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Tal vs Botvinnik 1960

No sooner did Mikhail Botvinnik regain his title, the chess world became entranced by charismatic young Latvian named Mikhail Tal. Tal won the 1958 interzonal tournament at Portoroz, then helped the Soviet Union to retain the Chess Olympiad; before going on to win the 1959 Candidates Tournament with 20 out of 28 points--a point and a half ahead of second place Paul Keres.

 Tal Botvinnik 1960
 Tal and Botvinnik, 1960
Tal often sacrificed material in search for the initiative in chess. With such intuitive sacrifices, he created vast complications, and many masters found it impossible to solve all the problems he created over the board, though deeper post-game analysis found flaws in some of his conceptions. Although this playing style was scorned by ex-World Champion Vasily Smyslov as nothing more than "tricks", Tal convincingly beat every notable grandmaster with his trademark aggression.[1]

Lev Khariton relates the electricity of the match:

This match played in Moscow in the spring of 1960 is forever engraved in my memory. Hundreds of chess fans who had failed to buy an entrance ticket stayed outside the Pushkin Theater watching on a big demonstration board the games of the match. I will never forget the famous 6th game in which Tal right after the opening moves sacrificed a knight. It was a challenge to Botvinnik, to all his followers who were trying to put the game into the Procrustean Bed of cold logic and algorithms. As if nothing had happened, Tal was pacing to and fro on the stage, and his famous opponent , who had scored victories over such legends as Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine, confronted with a surprise sacrifice was taking all possible pains to refute Tal's daring decision. All in vain! Botvinnik had already few minutes left on his clock when Stahlberg and Golombek, the arbiters of the match, transferred the game backstage. The spectators were so excited that the atmosphere in the playing hall was more reminiscent of a football match! Tal won this game, and in spite of Botvinnik's stubborn resistance, he won the whole match.[2]
The match was conducted in Moscow from March 15 to May 7, 1960. After 21 games, at the age of 23, Mikhail Tal became the 8th World Chess Champion.

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FINAL SCORE:  Tal 12½;  Botvinnik 8½
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Botvinnik-Tal 1960]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #6     Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960     0-1
    · Game #1     Tal vs Botvinnik, 1960     1-0
    · Game #9     Tal vs Botvinnik, 1960     0-1


  1. Mikhail Tal article at Wikipedia
    2 Mikhail Tal, the Chess Player Ahead of Chess by Lev Khariton

 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-0321960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchC18 French, Winawer
2. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½441960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchA61 Benoni
3. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½371960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchB11 Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4
4. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½401960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE27 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch Variation
5. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½431960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
6. Botvinnik vs Tal 0-1471960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE69 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Classical Main line
7. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-0521960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
8. Botvinnik vs Tal 1-0411960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchA70 Benoni, Classical with 7.Nf3
9. Tal vs Botvinnik 0-1581960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
10. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½601960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE88 King's Indian, Samisch, Orthodox, 7.d5 c6
11. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-0721960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchA05 Reti Opening
12. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½721960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
13. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½161960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchA30 English, Symmetrical
14. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½221960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
15. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½411960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
16. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½411960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
17. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-0411960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
18. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½761960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
19. Tal vs Botvinnik 1-0411960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchA87 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation
20. Botvinnik vs Tal ½-½271960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE24 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
21. Tal vs Botvinnik ½-½171960Botvinnik - Tal World Championship MatchE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Eggman: for the picture above the caption reads "Tal and Botvinnik, 1958." Is this a mistake? They didn't play any kind of serious game until 1960.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Eggman> Must be, though I remember reading a story in which Tal somehow managed to learn where Botvinnik was staying on holiday. When young Misha knocked on the door of the cottage, board in hand, Mrs Botvinnik explained that the elder Misha was napping.
Aug-25-12  Cemoblanca: Ahhh Misha! 1 of my favorite players of all time & "Super Nez" falls also into this category! Please play a lot of chess in heaven & don't forget to sacrifice! ;0) RIP!
Jun-25-14  ACMEKINGKRUSHER: I have just barely started reading TAL's book on the match. It is FABULOUS! I am quite pleased so far with it. Much better than Topalov's "cry-baby" book on his later match.
Premium Chessgames Member
  penarol: Perhaps I have not read too many chess books, but I think that Talīs book on the 1960 match is the best chess book I have ever read. I also think that it is not the best book for a chess beginner. Of course that happens with many chess books.
Jun-26-14  Petrosianic: Everybody liked the book, but nobody actually has anything good to say about it. Talk about damning with faint praise.
Jun-26-14  Olavi: The book is graet, but unfortunately Hanon Russell's translation is poor. Or has a revision been published?
Jun-26-14  Petrosianic: Yes, but what's great about it? Nobody seems to know. Is it great analysis, great behind the scenes stuff, great insight, or is it just that the author is popular therefore the book must be good? Generally, if people like a book, they have lots of good things to say about it. If they just say "Yeah, it was good", but not in any specific way, I feel that they really DIDN'T like it much, but are just being polite.
Jun-26-14  Olavi: The personality, I would say. He is witty, modest, sarcastic at times, and he gives the impression of being honest. Well you never know about that...
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: By the way, do we know that the picture at the top is from the 1960 match? Looks like a team event.
Feb-20-15  Petrosianic: Tal and Botvinnik only played each other twice outside of their World Championship matches. I can't say 100% that this isn't one of those two games, but I have seen this picture used for this match before, and their ages seem more like early 60's than mid 60's. It could be from the 1961 match, but there's no reason to think that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Petrosianic> I googled and found some other 1960 match images that include the guy to Tal's left, so I guess you are right. (Does anyone know who the two men seated beside Tal and Botvinnik are?)

