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Mikhail Tal vs Evgeni Vasiukov
"A Hippo in the Marsh" (game of the day Nov-06-2006)
USSR Championship (1964/65), Kiev URS, rd 4, Dec-30
Caro-Kann Defense: Karpov. Modern Variation Kasparov Attack (B17)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 1 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Sep-25-02  dimradil: there's an amusing story regarding this game at :
Dec-24-03  MoonlitKnight: The year was 1965, not 1964.
Feb-11-04  patzer2: A bit more biographical data on Tal and this game can be found at
Feb-11-04  drukenknight: does anyone know where black goes wrong in the endgame? B of opposite colors, should be able to hold, no?
Feb-12-04  patzer2: Black was lost as soon as Tal's hippopotamus slid off the Chess board and back into the swamp (see link above for explanation). Seriously, drukenknight, some of Tal's positions are so complex even he wasn't sure after his sacrifices if he had a win with best play. Some of his sacrifices give even the strongest computer programs and analysts fits trying to figure them out, even years after they were played

However, it is amusing in this game that the discovered attack 58. f4! provides a pretty forced win, despite the opposite colored Bishop, due to Tal's pretty mate threats against Black's King (e.g. 58 f5! Rg3 59. f6 Bc4 60. f7+ Bxf7 61. Rd8#).

Feb-12-04  patzer2: Fritz 8 gives best play in the final position as 58. f4! Rf3 59. fxg6 Rh3 60. Rxd3 Rxd3 61. Kh7 Rh3+ 62. Bh6 Rf3 63. g7 Rf7 64. g5 Kd7 65. Kg6 Rxg7+ 66. Kxg7 Ke6 67. g6 Kf5 68. Kh7 (+6.28 @ 17 depth & 887kN/s).
Feb-12-04  patzer2: Drukenknight, it appears Black could have kept White to only a slight advantage after 28...Rxe1+. After 28...hxg6 Tal has an extra pawn and a clear advantage in the opposite color Bishop Ending .
Feb-12-04  ughaibu: Surely he doesn't even have the extra pawn as he cant both protect c4 and recapture the bishop?
Feb-12-04  patzer2: Tal gains the extra pawn after 28...hxg6?!, as the combination ends after 34. Rxa7 with White having three pawns to Black's two. It is not a particularly drawish opposite color Bishop ending because of a presence of a Rook for each side.
Feb-12-04  drukenknight: I was looking at 50...Ke8?! why does he just give up the opposition like that? This leads to all the R/B mating threats.
Feb-12-04  patzer2: After 54. Rd3! notice that 54...Bxg4 fails to 55. Bd8+! Ke8 56. Bg5! . After snatching a pawn, Black must give up his rook and a pawn to stop mate.

To make matters worse, for Black this is no cheap trap as all other options lose. However, you may have to let your computer run to about 18 or 19 depth to see the variations Tal might have sprung.

Feb-12-04  patzer2: drukenknight: Looked at 50...Ke8?! and questioned it also. It is a weak move. However, Black is already lost by this point. So it doesn't make much difference.

Relatively best is 50...Re2!?, which Fritz 8 initially analyzed as a clear White advantage but not a win. However, after letting Fritz 8 run the position move-by-move to 20 depth, it revealed that even this "best move" loses for Black. However, from a practical perspective, 50...Re2 may be Black's best chance to complicate and swindle a draw in the event of a mistake by White.

Fritz 8 analyzes best play as 50...Re2!? 51. Rd6! Be4 52. Kg5 Rg2 53. Rd7+ Kg8 and now White has a winning advantage with any one of at least five different moves, including 54. Re7 or 54. Ra7 or 54. Rc7 or 54. 54. Rd8+ or 54. Bd6 (+1.97 @ 20 depth & 768kN/s). White will need to be carefulto be careful to avoid exchanging rooks too early in this position, but should otherwise win with precise play.

Feb-12-04  drukenknight: patzer had a very good suggestion on move 28 which makes logical sense.

On move 19...Nf4 I believe is better also.

I find it easier to try to learn/remember simple rules from games such as this. It is easier to look at move 50 in terms of failing to maintain opposition. that is something I can remember. who knows? Maybe we can find a draw in there yet. You say there are 5 different moves? yikes!

Feb-12-04  drukenknight: patzer: where is fritz getting 50...Re2? Why not 50...Kf6? This maybe a fun one to carry out correspondence style.
Feb-12-04  patzer2: <drukenknight> 50...Re2 was the only move that Fritz didn't rate as immediately losing. The idea is to put the Black rook on g2 and the Bishop on e5 to maximize pressure on White's extra pawn, and possibly to force an exchange of rooks at a critical point.

Still have Fritz 8 analyzing 50...Re2!? to figure out how to avoid exchanging rooks for a drawish opposite color bishop ending. Will look at 50...Kf6 later.

Feb-12-04  drukenknight: see I think Fritz is trying too hard for black in that position, knowing he is down a pawn. BUt maybe if he just settles down and limits the mobilit of white's K.
Feb-12-04  patzer2: Continuing the analysis, Fritz 8 analyzes best play as 50...Re2!? 51. Rd6! Be4 52. Kg5 Rg2 53. Rd7+ Kg8 54. Re7 Bf5 55. Bd6 Rxg4+ 56. Kf6 Rg3 57. Rg7+ Kh8 58. Rb7 Rd3 59. Be5 Kg8 60. Rb8+ Kh7 61. Rxb5 Kh6 62. Rb8 Kh5 63. b5 (+1.97 @ 20/52 depth & 780kN/s). However, the resulting position does not convince me that Fritz 8 has found a win here. Will continue the analysis with a later post.
Feb-12-04  drukenknight: see I think this may be part of the problem of accepting computer analysis. A strong line of moves? of course the computer does not miss much tactically.

