Members · Prefs · Laboratory · Collections · Openings · Endgames · Sacrifices · History · Search Kibitzing · Kibitzer's Café · Chessforums · Tournament Index · Players · Kibitzing will be unavailable Sunday, June 13th, 2021 from 2PM through Sunday, June 14th, 2021 12PM Eastern Time Zone for system upgrade.
We apologize for this inconvenience.
Montpellier Candidates Playoff 1985
Compiled by Tabanus

This match was organized because not more than four players could be allowed to advance from the Montpellier Candidates (1985), and Mikhail Tal and Jan Timman had shared 4th place. Their six-game playoff was planned for 6 November, but was deferred until early December to allow Tal to participate in the World Team Championship that commenced 16 November. This was not ideal for Timman, who was committed to his annual televised exhibition match in Hilversum, scheduled for December. (1) The other concern was that Anatoly Karpov won Game 22 on 5 November in the Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match (1985) in Moscow, and was trailing by only one point with two games left. There was a risk that Karpov would keep the title and that the playoff would be for a reserve spot only (with Garry Kasparov taking their place instead). But Kasparov did become the new World Champion (on 9 November).

"According to regulations, the Tal-Timman match for the fourth slot in the candidates matches was to be held in Montpellier immediately after the candidates tournament. Naturally, neither player wanted to play. First, they were tired; they had just played 15 games. Second, they would not get paid for the match in Montpellier, and delaying it would give Timman an opportunity to find a sponsor for the prize fund. They were able to move the match to the beginning of December." (2)

A Dutch newspaper reported that FIDE awarded Montpellier the match despite offers from Merano and Tilburg, (3) and that the French were not prepared for any playoff, or how to finance it - and this was a problem that involved the FIDE President Florencio Campomanes and others. (4) Notwithstanding, two days before the match (Saturday 30 November) Timman held a simul against 40 opponents (incl. one computer) at the Marnix-Gymnasium in Rotterdam (+35 =5). The draws were against Erwin Lots (19), Jasper Schaap (12), Johan de Koning (30), Gerke Geurts (14) and Duco de Jong (18). (5) The next day the luggage of Timman, who traveled to the duel without any second, was left by accident in Paris. Tal also arrived on Sunday, together with Mikhail Beilin and the second Vladimir Bagirov. (6) The draw was held later in the evening and Tal got the white pieces in the first game. Play was scheduled for Monday at 3-8 pm, with adjourned games at 10-12 pm. (6)

Game 1. Ten minutes before the game the chain smoker Tal made a thrilling impression. He sauntered nervously on the 5x3 m and 20 cm high platform, in a room in the basement of the town hall. Timman arrived at 3 pm, and took his jacket off after the second move. The game ended in a draw at move 22, on Tal's suggestion, in front of ten spectators - nine awake and one sleeping. (7) It lasted 4 hours and 2 minutes. Tal spent 1 hour 55 minutes, and Timman 2 hours and 7 minutes. (8)

Game 2. After more than two hours, loud noise by children across the playing hall, screaming, running, laughing and stomping. The chief arbiter Keller sent the helpers to do something, and after a while the uproar silenced. Shortly after the players were surprised by noise from an adjacent hall which sounded like a jet plane. Timman had played 16.Bxc6+ and the bishop was so trembling that it almost ended up on b6. There was no jet, it was a flamenco concert. Keller resolutely stopped the clocks, pending better times. The peace was restored, and after 19 moves both Timman and Tal had only 45 minutes to think. The noise was still hearable, but Timman bowed like a terrier at the board, visibly determined not to be disturbed. After 21.Nf5 Tal, with 35 minutes to think, sank into deep thought. He was clearly surprised by the move. After Timman's 28.Rc1, he was walking around his opponent with flaming eyes. He finally came back to the board and held out his hand as a sign of surrender. (9)

Game 3. The players were again disturbed by music, on the occasion of the 1000-years celebrations of Montpellier. In the Open Spanish, Timman went for 11...Nd7, which had been seldom played since K Walbrodt vs Winawer, 1896. In the press room, Robert Graham Wade, who was also an arbiter, could show that the move had been played last year in Moscow. Tal, who was banned smoking in the hall, lit a cigarette just behind the board, then sank into deep thought. (10) A series of exchanges followed, and it ended in a draw on move 23.

