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Martins Neibults vs Mikhail Tal
Latvian Championship (1954), Riga URS
King's Indian Defense: Petrosian Variation (E92)  ·  0-1



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Nov-05-09  dzechiel: <... I'm no chess wizard, but I saw Ng3+ almost instantly. How can that be? What makes a move like that jump out at you before you even have a chance to think about it? Does anybody here have any thoughts on that?>

Both the attacking (going towards the enemy king) and forcing (deliver a check, restrict your opponent's replies) nature of this move make it an obvious candidate move for players with even minimal experience.

I would think that only rank beginners (ie, learned the rules of chess this morning) would not be immediately drawn towards this move.

Nov-05-09  TheChessGuy: <playground player> Sometimes,that just happens. Familiarity and expertise with chess can cause you to be able to make huge intuitive leaps in a position. Your vision and intuition operate much faster than you can calculate; it's up to that part of your mind to confirm what you just sensed or felt. Whole articles and studies have been authored about chess players and the way our minds work. Check it out!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jimfromprovidence: I like one of the defensive lines that <agb2002> came up with; 18...Nxg3+ 19 Kg1 Nxf1 20 Ne6!? Bxe6 21 dxe6 Ne3.

click for larger view

Now, after 22 Bxe3 fxe3 white has 23 Nd5, providing support for his passed pawn.

click for larger view

Nov-05-09  zanshin: I got all the moves up to <26.Bxe3>. So I will claim I got this one.

<pgp> The move also jumped out at me because, first of all, you have a clue that the position holds a 'game changer'. The recapture on c5 does not seem to feel right - it is too boring. Otoh, the Knight fork looks exciting because you can sense the strength of the pawn on g3 as well as the follow-up with the Queen on h4. So I think the sacrifice seems obvious - the only question will be: Is it sound? With the benefit of hindsight (and Rybka ;-)), we know it is.

click for larger view

Nov-05-09  Patriot: <<playground player> I'm no chess wizard, but I saw Ng3+ almost instantly. How can that be? What makes a move like that jump out at you before you even have a chance to think about it? Does anybody here have any thoughts on that?>

Great question. I'm no chess wizard either, not even close. I saw the move very quickly probably because my coach teaches me to look at checks, captures, and threats (usually in that order). But even if you haven't been formally trained to do so, many of these chess problems have a forcing move as the solution. In that case players become self-trained to look for crazy looking moves usually when confronted with a puzzle, whereas over the board they may not even consider such moves.

I think after seeing puzzles for a while you begin to see similar patterns where pieces are sacrificed or there are loose pieces or the king seems vulnerable to attack and the puzzle illustrates how to take advantage of that. Our brains are mostly geared visually (so I've heard), though I'm no expert on that either.

Still it is pretty amazing. As a programmer, I can imagine how hard it would be to program a computer to process visual information. Computers can perform billions of calculations per second, yet have tremendous difficulty processing visual information that humans can do so easily. That's why "captchas" tend to fool bots.

Nov-05-09  YouRang: I missed it. I actually considered <18...Ng3+> (what else would Tal do when down a piece but to sac another piece?). However, I miscounted somewhere along the way....

I saw that 19.hxg3 fxg3 looked bad for white with ...Qh4 looming. So, I looked at declining the sac with 19.Kg1 Nxg1 20.Nxb7 (getting a pawn for the knight that I'm about to lose anyway) Bxb7 21.Kxf1.

Somehow, I mentally concluded that white ended up with 2 pieces for a rook, which didn't sound so good for black, so I dismissed it.

But it was a miscount: Black wins the exchange outright, and still has a strong attack. Silly counting error. :-p

Nov-05-09  muralman: I got 18 to 24. After that I couldn't agree with the line, and still wonder what was so great about the end. looking at the kibitzing, you would think the first move, a rather obvious night times g3 was the soulution. I wasn't going to stop there. I agreed with all the moves including 24. After that it was a mystery to me where Tal was going.
Nov-05-09  CHESSTTCAMPS: <agb2002>

At the end of your A.1.c), I believe black's Q is hanging. Instead, black has 26... Bf5#, a line I intended to include in my post, but somehow omitted.