This is from the 1961 match (it's a less-retouched version of the one on the 1961 match page).

Feb-20-15  Olavi: A clear indication that this is from one of their matches are the clocks on the wall behind, showing the respective used time. They would not be there in a team match.
Feb-20-15  Olavi: Nor would the flags.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: Alexander Koblents with Tal and Botvinnik:

Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: I liked Alex Yermolinksy's astute comments, courtesy of <acirce> from way back on Page 1: Botvinnik - Tal World Championship Match (1960) (kibitz #6)

One small fact not mentioned previously is that Game One of this match was Botvinnik and Tal's very first meeting at the board. Can you imagine the nerves, given the spectacular popularity of this particular match among the Soviet Russians? Perhaps it would have made no difference in Botvinnik's result, but I was reminded of his request to play in the 1956 Candidates tournament as a non-combatant for training purposes. If you want to rattle the great Botvinnik, I suppose Tal had the best shot of all of them, and he made the most of it.

This would appear to be the last time in chess history where two combatants are meeting for the very first time at a WCC match. I see that Steinitz did not care a bit, meeting both Gunsberg and Lasker for the glory of battle... It seems unlikely we will see such a pairing moving forward, given the increase in professional chess globally and how the emerging pool of elite players seems to form by the World Junior Championships.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<Williebob>This would appear to be the last time in chess history where two combatants are meeting for the very first time at a WCC match.>

How quickly you forget Spassky - Fischer World Championship Match (1972). :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <AylerKupp> What's wrong with Spassky vs Fischer, 1960, not memorable enough? :-)
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: But if preliminary rounds of the FIDE knockout events count, for example there was Gurevich-Tiviakov 1999.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: And the last time in history (again if we include the FIDE knockouts) was maybe Radjabov-Dominguez in the 2004 event.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Williebob>, <beatgiant> Brain fart. For some reason my mind interpreted <Williebob>'s observation that Game One of the match being Botvinnik's and Tal's first meeting as meaning that Tal had never previously beaten Botvinnik. Which, since it was their first meeting, how could he ?

My brain, or at least its comprehension part, was obviously not fully engaged when I made my comment. So embarrassing!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <AK>, if it weren't for brain farts, my mind would run out of fuel. When I saw your comment, I got confused, then realized I was mixing up Spassky-Fischer 1972 with the never-played Fischer-Karpov 1975 match. In some alternative universe, Fischer might have avoided facing Karpov in events leading up to a '75 title defense.

Any hoo, thanks <beatgiant> for adding food for thought to my post. Match psychology in chess is a mysterious world, and I often think of these seemingly small details when considering why a great player makes the occasional amateurish-looking mistake. Nerves! Something many kibitzers simply do not take into account when posting comments like, "I just don't understand why X didn't play..." If there is a simple answer, it is nerves. Try doing your best work under a spotlight with people staring at you, cameras rolling, a whole world of chess players ready to pounce on your every mistake.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: Oh, meant to mention to <beatgiant>: That's quite a catch with 2004's inaugural Radjabov-Dominguez matchup!

Unless the WCC structure changes to allow a similarly huge scrum of players, this could easily be the last time we see a 'virgin' pairing in a top contest.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Williebob>
Obviously there are a lot of potential objections around 2004 (legitimacy, format, absence of top players, and Radjabov-Dominguez was not the final) and Tal-Botvinnik still has the better claim, in my opinion.

If we just want <in a top contest> then even the 2020/21 candidates had Wang Hao-Alekseenko.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <beatgiant>, I would not have expected a first-time meeting in a contemporary Candidates' event, but there you have it!

Alekseenko is also the current Candidate with the fewest games played against Carlsen, with just one draw at 2019 Isle of Man. Wang won that event without facing Alekseenko, who shared 2nd place - great results for a couple of interesting outsiders to the usual Top Ten. I liked Wang Hao's play in that event so much that I may still be rooting for him to shock the world and be the next Challenger. However, I think he looked a bit thrown off by the Covid complications at the beginning of the Candidates. There is still time for any of the Candidates to break through, of course.
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