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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) 
    B46 B43 B32 B82 B96
 Ruy Lopez (253) 
    C95 C92 C96 C93 C84
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (162) 
    C92 C95 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 B92 B46 B22
 King's Indian (111) 
    E92 E69 E62 E66 E80
 Modern Benoni (84) 
    A56 A64 A61 A70 A62
 Nimzo Indian (81) 
    E48 E52 E56 E53 E46
 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
   Tal vs Sviridov, 1969 1-0
   Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960 0-1

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

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   USSR Championship (1957)
   USSR Championship (1958)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Zurich (1959)
   Bled (1961)
   Reykjavik (1964)
   Palma de Mallorca (1966)
   Tallinn (1973)
   USSR Championship (1972)
   Riga Interzonal (1979)
   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
   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
   Life and Games (Tal) by Qindarka
   Veliki majstori saha 26 TALJ (Marovic) by Chessdreamer
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by MoonlitKnight
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by Retarf

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. 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: 2018-02-27 03:53:56

 page 1 of 113; games 1-25 of 2,803  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Tal vs M Strelkov 1-0161949RigaC10 French
2. Tal vs Ripatti ½-½411949RigaB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
3. Tal vs Leonov 1-0251949RigaB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
4. A Parnas vs Tal 0-1291949RigaC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
5. Tal vs C Weldon 1-0651949VilniusB40 Sicilian
6. J Klavins vs Tal 0-1181949RigaC10 French
7. Tal vs J I Zilber 1-0331949RigaC07 French, Tarrasch
8. A Nevitsky vs Tal 0-1431949Semi Finals Youth ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
9. Kholmov vs Tal 0-1211949SimulD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
10. K Klasup vs Tal ½-½411950RigaD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
11. Tal vs Pliss 1-0371950RigaC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
12. Jullik vs Tal 0-1391950RigaA16 English
13. Tal vs N Darsniek 0-1261950RigaC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
14. Tal vs Miglan 1-0211950URS jrC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
15. Tal vs J Klavins 1-0541950Latvian jr ChampB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
16. Pakala vs Tal 0-1291950RigaD02 Queen's Pawn Game
17. Tal vs Sodell 0-1231950URSC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
18. Liepin vs Tal 0-1441950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
19. Leonov vs Tal 0-1341950URSE17 Queen's Indian
20. Lavrinenko vs Tal 0-1381950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
21. Ivanov vs Tal 1-0251950URSC90 Ruy Lopez, Closed
22. Tal vs Gaiduk ½-½411951LeningradC07 French, Tarrasch
23. Klovans vs Tal 0-1401951RigaC52 Evans Gambit
24. Tal vs M Pasman ½-½561951RigaC74 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
25. Ragozin vs Tal 0-1401951Riga (Latvia)D31 Queen's Gambit Declined
 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
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Premium Chessgames Member
  wordfunph: from the book The Magic of Mikhail Tal by Joe Gallagher..

Mikhail Tal visited Steve Doyle (a U.S. Chess Federation official) at a New Jersey chess club to give a simultaneous exhibition. Later he went to the casino in Atlantic City, but only after Doyle had persuaded Tal to lock up the cash and cheques he was carrying in a safety deposit box. He cajoled Tal into limiting his travelling stash to $500. Once at the casino, Tal went straight to the roulette wheel and put the entire $500 on black. He won. Doyle suggested dinner. Tal left the $1,000 on black. He won again. After winning four in a row on black, he switched to red, but despite Doyle's pleadings to leave he kept betting the house. Two more spins and Tal had amassed $32,000. Tal let it ride again. He lost. Without changing his demeanour, he stood up and quietly headed to dinner with Doyle.

Jul-12-11  kellmano: Nice story.

He should have asked taken Ivanchuk along. He claims his intuition helps him win at roulette.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <wordfunph> Great story!

<kellmano> Almost busted a gut a while back when reading Ivanchuk's thoughts on that........believe I posted a time or three back then......

Jul-12-11  drnooo: right if they were going to use the photo of the decrepit Tal then to be fair they should also use the one of Fischer being arrested both fairly shocking even arresting shots of the them long past their prime
Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: Maybe, but Tal was still one of the world's best players when he looked like that, while Fischer was long since retired.

Lasker is another player where you seem to see a lot more photos of him in his later years than in his younger ones.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingfu: From the movie , "Hard Times" .

James Coburn: "The only thing better than playing and winning is playing and losing."

Tal is one of my favorite Champions of all time.