A master will quickly choose 18... Ng3 instead of 18... fxg3, because (1) it's more forcing and (2) after the exchange,the pawn on g3 controls the king's flight square f2, but the knight on g3 does not. Of course, you need to visualize the basic mating net and analyze the only feasible defense (Re1) a bit further before sacrificing a 2nd piece.

<Patriot> <[snip]Because once you clearly establish a best move then it's a complete waste of time trying to figure out everything that "might" happen.>

I agree with your essential point that a number of the solutions present more detail than is necessary to establish the best move. For instance, in this game, if I visualize and assess correctly up to move 22... Bh3, I see that I will get my material back with interest and I think that would be enough for me to decide to go for it OTB. However, we also know that our experience and biases can lead us to a bad assessment of what is actually the best move. A chess game is like a minefield - the more you can see, the better off you are! In any case, exploring the detail in these puzzles, as you note, is great for extending one's board vision.

<NewLine:> <Oh come on! This isn't a Medium puzzle, and hardly forcing (I mean, for regular not-rybka humans)..>

Well, if you find the first move and the knight is accepted, the continuation is pretty much forced up through black's move 22. If you've seen that much and you realize that black is winning, you can credit yourself with solving it, even if you didn't succeed in guessing how the entire game played out. Bear in mind that many of the kibitzers post solutions based on the diagram alone, without consulting engines or moving pieces. This can be done with pattern recognition, experience, and practice.

If you think this was difficult, try out a few weekend puzzles!

<Jimfromprovidence> (& <agb2002> )

Looks like a tough defense - wish I'd seen it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <playground player> Lots of answers to your question, so here is yet another!

Chess is sometimes a pictorial game. We deal in images, patterns, visual cues. In some cases, we spot a combination because we have seen something like it before. Sometimes, the arrangement of pieces suggests a continuation - eg a queen and king on the same diagonal cries out for a bishop to pin or skewer.

In today's puzzle, we need to use one of Jeremy Silman's maxims, that you should attack in the direction that your pawns point. If you look at the starting position, nearly all of black's pieces and pawns are pointing at the white kingside. It's like the starting position has a massive flashing neon sign pointing towards g3 and h4 - both squares near the white king and both squares attacked by two black pieces.

With clues like that, who could fail to be attracted by a move like Nxg3+??

The other clue for those with a little more chess knowledge is that the opening was almost certainly a kings indian, which means that white attacks on the queenside and black attacks on the kingside.

Trivia question - which Beatles song could also be a Cluedo solution?

Nov-05-09  Patriot: <CHESSTTCAMPS>

Yep, very true! I calculated (but didn't post because of complaints of redundancy) thru Re1 Qh4+ Kg1 Qh2+ Kf1 Bh3 and saw that any attempt to protect the bishop with Qd2 or Qc2 will be met with Qh1+ followed by Qxg2+ with a great attack and also the fact that black can pick up the knight on c5. Or in the Kg1 line, Nxf1 wins the exchange as I noted before. All of that was enough to convince me that black is indeed winning in that line, so no need to calculate to mate or trying to win more material. On the clock and if there is plenty of time, I think it's good to calculate again just to make sure you haven't missed anything before proceeding to start the combination.

Nov-05-09  VincentL: I come to this "medium" puzzle late in the day.

Black is a knight down, but can immediately restore material parity by capturing on c5.

Obviously there is more in the position than this.

Straight away I see the line

18......Nxg3+ 19. hxg3 fxg3 followed by 20..... Qh4+ and 21.....Qh2 mate.

What defence can white put up against this?

On move 19 the only other legal move is 19. Kg1, whereupon 19.... Nxf1 20. Bxf1 dxc5 and black emerges the exchange and a pawn up.

