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Jonathan Penrose vs Mikhail Tal
"Penrose to the Occasion" (game of the day Jul-31-2006)
Leipzig ol (Men) fin-A (1960), Leipzig GDR, rd 11, Nov-08
Benoni Defense: King Pawn lines (A65)  ·  1-0



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Jonathan Penrose vs Mikhail Tal (1960) Penrose to the Occasion

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-05-08  MorphysMojo: I try to be objective when giving an opinion on a GM as much as I can so let me also add that I am a big fan of Tals'. I only enjoy Kasparov, Bronstein and Fischers' games more. I recall Tal losing some real key games (and they were heartbreakers) to Larsen, Korchnoi and Spassky in the endgame. However, I will also point out that Tal consistently kept his rating at or above 2600 back in the day when less than 10 players were usually at or above 2600. It's possible he was one of the most intimidating players in his day, (although those at the very top may not have been intimidated). The story with Benko and the sunglasses is evidence of the intimidation factor.
Dec-08-08  vsadek: For those interested into Sir Roger Penrose (Jonathan's brother) thoughts on artificial intelligence , I can recommend his book “The Emperor's New Mind“. But, be aware, it is not an easy read and it requires a certain knowledge and understanding of mathematics, quantum physics, cosmology and computing.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Jim Bartle: Tal won 12.6-8.5, then Botvinnik 13-8. Not much of a difference,>

I take it Tal was awarded that extra tenth of a point for playing the Benoni?

Oct-07-10  Eduardo Bermudez: Fifty years ago !! Penrose won against World Champion Tal !!
Feb-03-11  Albanius: On 19..f5 as suggested above,
W can play 20 Bxf5 instead of 20 e6
For example 20..gxf5 21 exd6! Qxd6
22 Nxf5 Qc7 (to defend Nc5) 23 Nxg7 Kxg7
24 Bd4+ looks very strong,
eg 24..Kf8 25 Qh4 Re7
26 Qh6+ Ke8 27 d6 Qc6
28 Qh5+ Rf7 29 Rfe1+ wins
Oct-02-11  pom nasayao: i think there is no other game on record which Tal was able to play Penrose again. Must be a lifetime good feeling for Dr. Penrose.
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: This victory made Penrose the first <British> player to beat a reigning world champion since Joseph Henry Blackburne defeated Emanuel Lasker in 1899. Lasker vs Blackburne, 1899
Dec-20-12  leka: The finnish player Kaarle Ojanen elo rating 2563 world ranking 89th showed fist how to beat the Benoni.Ojanen played bishop d3! knight e2! f4! against Paul Keres in 1960.The British have robbed mug this from Ojanen.They called this a Penrose Tal line it is not it is a Ojanen! Keres line.The topic say the king pawns line itshould says Ojanen! attack.Ojanen was not a pro.He had a job.Ojanen could have been even better if he could use all his time to chess
Dec-20-12  leka: The chess era from 1962 to 1972 was the weakest in the history of chess.Fischer was a genius but the computers today solved all Fischer famous moves under second thinkng time.Against Byrne bishop e6! Gligoric rookf6! Benkö rook f6! larsen rook e5! the only move computer thinks is Minic knight e5!!.Fischer was a genius but the blunder makers like Taimanov Larsen Hort Gligoric Benkö were not a good ones.
Dec-20-12  thomastonk: <leka:Ojanen> I have just consulted another database, and there are seven games played before 1960 with the position after 8.Nge2. The first one is Sämisch vs Schlage, Berlin 1937. Moreover, even Tal had this position before: Mileika vs Tal, Riga 1954.

<leka:The chess era from 1962 to 1972 was the weakest in the history of chess.> :-)

Nov-23-13  jerseybob: How about a little chess "Alt-history"? Earlier in this Olympiad Penrose nearly beat Bobby Fischer. If that sensational upset had occurred, would Tal have played as he did in this game? Or would this pairing have even come up?
Nov-23-13  Organizer: Given Tal's health problems, and the lack of attention the Soviets gave them, it's a wonder he was able to accomplish what he did. He also didn't help himself by smoking excessively and not living a healthier life style. But, he is one of the top 5 GMs in my book, in terms of imagination and daring on the chess board.
Nov-23-13  ughaibu: What "lack of attention" was that?
Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: <Open Defence> I have to respond to your comment: <Tal the artist is above all... probably only Bronstein comes close...> Nezhmetdinov "comes close" too, but you did qualify your comment with 'probably'


Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi, virtuex:

Who is who above picture?..Can you tell me ?..

