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Mikhail Tal
Number of games in database: 2,802
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. 105 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (340) 
    B46 B43 B82 B32 B40
 Ruy Lopez (253) 
    C92 C95 C96 C93 C84
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (162) 
    C92 C95 C93 C96 C84
 Caro-Kann (104) 
    B14 B17 B18 B12 B10
 French Defense (95) 
    C07 C18 C09 C05 C16
 English (91) 
    A15 A14 A13 A17 A16
With the Black pieces:
 Sicilian (342) 
    B43 B40 B92 B22 B48
 King's Indian (110) 
    E69 E92 E62 E98 E80
 Modern Benoni (82) 
    A56 A64 A61 A70 A62
 Nimzo Indian (79) 
    E48 E52 E46 E53 E24
 English (78) 
    A15 A14 A10 A13 A17
 Queen's Pawn Game (70) 
    A46 E10 E00 A40 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 (1958)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Reykjavik (1964)
   Bled (1961)
   USSR Championship (1957)
   Palma de Mallorca (1966)
   Zurich (1959)
   USSR Championship (1972)
   Tallinn (1973)
   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's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973 by jessicafischerqueen
   Tal-ented Indeed is an Understatement by fredthebear
   Mikhail Tal: Selected Games by wanabe2000
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by KingG
   Tals Amazing ATTACKS!!! by Zhbugnoimt
   Tal king of chess by LESTRADAR
   remembering Tal by Yopo
   The Magician, supplemental by Yopo
   tal best games by brager
   Veliki majstori saha 26 TALJ (Marovic) by Chessdreamer
   Life and Games (Tal) by Qindarka
   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. 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 2,802  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. A Nevitsky vs Tal 0-1431949Semi Finals Youth ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
2. Tal vs J I Zilber 1-0331949RigaC07 French, Tarrasch
3. Kholmov vs Tal 0-1211949SimulD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
4. Tal vs M Strelkov 1-0161949RigaC10 French
5. Tal vs Ripatti ½-½411949RigaB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
6. Tal vs Leonov 1-0251949RigaB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
7. A Parnas vs Tal 0-1291949RigaC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
8. Tal vs C Weldon 1-0651949VilniusB40 Sicilian
9. J Klavins vs Tal 0-1181949RigaC10 French
10. Lavrinenko vs Tal 0-1381950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
11. Ivanov vs Tal 1-0251950URSC90 Ruy Lopez, Closed
12. K Klasup vs Tal ½-½411950RigaD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
13. Tal vs Pliss 1-0371950RigaC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
14. Jullik vs Tal 0-1391950RigaA16 English
15. Tal vs N Darsniek 0-1261950RigaC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
16. Tal vs Miglan 1-0211950URS jrC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
17. Tal vs J Klavins 1-0541950Latvian jr ChampB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
18. Pakala vs Tal 0-1291950RigaD02 Queen's Pawn Game
19. Tal vs Sodell 0-1231950URSC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
20. Liepin vs Tal 0-1441950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
21. Leonov vs Tal 0-1341950URSE17 Queen's Indian
22. Tal vs S Giterman 1-0631951LeningradD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
23. Tal vs J Fride 1-0401951RigaB28 Sicilian, O'Kelly Variation
24. Tal vs V Veders 1-0341951RigaC13 French
25. Tal vs Gipslis 1-0241951TournamentE30 Nimzo-Indian, Leningrad
 page 1 of 113; games 1-25 of 2,802  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 108 OF 110 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <In one of his games he was in a must-win situation and played Black. He chose the Caro-Kann defense but could achieve only a draw. When a reporter asked about the choice of such a quiet opening and something sharp like the Sicilian defense Tal responded: ‘I play the Sicilian Defense when I need a draw, but when I want to win, I play the Caro-Kann defense!> - Gregory Serper, Chess Life, September 2007, page 33.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <He led a very unusual life. He didn't think of anything. He lived here and now, and this enormous energy was always around him. The positive energy. Tal was one of the few completely positive people I knew, he wasn't contentious. Chess is very contentious game by its nature, and he wasn't> - Garry Kasparov.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <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 formula, 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> - Garry Kasparov.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <The difference between an IM and GM varies with each individual. One IM can be great tactically while another may excel in positional areas. For example, yesterday I played a simultaneous which had, among others, six national masters. One swindled me beautifully and others find nice tactical ideas. Clearly these masters were not weak tactically! There is no general difference. Grandmaster openings tend to be better, but overall the differences vary from player to player> - Mikhail Tal.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <I shall observe for the thousand and first time: years of analysis and minutes of play are not quite the same thing> - Mikhail Tal.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <If you wait for your luck to turn up, life becomes very boring> - Mikhail Tal.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <It's funny, but many people don't understand why I draw so many games nowadays. They think my style must have changed but this is not the case at all. The answer to this drawing disease is that my favorite squares are e6, f7, g7 and h7 and everyone now knows this. They protect these squares not once but four times!> - Mikhail Tal.
Premium Chessgames Member
  john barleycorn: <They compare me with Lasker, which is an exaggerated honour. Lasker made mistakes in every game and I only in every second one!> - Mikhail Tal

