SimulD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
8. Tal vs M Strelkov 1-0161949RigaC10 French
9. Tal vs Ripatti ½-½411949RigaB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
10. Jullik vs Tal 0-1391950RigaA16 English
11. Tal vs N Darsniek 0-1261950RigaC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
12. Tal vs Miglan 1-0211950URS jrC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
13. Tal vs J Klavins 1-0541950Latvian jr ChampB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
14. Pakala vs Tal 0-1291950RigaD02 Queen's Pawn Game
15. Tal vs Sodell 0-1231950URSC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
16. Liepin vs Tal 0-1441950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
17. Leonov vs Tal 0-1341950URSE17 Queen's Indian
18. Lavrinenko vs Tal 0-1381950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
19. Ivanov vs Tal 1-0251950URSC90 Ruy Lopez, Closed
20. K Klasup vs Tal ½-½411950RigaD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
21. Tal vs Pliss 1-0371950RigaC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
22. N Darsniek vs Tal 0-1231951RigaD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
23. Tal vs Konovalev ½-½391951RigaE69 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Classical Main line
24. A Strautmanis vs Tal ½-½321951URSE17 Queen's Indian
25. Birjanis vs Tal 0-1351951RigaA91 Dutch Defense
 page 1 of 113; games 1-25 of 2,803  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 81 OF 112 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-29-08  Crocomule: Bishop Berkeley! many interesting comments... Any information about this brilliant California player, John Pope?
Dec-29-08  Crocomule: Bishop Berkeley! While I'm at it.. there are a few other amazing, yet obscure, California chessplayers I've come across over the years; any info. on Dennis Fritzinger or Victor Baja(the endgame study composer)? Thanks!
Dec-30-08  M.D. Wilson: <Good Evening: Dylan Loeb McClain, writing in the NY Times, pointed out an amazing fact about Tal. During the years 1972-74, he had an unbeaten streak of 86 games, and from October 1973 - October 1974, a *second* unbeaten streak of 93 games. Too bad about his poor health, isn't it?> Yes, Tal, it seems, was constantly ill. These periods of il health certainly affected his chess. If Tal had the constitution of Botvinnik, there would have been no stopping him! His unbeaten streaks are impressive. Interestingly, Tal contested a number of blitz mini-matches with Karpov in 1973, just before the Candidates; a ruthless Karpov nevertheless treated Tal mercilessly by all accounts.
Premium Chessgames Member
  amadeus: <percyblakeney: The Moscow Echo had a program about Tal yesterday, with Kasparov as the guest. A long transcript can be found here, it's even too long for the translator tools>

Here is a good translation:

Jan-03-09  talisman: <amadeus> i really enjoyed that link! thanks.
Jan-04-09  littlefermat: Yeah, thanks. That was pretty interesting. Especially the bit about Karpov and Tal.
Jan-05-09  Tessie Tura: Great translation, thanks, <amadeus>. That part about Karpov and Tal is interesting. I had read that Tal helped Karpov in order to get out of the doghouse, but not that they had fallen out.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jim Bartle: A few really interesting comments from Kasparov in the interview:

"He (Tal) didn't even seek the truth in chess, he sought beauty. It was a concept completely different from most of ours."

"We calculate: he does this then I do that. And Tal, through all the thick layers of variants, saw that around the 8th move, it will be so and so. Some people can see the mathematical formulae, they can imagine the whole picture instantly. An ordinary man has to calculate, to think this through, but they just see it all. It occurs in great musicians, great scientists. Tal was absolutely unique. His playing style was of course unrepeatable. I calculated the variants quickly enough, but these Tal insights were unique. He was a man in whose presence others sensed their mediocrity."

"And, of course, Tal should have prepared differently for the return match (with Botvinnik). But if he prepared, he wouldn't be Tal. He lived differently, it was simpler to him than to us. From my conversations with Tal, I think he didn't consider the things obvious to us to be of any importance. Tal was much lighter on his feet, much more prone to anxiety than other chess players."