They guy leaning against the post is Albert Grink who later played bass in the Germans pop group Der Fingerums.

The couple in front of him are Mrs and Mrs Boothroyd from Tunbridge Wells. They usually visited Wales at time of the year but decided to visit Germany.

The man in the raincoat and glasses just above Tal's a8 Rook is none other than Fritz Kappel a Baker from Berlin.

Anybody else recognise else?


Played Jonathan's brother Oliver Penrose, a couple times in serious play lost one drew 1.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Leonard posting on the English Chess Forum on Aug 11, 2010 throws some interesting background information about this game.

The Postman Won it. (read on)

"The postman arrived just as I was leaving the house on the departure day for Leipzig, delivering inter alia the latest issue of the Deutsche Schachzeiting.

I hastily jammed the mail into the rest of my luggage, which included my opening indexes, then around 40 thick looseleaf files, effectively a handwritten ChessBase.

There was a significant excess luggage charge at the airport.

On the morning of the final round when we were paired with the USSR who had already won the Olympiad, Jonathan Penrose asked me for suggestions on what to play against Tal.

I presented him with half-a-dozen bulging files, provoking a glazed look, and then as an afterthought added the Deutsche Schachzeitung which led on its first two pages with the game Ojanen-Keres from a friendly Finland v Estonia match.

Jonathan was immediately hooked and quickly decided this was his weapon for that afternoon.

It succeded rather easily, and afterwards JP described his feeling during the game as being like an Essex v Middlesex county match.

Tal failed to suss out Ojanen's key white plan of e5 dxe5 f5 with Ne4 and a mighty attack down the f file, erred early with Re8, fell into awful time pressure, and was crushed.

Tal had left Riga for a pre-Olympiad engagement causing him to arrive two days late in Leipzig (where on the morning he arrived I witnessed him in the Olympiad barber shop having a haircut while whizzing through the bulletins of the previous rounds) so hadn't received his Deutsche Schachzeitung.

Keres didn't mention his own disaster against Ojanen before Tal took on Penrose. Tal was apparenly quite annoyed at that."

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <MorphysMojo: Much as I appreciate Tal's brilliance, I will actually agree that he was overrated as a player, compared to the many other great players of his time....>

How so? The man ploughed through all obstacles to play for the title.

<....but not as a chess artist. As a chess artist he is on a par with Bronstein and others....>

Korchnoi would disagree; he has said that he regarded Tal's play as actually rather stereotyped, for all his tactical genius.

< a player I would put him as the tactical version of Petrosian (how's that for a hard to see comparison)....>

There were, shall we say, divergences in their methods.

<....We never actually saw Tal at his potential best because the Soviet Government waited for years before they would allow doctors to remove his horribly diseased kidney.....>

Is there a source to corroborate this?

<....The Soviet Machine intensely disliked Tal and his humorous and at times hedonistic lifestyle reflecting poorly on them....>

There was likely more than a measure of truth to this: the bureaucratic darlings Over There were Botvinnik, Keres and Petrosian--at least until the latter ran afoul of them by losing to Korchnoi in the candidates during the 1970s.

Korchnoi, Bronstein, Spassky and (K)holmov were also not greatly favoured by the powers that were.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kamalakanta: There is no way Tal was overrated as a player. On his way to the WC title, he dismantled Snyslov, among others, in spectacular fashion. And Smyslov was at the height of his powers!

Anyone can say "he was overrated". Prove it.

And his book, "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal", is one of the best chess books ever written.

Only his poor health prevented him from achieving more outer success.

Oct-19-17  ughaibu: I think Tal is generally underrated, well loved but underrated.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kamalakanta: Yes, Ughaibu, the same thing happens with Lasker.