But a numerical evaluation? Obviously white has an extra pawn and it may become a passed pawn. That seems to be the reason the evaluation is +1.97. But as chessplayers we know that there are many positions w/ material difference that cannot be won.

The computer evaluates a material advantage but until that advantage can translate into a win, the game is savable. Too often we accept the computer evaluation as a won game, but...

What I notice when I use computer is that if the numberical evaluation is not changing even after 5 or 6 moves, you may be onto a saving line.

Feb-12-04  ughaibu: The remarks that computers make about positions are almost meaningless, imagine if you asked me "how was the pub last night?" and I replied "-0.73".
Feb-12-04  drukenknight: I love the QB rating system: 107.5 what does that mean? Doesnt tell me who throws more picks, who has more yds per completion but lower % complete, etc.
Feb-13-04  patzer2: Play continues 50...Re2!? 51. Rd6! Be4 52. Kg5 Rg2 53. Rd7+ Kg8 54. Re7 Bf5 55. Bd6 Rxg4+ 56. Kf6 Rg3 57. Rg7+ Kh8 58. Rb7 Rd3 59. Be5 Kg8 60. Rb8+ Kh7 61. Rxb5 Kh6 62. Rb8 Kh5 63. b5 Kg4 64. b6 Kf3 65. Bc7 Rb3 66. Ke5 Be4 67. Kd4 Rb1 68. Rh8 Rd1+ 69. Ke5 Rd5+ 70. Ke6 Rb5 71. Kd7 g5 72. Rh3+ Kg4 73. Re3 Rb4 74. fxg5 Kxg5 75. Rg3+ Kf6 76. Rg1 Bb7 77. Bd8+ Ke5 78. Kc7 Be4 79. Rd1 Bd5 80. Re1+ Kd4 81. Bf6+ Kc4 82. Rd1 Bf3 83. Rf1 Bd5 84. Be7 Rb2 85. Bf6 Rb4 86. Rf4+ Kd3 87. Rd4+ Ke3 88. Ra4 Be4 89. Bd4+ Kd3 90. Bg1 Re5 91. Rd4+ Kc3 92. Rd7 Rb5 93. Be3 Bf3 94. Rd8 Rf5 95. Rd7 = and Fritz's final assessment of +0.94 (@17 depth & 778kN/s) is meaningless as the best White can do is emerge with Bishop and King versus King. The position is a clear DRAW.

So, <drukenknight>, if this analysis is correct, your suspicion of 50...Ke8?! appears to be fully justified since 50...Re2!? appears to give Black excellent drawing chances. Thanks for helping to find a line to help bust Tal's brilliancy in this famous game. Of course this analysis is so long, I'm sure someone can find a hole in it giving White better chances (but a White win is doubtful). However, your point that 50...Ke8?! was a blunder and that with a better move Black has good drawing chances is well taken.

Feb-13-04  drukenknight: wow! thanks for putting in that time. Give Fritz an extra charge or whatever he needs to make him happy.

the only thing I can learn from the game is look how much penetration Tal's K gets. How did that happen?

He gave up hte opposition. I have a list of most common mistakes in the endgame. It begins w/ 1. losing the opposition; 2. failure to blockade, 3 not staying in the box...

Oct-09-04  Giancarlo: This is the game mentioned in the autobiography on the Mikahil Tal page.
Oct-10-04  OneArmedScissor: This was one hell of an end game.
Good creative stuff by Tal.
Jul-11-05  ryanpd: Journalist: It might be inconvenient to interrupt our profound discussion and change the subject slightly, but I would like to know whether extraneous, abstract thoughts ever enter your head while playing a game?

Tal: Yes. For example, I will never forget my game with GM Vasiukov on a USSR Championship. We reached a very complicated position where I was intending to sacrifice a knight. The sacrifice was not obvious; there was a large number of possible variations; but when I began to study hard and work through them, I found to my horror that nothing would come of it. Ideas piled up one after another. I would transport a subtle reply by my opponent, which worked in one case, to another situation where it would naturally prove to be quite useless. As a result my head became filled with a completely chaotic pile of all sorts of moves, and the infamous "tree of variations", from which the chess trainers recommend that you cut off the small branches, in this case spread with unbelievable rapidity. And then suddenly, for some reason, I remembered the classic couplet by Korney Ivanovic Chukovsky:

"Oh, what a difficult job it was. To drag out of the marsh the hippopotamus".

I don't know from what associations the hippopotamus got into the chess board, but although the spectators were convinced that I was continuing to study the position, I, despite my humanitarian education, was trying at this time to work out: just how WOULD you drag a hippopotamus out of the marsh ? I remember how jacks figured in my thoughts, as well as levers, helicopters, and even a rope ladder. After a lengthy consideration I admitted defeat as an engineer, and thought spitefully to myself: "Well, just let it drown!" And suddenly the hippopotamus disappeared. Went right off the chessboard just as he had come on ... of his own accord! And straightaway the position did not appear to be so complicated. Now I somehow realized that it was not possible to calculate all the variations, and that the knight sacrifice was, by its very nature, purely intuitive. And since it promised an interesting game, I could not refrain from making it.

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