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jim Bartle: The night before the final game of the 1985 match, with Kasparov leading by a point, Tal telephoned Kasparov with a message (according to K):

"Don't forget, young man, that tomorrow is my birthday."

Jan-05-09  Tessie Tura: <"Tal was much lighter on his feet, much more prone to anxiety than other chess players.">

I wondered a bit about that quote. From the context, it sounds as if Kasparov is suggesting that Tal was <less> prone to anxiety than other players, not more so. A misprint, perhaps?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jim Bartle: I agree, "less" makes a lot more sense than "more" in the context of Kasparov's comments.
Jan-14-09  Morphischer: Tal needs a better photo here, like this one
Jan-18-09  M.D. Wilson: That photo of yours, Morphischer, is much better. Some of the photos on this site are dreadful.
Feb-05-09  TheWizardfromHarlem: that picture they have is the best one just leave it
Feb-22-09  Pianoplayer: It's a shame tal died at the still kinda young age of 55. The man was a genius.
He could have played chess for 30 more years.
I sure would have liked to be around when he played,or see him in person. He was one of the greatest players ever.
R.I.P. Tal.
Feb-22-09  SmotheredKing: <Morphischer, M.D. Wilson> What are you talking about, that photo is awesome, leave it. Not to sound like a fanboy, but of the games i´ve most enjoyed playing through, Tal has the most - his games may not be sound, they may not be best or even accurate, but they were always fun and on many occasions, brilliant. Perhaps that was partly due to the fact that Tal was not and did not consider himself exclusively a chess player - he had other loves and addictions in his life, and I believe that enriched his game more than any amount of chess study.
Feb-26-09  M.D. Wilson: Yes, in that way he was like Spassky and Capablanca; chess was not at the centre of his universe. I like both photos, but Morphischer's photo illustrates the famous "Tal stare". The fag hanging out of the mouth is very Tal as well. What a character!
Mar-14-09  woodpusher115: was tal really a drunkard?
Mar-14-09  blacksburg: there's a famous anecdote about Tal staying at some hotel during a tournament, and drinking the hotel bar dry of brandy.
Mar-14-09  blacksburg: found it -

<Tal suffered from bad health, and had to be hospitalized frequently throughout his career. Tal was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker — at the Hastings tournament of 1973, which he won, he drank the hotel dry of brandy and whisky. He was also briefly addicted to morphine.>

Mar-14-09  whiskeyrebel: My Mother would call him a drunkard. She'd tar me with the same brush of course. I'd call him a classy man who enjoyed a good time.
Premium Chessgames Member
  paulalbert: As regards Mikhail Tal, there seems to be a tendency to use euphemisms such as, he enjoyed a good time. Unfortunately, in reality he was an alcoholic. I don't know whether his kidney condition came from his excessive use of alcohol or that the alcohol use exacerbated a pre-existing condition; however, eventually it killed him. I had the good fortune of meeting Tal. He was a very nice man and a great chess player. However, I think it's disingenuous to be politically correct about his alcoholism. It's a serious and debilitating malady. Paul Albert
Mar-14-09  talisman: He was born with his kidney disorder, his hand, and his foot condition.
Mar-15-09  whiskeyrebel: Wow, I can't remember the last time anybody accused me of using "politically correct" words. I never suggested that Tal's only pleasure was drinking. By the accounts I've read, he clearly enjoyed blitz chess right up to the end. He liked to smoke, enough that he tells a story in his autobiography about how he took it up. Didn't he have an eye for the ladies? Wasn't he a literature instructor? This implies a love of good books. And how about the fact that Jeremy Silman evidently was enlisted to take him to Disneyland once? Imagine Tal grinning, riding in one of those spinning tea cups. I'd say he enjoyed quite a few pleasures, not just the bottle.
Mar-15-09  talisman: well said. who else could have his momma, ex-wife and fiance all living with him under the same roof?...w/children!
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