Wade was always willing to help the reporters in analyzing and searching variants. For this purpose, he brought a stack of books and filed them for inspection. Timman concentrated on Thursday 5 December on the next game. He was exceptionally assisted by Gert Ligterink. "It's wonderful to be here without a second. No obligations, no hassle on your mind. You feel free and have a lot more fun". (11) He received a message that day, that the French were willing to supply 50,000 francs for the two grandmasters. In return, they would hold a simul after the match, on a yet unknown number of boards. The French were of the opinion that the match was an extension of the Candidates tournament, and the first six already got their prizes. Initially there had been 100,000 francs available, but a main sponsor had pulled back. Timman had left for Montpellier on the basis of a charge from the Dutch Chess Federation. (12)

Game 4. The Dutch expectations were high. In Game 3, Timman had the pleasure of taking a draw in a slightly favorable ending, and one wished that he with white would try to decide the match in his favor. His tendency to battle under any circumstance, held the Dutch camp in anxious suspense. One mistake could be fatal against the Russian artist. The Spanish master Ricardo Calvo had arrived, and he warned Timman that Tal was cornered and had to win with black, so that he should expect an unusual opening. Calvo was right. Tal used a set-up he probably had never played before in his career: the Old Indian! It seems, however, that Timman did not have any problem. (13) He made an inaccuracy with 15.dxe5, but this relieved the tension and the game soon ended in a draw.

Game 5. Tal had white and had to win, whereas Timman would advance to the Candidates matches if it ended in a draw. He chose the French Defense (Tarrasch). According to a newspaper report, something curious happened around the eleventh move. Withdrawn from the perception of officials and the public, Tal went to the toilet. Beilin and Bagirov "disappeared" at the same time from the hall. One Dutchman did not trust it, and went to look for them. There Tal, Beilin and Bagirov appeared to be talking to each other. Timman had no knowledge of this. (13) Shortly after, the game took a magical turn. Tal advanced his king in the center, and put it on e5 already at move 21. Timman defended very well, but just when everyone expected he could have the inescapable draw, he leaned over the board and thought for over half an hour. His wife Ilse-Marie now left the audience. "What's going on?", she asked in a whisper. "He seems to be in a trance." One expected the fairly simple 28...Rxf2, (14) but he played instead

click for larger view

28...Rxa2!? After 29.Rf3 Rc2 30.Rf5 he could have saved himself with 30...g6 (which Bagirov pointed out after the game), but after 30...b6? 31.h4! the loss was inevitable. (15)

Game 6. Tal had black, and he still had to win. Because if 3-3, Timman would advance. A Sicilian came on the board. The position had been studied by Timman and Ligterink, but to the surprise of the latter, instead of 9.Bd2 (as in Tal vs C Hansen, 1985), Timman played 9.Qd2, giving up the bishop pair. "Why now?", Ligterink wondered. "Along with Vlastimil Hort we very deeply analyzed the bishops." Timman's intention was inscrutable. After Tal had planted a knight on e5 and a strong bishop on g5, the audience did not give one cent for Timman's position. But only three moves later, Ligterink came inside the room with an almost unbelievable message. "Jan is better." (14) Timman later wrote that he managed to draw the game "with some hairraising adventures, where at a certain point my position had been very bad." (15) He was qualified, "with a pale expression on his face, which some described as angel-like." (16)

Montpellier, France, 2-8 December 1985

Age Elo* 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 GM Timman 33 2640 1 0 3 2 GM Tal 49 2565 0 1 3

