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Lev Polugaevsky vs Mikhail Tal
Riga Interzonal (1979), Riga URS, rd 2, Sep-06
English Opening: Symmetrical. Three Knights Variation (A34)  ·  0-1



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Given 6 times; par: 40 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <talisman> with two top-class masters, at times it's inexplicable; one I've never quite figured out is Korchnoi's poor record vs Keres, the only win coming at the very end of Keres' life in March 1975.

<Clubfoot> Interesting; I'd never known that, and it's difficult to imagine being capable of playing at anything like 100% of one's normal level in the face of such adversity.

Oct-08-07  Jim Bartle: What would have followed 21. Rxf2?

(Please, don't be something ridiculously obvious...)

Oct-08-07  euripides: <Jim> from my memory of Speelman's notes on this game it's <21.Rxf2> Rxf2+ when either 22.Qxf2 Qxe4+ or 22.Kxf2 Rf8+ are nasty.
Oct-08-07  laskereshevsky: at first sight i think is OK to play 22...♖xf2+ 23.♕xf2 ♕xe4+ and depending from the white's moves u have only to choice betw. 24...♖f8, and 24...♕xb1 with the threats ♕xb5 and ♖f8....
Oct-08-07  Jim Bartle: Aha...I kept looking at Rd8-d3, attacking the queen, which has few squares to retreat to...
Oct-12-07  QuidProQuo: <euripides: <Jim> from my memory of Speelman's notes on this game it's <21.Rxf2> Rxf2+ when either 22.Qxf2 Qxe4+ or 22.Kxf2 Rf8+ are nasty.>

I belive that's wrong, go back to the drawing bored and check notes!

Jun-15-08  dTal: After losing to Polu in the candidates match that Clubfoot refers to above, Tal knew his chances to become WC again were more or less over. He smiled sadly and said now I am "polu tal" meaning something like "semi tal" when translated literally from the Russian. (From Kasparov's MGP) The greatest talent in Chess history was also probably the classiest WC. Nobody could withstand him when he was in health and form. Nobody.
Aug-13-08  Bobsterman3000: That d3 knight was a killer. It decided the game almost single-handedly...

Aug-13-08  ughaibu: You're joking. This game might have the greatest proportion of surprising moves against routine crap of any other game, even including Tal's.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Clubfoot: He was ready for Polu in 1980 but bad luck took him out: he lost two members of his family on the eve of the match and kind of sleepwalked through it.>

Well, maybe. This game was his first win over Polugaevsky in 20 years. Polu had beaten him five times in between. Seems like Polugaevsky was just a bad matchup for him, as Korchnoi was.

Aug-13-08  HannibalSchlecter: Wham! Don't mess with Tal!
Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: dTal is correct. There is no way, for example, Botvinnik would have won the return match in 1961 if Tal had been healthy.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <andrewjsacks: dTal is correct. There is no way, for example, Botvinnik would have won the return match in 1961 if Tal had been healthy.>

Here is what Tal had to say.

<I was unprepared for the change which had taken place in Botvinnik. He arrived for the 1961 match extremely self-disciplined and aggressive, readily going in for a stormy position if it looked favourable for him, which he had not done in 1960. In the main one must look to the form of the winner to find an explanation for the result of the match.

In conclusion, I should remark that the defeat did not provoke a crisis in my game, although I have read this on a number of occasions. Three months later I succeeded in taking first place in a strong tournament.>

-- <My Life and Games>, p. 175.

Aug-14-08  Tessie Tura: <'In the main one must look to the form of the winner to find an explanation for the result of the match.'>

Tal also said: ‘This year on stage when I lost the title, he looked like a giant to me.’

A real sportsman. Tal wasn’t the kind of man to make excuses for himself, but that doesn’t mean that others can’t do it on his behalf. Between the two championship matches he had to deal with the attention focused on the new champ, finished up his studies, became a father, had more health problems, and started chainsmoking in earnest. Otherwise he had nothing on his mind. :) On top of this he was ill during the match. As Botvinnik always said, a player has to be in sound health to stay at the top.

This is not to take away from Botvinnik’s comeback. He came prepared and was in great form.

It’s also true that Tal thought he’d finished the old guy off last time and underestimated him accordingly. Bad move.

Mar-02-09  M.D. Wilson: What I find amazing is the fact that Tal's two wins against Polugaevsky in this database were 20 years apart (1959-1979). Incidently, these two years (1959 and 1979) were both memorable for Tal.
Oct-12-09  hedgeh0g: Could Tal really calculate that deeply when he sacrificed? It seemed like he almost always had an answer for every defense his opponents conjured up.
Feb-03-10  dTal: Tal could calculate lines with amazing rapidity, but he was more an intuitive player. Kasparov says in MGP that Tal is the only person in the world he knew that "saw through lines" and he didn't need to calculate concrete variations. He says hundreds of wonderful variations were constantly whirling around in his brain. Kasparov himself on the other hand, calculated everything very precisely.
Feb-03-10  ughaibu: Kasparov was selling books, ie fantasising. Tal himself admitted that sometimes he forgot where pieces were in his calculations.
Feb-04-10  dTal: Ah, ughaibu, the kibitzer with more Chess knowledge than Kasparov, thanks for your insightful comment. I guess that Kasparov sold many more books than he otherwise would have by including that one line about Tal. How many thousands would have simply spurned that volume if he hadn't said that? Of course you're right. Please do share more of your insight about Tal. May I ask out of curiosity, how did you gain that insight? Did you know him personally, play against him, study his games, all of the above etc?

The point that I was trying to make though, is that Tal was an intuitive player, not a precise calculator of lines, like Kasparov was.

Apr-10-14  Petrosianic: <keypusher>: <Well, maybe. This game was his first win over Polugaevsky in 20 years. Polu had beaten him five times in between. Seems like Polugaevsky was just a bad matchup for him, as Korchnoi was.>

Yes, and if you look at their lifetime records, it's +8-2=25 for Polugaevsky. I actually like Tal, (everybody likes Tal), he's one of my favorite players. But like Fischer, he seems to attract a certain class of fanbase that makes excuses for ALL his defeats.

Feb-27-19  Antonin1957: Well, while playing this one through I was able to predict 24...Nd3.
Apr-14-19  siggemannen: Wasn't something like 12.Nh3 better? To protect f2 and free up the queen.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <siggemannen>
12. Nf3 is to cover the d4 square. Black's position looks great after 12. Nh3 Nc6, but I don't have any precise calculations of it ;-)
Premium Chessgames Member
  areknames: I was fascinated by this game when I first came across it and I still am almost 40 years on.
Nov-09-19  Albion 1959: Only the second win for Tal against Polugaevsky. His first one was in 1959 and had to wait 29 years for his second one! Only Tal could play a game like this. Carlsen couldn't do this, nor could Fischer! All done on pure intuition and some calculation. Move 17.Nb5?? was bad, he had to challenge the knight on d3 by Ne1. It means giving back the pawn, but in return white gets some piece play. After Tal's 17th move Qxc4! The attack is too strong, from which there was no escape:
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