Capablanca held Lasker in very high regard, yet Fischer said Lasker was a "coffeehouse player"! And Capablanca also stated that even Masters could not fully appreciate Lasker; they did not understand him.

Chess fans are generally myopic by definition. And now, with "stats" being so "important", anyone can say Tal is overrated because he held the title only for one year, etc, etc....

Great players can be appreciated only by other great players, or by chess lovers who are not stuck on "stats" and numbers, but who can see the beauty and greatness of the player's moves!

Computers have shifted the concept of "greatness" to things related to the ego and the mind. Did the player "dominate"? How many points did he lose by?

But I look at Tal's games, and his brilliance blinds me! Nezhmetdinov is also an example of a great player who did not achieve the ultimate success.

It is all subjective, of course. Tal belongs to the category of "Artists" of the chessboard, like Chigorin, Alekhine and Bronstein....his genius is unparalleled, in my opinion. Too bad his health could not keep up.

Dec-04-18  N.O.F. NAJDORF: '[Tal] does not compare well as a world champion to Seinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Karpov or Kasparov.'

I think the comparison is unfair.

Lasker did not defend his title between 1897 and 1907, nor between 1910 and 1921.

Botvinnik was permitted a return match twice.

But for the 'Botvinnik rule,' Tal would have been world champion for three years.

Like Tal, Botvinnik never actually won a match as world champion.

Petrosian, who has been called 'the weakest of world champions,' and whose tournament record was mediocre, was the only champion who did win a match as world champion between 1948 and 1978.

We can play all kinds of games with statistics.

Dec-04-18  N.O.F. NAJDORF: Jonathan Penrose has a fascinating family history. His brothers, Sir Roger Penrose and Oliver Penrose, are both physicists. His maternal grandfather was the physiologist John Beresford Leathes, and his maternal grandmother was the Russian - Jewish concert pianist Sonia Marie Natanson. His great-grandfather was the Rev. Stanley Leathes, Professor of Hebrew at King's College London, whose wife Matilda (née Butt) was a descendant of a Dr. Butt who was a physician to Henry VIII. His family history certainly supports the idea that there is a mathematics - music - chess connection.
Apr-17-19  ughaibu: <Tal had left Riga for a pre-Olympiad engagement causing him to arrive two days late in Leipzig (where on the morning he arrived I witnessed him in the Olympiad barber shop having a haircut while whizzing through the bulletins of the previous rounds) so hadn't received his Deutsche Schachzeitung.>

It looks like U Raisa vs M Czerniak, 1960 was played in an earlier round.

Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: Keres' loss was horrific: passive response involving ..Ng8 and he got mated. Lifetime score vs Ojanen was 6:1 to Keres (=3) to put the game in context.

Penrose diverged from Ojanen-Keres with 15 Qf3 (dispensing with 15 Kh1). After the setup chosen by Tal, White's attack played itself. Tal had to try 21..e4 22 Ngxe4 Nd3 but instead played two consecutive weak moves: 21..Ba8 and 22..Na4 and got spanked. 26 Nc5 (ouch!) was nice.

Perhaps in a state of euphoria, Penrose went for an easily won ending but 27 Rf3 is an absolute bone cruncher.

This proved to be a one-off encounter. Against other Soviet world champions (Botvinnik, Smyslov, Petrosian & Spassky) the results were +0, -6, =2.

Leipzig was a career highlight for Penrose. He also had a won position against Bobby Fischer but faltered in that game and let Fischer escape with a draw.

Apr-17-19  ughaibu: Suspecting this might be an opening designed by the Finnish team for Leipzig 1960, I took a quick look at the games of all the members: Eero Einar Book, Unto Raisa, Kaarle-Sakari Ojanen, Matti Rantanen, Aarne Ilmari Niemela and Jalo Aatos Fred.

Nothing very interesting resulted, except that Ojanen had also played the black side of the benoni: Sliwa vs K S Ojanen, 1958 and had previously been successful with the conventional approach: K S Ojanen vs Prins, 1956. Though I did find this amusing game: A Niemela vs F J Perez Perez, 1961.

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