Jul-20-11  Albertan: The Last Days of Tal (in Russian):
Premium Chessgames Member
  tpstar: "Staring at your opponent is an unpleasant - though regrettably fairly common - dirty tactic. One of the most celebrated offenders was Mikhail Tal, who was World Champion in 1963 at the age of only twenty-three. His gaze was so strong and powerful that it was said he could will his opponents into making mistakes. One Grandmaster even wore sunglasses to 'protect' himself. It is true that Tal's concentration at the board was particularly intense but, unlike others, he would never have done it on purpose and in any case he was capable of such strong moves that he did not need to resort to such behaviour. Be warned and try not to let anyone distract you from your game."

Nigel Short, "Chess Basics." Sterling Publishing CO, INC, New York, 1994

Short and Tal have a nine game series in the database, but I am unaware of any specific incident between them. Yet the above snippet is from a beginner's book and comes across as unusually snarky, even for Short. Did they have bad blood?

Aug-20-11  I play the Fred: <Staring at your opponent is an unpleasant - though regrettably fairly common - dirty tactic. One of the most celebrated offenders was Mikhail Tal, who was World Champion in 1963 at the age of only twenty-three.>

1) If Mikhail Tal was 23 years old in 1963, that would place his year of birth in 1939 or 1940, birthday depending. But Tal was born in 1960

2) In 1963, Tal was an <ex>-World Champion. He defeated Botvinnik in 1960 and lost the return match in 1961.

Beside the point, but those inaccuracies are too big to ignore.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: <But Tal was born in 1960>

Huh? The fact there's no period at the end of that sentence tells me you were doing some editing and missed part of it. Still sort of amusing.

Aug-20-11  I play the Fred: My point still stands. There's no way Tal was 23 in 1963 if he was born in 1960. :p

It <is> funny to make a gross blunder when pointing out inaccuracies. Physician, heal thyself, and all that. <Obviously> I meant Tal was born in 1936.

Aug-22-11  talisman: New Picture!! and one i've never seen before...anyone know the year and/or place?
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Young, home? maybe in Riga? He seems to have some sort of wreath or boquet around him--congrats for winning the world championship, a reception getting off the airplane in Latvia, 1960?
Aug-26-11  stanleys: Tal and Petrosian playing table tennis:

Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: I've seen that picture before, and never understood how anyone would play ping pong in a suit (with jacket on, no less). The best I can figure is that it was the 50's, and the male equivalent of June Cleaver doing housework in a dress and pearls.
Premium Chessgames Member <talisman: New Picture!! and one i've never seen before...anyone know the year and/or place?>

In the new Bobby Fischer documentary by HBO Films, "Bobby Fischer Against the World", there is a lot of priceless chess footage. One of the clips showed Tal, presumably after winning the world championship. We had never seen such footage before, so we took a screen snapshot for this page.

We'd like to offer photo credits, a location, a year, but we have no more information except what can be inferred by the clip itself.

Incidentally, it's generally agreed that photos and videos formerly property of the Soviet Union are now in the public domain.

Aug-30-11  libertyjack: Nice photo, never saw it before. Still, to me, the real Tal is this one:

Aug-31-11  Mr. Bojangles: <libertyjack: Nice photo, never saw it before. Still, to me, the real Tal is this one: >

I agree.

Tal would have given me nightmares. I hate being attacked indiscriminately. I hate players who attack me seemingly without any thought or care.

U know, the h4, h5 pawn pushers ... damn them !

Sep-01-11  Zugzwangovich: <bartonlaos: A fantastic five minute game that was played between Tal and Spassky!> Many thanks for this, man! For an encore, would you have any way of digging up the two games (both won by Tal) that these two played in the 1983 Novi Sad blitz tournament? This was quite an event; Kasparov won it and other participants included Korchnoi, Larsen and Timman.
Sep-04-11  talisman: <> thank you very much for that response. i will look up the documentary and clip. looks like he may be holding his championship wreath. thanks again.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Wild Bill: <chessgames>: Thank you for the new Tal photo. It is a very good photo (and I never had a good thing to say about that photo of a cigarette being smoked, rather than of a man smoking a cigarette, that it replaces).
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: Quote of the Day

" Later, I began to succeed in decisive games. Perhaps because I realized a very simple truth: not only was I worried, but also my opponent. "

-- Tal

Sep-24-11  Ladolcevita: Yes,really thank CG for such a nice new photo!
Young and happy and with such a bright smile under the fine weather and amongst the crowd...what's the difference from a prince I could not tell:)
Premium Chessgames Member
  wordfunph: young smiling Tal photo, wowww!

CG rocks!

Sep-24-11  ughaibu: This picture has been up for months. If you people dont visit the page often enough to notice, why should your opinion carry much weight?
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