Timman had more wins than Tal in the main tournament, and advanced, together with Artur Yusupov, Rafael Vaganian and Andrei Sokolov, to the Candidates matches:

Yusupov - Timman Candidates Quarterfinal (1986)
Sokolov - Vaganian Candidates Quarterfinal (1986)

The reason for the term "quarterfinal" (with only two matches) is that Kasparov won the WC match and that the Kasparov - Karpov World Championship Rematch (1986) loser (Karpov) had the right to play the Candidates winner. Thus the Sokolov - Yusupov Candidates Semifinal (1986) and the Karpov - Sokolov Candidates Final (1987) came next in this cycle. None were left of the old generation, and a new Western star was born.

Timman gave a simul on Monday (9 December) to be able to collect the prize money due to him. (17) He then played the match Kasparov - Timman (1985) in Hilversum (15-22 December).


1) British Chess Magazine, December 1985, p. 535.
(2) For Friends & Colleagues, Vol. 1, by Mark Dvoretzky. Russell Enterprises, Milford 2014.
(3) Leidsch Dagblad, 23 November 1985, p. 16.
(4) Leidsch Dagblad, 29 November 1985, p. 15.
(5) Het Vrije Volk, 2 December 1985, p. 19.
(6) Leidsch Dagblad, 2 December 1985, p. 14.
(7) Leidse Courant, 3 December 1985, p. 9.
(8) El Mundo Deportivo, 4 December 1985, p. 43.
(9) Hennie Maliangkay in Het Vrije Volk, 4 December 1985, p. 19.
(10) Hennie Maliangkay in Het Vrije Volk, 5 December 1985, p. 21.
(11) Hennie Maliangkay in Het Vrije Volk, 6 December 1985, p. 21.
(12) Amigoe, 7 December 1985, p. 7.
(13) Hennie Maliangkay in Het Vrije Volk, 7 December 1985, p. 21.
(14) Hennie Maliangkay in Het Vrije Volk, 9 December 1985, p. 22.
(15) Timman's Titans. My World Chess Champions, by Jan Timman. New In Chess, Alkmaar 2016 (, pp. 138-139.
(16) ANP report in Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 9 December 1985, p. 15.
(17) Leidsch Dagblad, 10 December 1985, p. 13.

*FIDE Rating List July 1985 (

Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Timman-Tal 1985) by User: nescio2 and Game Collection: Montpellier Candidates Playoff 1985 by User: Tabanus. Game dates (2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 December) are from the Dutch newspaper Amigoe (at

Game 1 Monday December 2
Tal vs Timman, 1985
(A34) English, Symmetrical, 22 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 2 Tuesday December 3
Timman vs Tal, 1985 
(D20) Queen's Gambit Accepted, 28 moves, 1-0

Game 3 Wednesday December 4
Tal vs Timman, 1985
(C80) Ruy Lopez, Open, 23 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 4 Friday December 6
Timman vs Tal, 1985
(A53) Old Indian, 26 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 5 Saturday December 7
Tal vs Timman, 1985 
(C05) French, Tarrasch, 44 moves, 1-0

Game 6 Sunday December 8
Timman vs Tal, 1985 
(B82) Sicilian, Scheveningen, 50 moves, 1/2-1/2

6 games

 » View all game collections by Tabanus PGN Download
 » Search entire game collection library
 » Clone this game collection (copy it to your account)
 » FAQ: Help with Game Collections
Home | About | Login | Logout | F.A.Q. | Profile | Preferences | Premium Membership | Kibitzer's Café | Biographer's Bistro | New Kibitzing | Chessforums | Tournament Index | Player Directory | Notable Games | World Chess Championships | Opening Explorer | Guess the Move | Game Collections | ChessBookie Game | Chessgames Challenge | Store | Privacy Notice | Contact Us

Copyright 2001-2021, Chessgames Services LLC