On move 20, white has no reasonable move to prevent Qh4+ / Qh2 mate except 20. Kg1. After this move black continues 20....Qh4, and white must move the rook (Re1) to avoid immediate mate on h2.

Now black continues 21.....Qh2+ and white 22. Kf1

Now what? Clearly it must be 22.... Bh3 threatening 22.... Qxg2 mate.

Only 23. Ke2 stops this (23. Re2. Qh1 mate)

Then 23.... Qxg2+

I am now visualizing the position 5 moves ahead, so I hope I don't make mistakes.

24. Kd3/Ke3 Rxf3+ and black can play ...dxc5 with a won position (3 pawns up, one being a passed pawn on the sixth rank surrounded by major pieces).

This must be the solution.

Since there is only line and the first move is more or less obvious, I am sure that there will be at least 20 other posters on here with the solution before me. But for what it's worth, I will post this write-up.

Nov-05-09  Quentinc: I discovered this terrific site only a few weeks ago, but one quickly learns that the solutions tend to feature spectacular-looking sacs. So, even though I haven't played serious chess in almost 30 (gulp) years, Nxg3 just looked like it had to be right, and "knowing" that Black had a decisive move made it much easier to calculate the position out through 22...Bh3 (at which point the win was obvious). But in actual games, intriguing looking sacs often are unsound, and that can lead to reluctance unless one is completely confident that there is no refutation. When you're playing an actual game, no one tells you that your next move can decide the outcome. Since I don't play OTB any more, doing these puzzles is a lot of fun, but sometimes I wonder if they are really good training or not.
Nov-05-09  WhiteRook48: missed that
Nov-05-09  Patriot: <Quentinc> Welcome to the site!

Puzzles can help you practice board vision, and even a good thought process. But you're right, in puzzles you know there must be a winning move and that's much different in an actual game. During a game you have to decide whether you have time and whether a sequence of moves is even worth exploring, and that's where you have to prune lines to save time on the clock, decide whether one move is clearly better than another without analyzing too deep, etc. In other words, practical chess. I try to apply a similar thought process when solving these puzzles as I do OTB. That way I'm applying a more consistent thought process.

Nov-05-09  dzechiel: <Quentinc: ... but sometimes I wonder if they are really good training or not.>

They are excellent training if you want to develop your tactical chess ability. Not so much when it comes to your positional chess ability.

As you pointed out, almost all of these positions involve a combination to bring about the desired result.

It's much more difficult to show that a quiet (but important) maneuver on move 16 will pay off down the line on move 44 when your better control of the dark squares will enable you to advance your queen side pawns.

Nov-05-09  costachess: Why the hell white don't play 11. Bxh5 ????????

click for larger view

Nov-05-09  Quentinc: Thanks for the welcome!

Yes, I do see that this is very good practice for visualizing combinations, etc. It might be more beneficial, though, if there were some positions in which the tempting sac does *not* work, and you have to find the refutation. But it would be a lot less fun to settle for the quiet move that, as Dzechiel says, pays off many moves later.

Costachess, I had the same question (posted it earlier).

Nov-05-09  johnlspouge: Thursday (Medium):

Niebult vs Tal, 1954 (18...?)

Black to play and win.

Material: Down a B, with the possibility of the immediate recapture 18…dxc5 (but this is Tal!). The White Kh1 has 1 legal move. Black has 18…Nxg3+ or

18…fxg3 (threatening 19.Qh4 20.Qxh2#)

White apparently must delay rescue of Nc5, while Black opens the White K-side. The Black Kg8 is immune to check.

Candidates (18...?): fxg3, Nxg3+

[18.fxg3 Ne4 19.Qh4 h3 holds]

In fact, a Pg3 is better than Ng3, because it controls the (now) weak dark squares around Kh1.