One must love this guy Tal.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <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> - Mikhail Tal.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <Modern chess has attained such a high standard that knowledge of a single skill turns out to be insufficient> - Mikhail Tal in “Tal v. Botvinnik”.
Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: Computers have rehabilitated Tal.

"Mikhail Tal was perhaps the most popular Chess World Champion, but he still has a reputation for brilliant but unsound sacrifices that succeeded only because his opponents couldn’t handle them. In a new interview, though, Vladimir Tukmakov explains that computers have "rehabilitated" Tal, showing his combinations usually worked."

Premium Chessgames Member
  docbenway: May-23-15 TheFocus: <He led a very unusual life. He didn't think of anything. He lived here and now, and this enormous energy was always around him. The positive energy. Tal was one of the few completely positive people I knew, he wasn't contentious. Chess is very contentious game by its nature, and he wasn't> - Garry Kasparov. This is an amazing, poetic quote, like something from Knut Hamsun. Thank you for posting it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: It was a distinct pleasure to enjoy Tal's company for a morning and play some quick games.
Jun-14-15  nimh: What Tukmakov actually has claimed was that Tal's sacrifices at least guaranteed a draw. So for example when he had positionally outplayed his opponent, and it was a high time to take a decisive action, his sac actually lowered the evaluation from 0.90 to -0.20, it would be considered still 'correct' according to Tukmakov. I wouldn't say such moves are correct. It's just playing around with definitions or labels. It seems to me that it doesn't change much anything. There's no implication of fischeresque accuracy in Tal's sacrifical play by the article.
Jun-14-15  1d410: The whole point of the article is that one can play like Tal and not trust the evaluation.
Jun-14-15  1d410: at least if you are talented
Jun-30-15  Bruce Graham: Nice Tal tribute at Chessbase- including a simultaneous gem which should be at Chessgames as well:
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: There's a Latvian in the newspapers almost every day, these days, in New York City:


Jan-23-16  Mikhail12: Wondering if anyone still gets as big a kick as I do out of Tal's hippo game story.
Apr-25-16  lazerus: Right now I am reading The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal in which he related an anecdote that he participated in a bull fight against a calf during a tournament in Spain. Tal goes on to say that a picture of him turn up in the paper the next fighting the calf. Does anyone have this picture?
Apr-28-16  ketchuplover: Carlsen succumbs to Aronian today. The unbeaten streak lives on!
Apr-28-16  ketchuplover: I hope Tal is riding that hippo in the sky
Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: Still into ketchup after all these years?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: The horse 'Your Pal Tal' is running today in the 5:10 at the Curragh. Going to put a few quid each way on it.

I've lost loads of games trying to play like Tal, might as well lose some money chasing the Tal dream as well.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: The horse came in last from 19 runners. :(
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