(1) White can accept the sacrifice of Ng3:

19.hxg3 fxg3 (threatening 20…Qh4+ 21…Qh2#)

20.Kg1 (now, or later by transposition) Qh4

(1.1) 22.Re1 Qh2+ 23.Kf1 Bh3 24.Re2 [Bxh3 Qf2#] [Qe2 Qh1#]

24…Rxf3+ 25.Rf2 Qxg2+ 26.Ke1 Qxf2#

(1.2) 22.Bh3

Black has at least 22…Qxh3 23…dxc5 (if nothing better), winning a P, with the initiative.

(2) White can decline the sacrifice of Ng3:


Black has at least 19…Nxf1 20.Nc5-any Ne3, winning at least R for N.

Nov-05-09  CHESSTTCAMPS: <Quentinc:> <...It might be more beneficial, though, if there were some positions in which the tempting sac does *not* work, and you have to find the refutation. ...>

In fact, will occasionally post a "spoiler" puzzle where the "obvious" sac is flawed and should lose, and I recall one (actually played by a GM) that fooled a number of the best regulars here. I wish there would be more of those to keep us honest. A more common situation is represented by last Sunday's puzzle, where white's first move wins brilliantly against inferior defense (as played in the game), but black's hard-to-find best defense forces white to fight for the draw.


At the end of your A.1.c), I believe black's Q is hanging. Instead, black has 26... Bf5#,..>

My hallucination, the queen is not hanging - sorry. 26...Bf5# is available against 26.Ke4, but not against 26.Kc2, so your A.1.c is right on the money. Evidently, my visualization at the 16th ply from the start position is problematical.

Nov-05-09  AnalyzeThis: White must have been out to lunch when he played 29. Ne4 in this game. Tal may have banged down 29...Bf1+ before the guy even hit his clock.
Nov-06-09  arctic tern: <White must have been out to lunch when he played 29. Ne4 in this game.>

White doesn't have many options, as Black is threatening both Bf1+ and Bf5+ and White can't defend against both simultaneously.

Premium Chessgames Member
  playground player: Thanks for the feeback, everybody!
Nov-06-09  TheaN: Thursday 5 November


Target: 3:30;000
Taken: 1:50;058
Eagle: -1m <> -2m

Material: White up, ♘

Candidates: <[Nxg3†]>

First and foremost, I missed Black was down a Knight. That changes the combo slightly, as it actually has to gain back more than just the piece sacced on move 18, also the piece that was sacced earlier. The keymove is obvious whatsoever:

<18....Nxg3†!> without this demolition, Black is losing. Interesting is that Kg1, avoiding the sac, yields a comfortable position for Black with a Rook against two Knights, where the Rook is definitely better (the f8♖ vs the White ♘s), nonetheless, it might be best, what if White does accept?

<19.hxg3 hxg3> many options are open to White to avoid 20....Qh4† 21.Kg1 Qh2‡, but not all are as sufficient. Blocking the h-file with the Bishop is one:

<20.Bh3> aside putting a Bishop in completely, Black can still get his Queen into play with some terrible consequences for White:

<20....Qh4 21.Kg1> White cannot protect the Bishop.

<21....Bxh3 > and the only one defending is White.

<20.Kg1> this is a lot more simple to defend, and in truth the only true defense.

<20....Qh4 21.Re1> the Rook must move, Bh3 leads to the same position as above.

<21....Qh2† 22.Kf1 Bh3!> now the threat is simple: 23.Bxh3?? Qf2‡, so White has to defend the Bishop. 21.Qe2 leads to 21....Qh1‡, so White may only play:

<23.Qd2> but the pin remains:

<23....Qh1† 24.Ke2 Qxg2† 25.Kd1 Rxf3 > and I guess White is losing there quickly. So, playing 19.Kg1 might be the safest;

<19.Kg1 Nxf1 > but it wins too. Time to see what I missed.

Nov-06-09  TheaN: 3/4

Okay I completely missed that Black isn't down anything after 18....dxc5, so anything exchanged in the combination is in Black's advantage. And I kinda messed up my board vision after 22....Bh3, 23.Qd2 ain't so good :P. No score here for me, although otb I would've won with this combination.

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