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Mikhail Tal
Number of games in database: 2,857
Years covered: 1949 to 1992
Highest rating achieved in database: 2705

Overall record: +1117 -295 =1276 (65.3%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 169 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (349) 
    B43 B46 B82 B32 B96
 Ruy Lopez (261) 
    C92 C95 C93 C96 C84
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (163) 
    C95 C92 C93 C96 C84
 Caro-Kann (105) 
    B18 B17 B14 B12 B10
 French Defense (103) 
    C07 C18 C05 C09 C16
 English (94) 
    A15 A14 A13 A17 A16
With the Black pieces:
 Sicilian (327) 
    B43 B40 B46 B92 B22
 King's Indian (111) 
    E92 E69 E66 E98 E62
 Modern Benoni (84) 
    A56 A64 A61 A70 A62
 Nimzo Indian (81) 
    E48 E52 E56 E46 E53
 English (80) 
    A15 A14 A10 A13 A16
 Queen's Pawn Game (73) 
    A46 E10 A40 A41 E00
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Tal vs Larsen, 1965 1-0
   Tal vs Hjartarson, 1987 1-0
   Tal vs Smyslov, 1959 1-0
   Tal vs Koblents, 1957 1-0
   Tal vs Hecht, 1962 1-0
   Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960 0-1
   Spassky vs Tal, 1973 0-1
   Bobotsov vs Tal, 1958 0-1
   Tal vs Karpov, 1987 1-0
   Tal vs J Miller, 1988 1-0

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Botvinnik - Tal World Championship Match (1960)
   Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   USSR Championship (1958)
   Bled (1961)
   Zurich (1959)
   USSR Championship (1957)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Palma de Mallorca (1966)
   Reykjavik (1964)
   USSR Championship (1972)
   Tallinn (1973)
   Keres Memorial (1977)
   Riga Interzonal (1979)
   USSR Championship (1962)
   USSR Championship (1971)
   Capablanca Memorial 2nd (1963)
   Amsterdam Interzonal (1964)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Talented Indeed is a FTB Understatement by fredthebear
   Tal Fever by chocobonbon
   Match Tal! by docjan
   Match Tal! by amadeus
   Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973 by Bokke
   Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973 by jessicafischerqueen
   Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973 per JFQ by fredthebear
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by mneuwirth
   *Mikhail Tal's Best Games by takchess
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by KingG
   Mikhail Tal: Selected Games by wanabe2000
   Tals Amazing ATTACKS!!! by Zhbugnoimt
   *The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by sputnik707
   The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by wvb933

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Mikhail Tal
Search Google for Mikhail Tal

(born Nov-09-1936, died Jun-28-1992, 55 years old) Latvia
[what is this?]

Mikhail Nekhemievich Tal was born in Riga, Latvia (annexed by the USSR in 1940). At six, he learned chess from his father, a medical doctor (source: Tal interview in <Chess Life>, May 1967). Tal won his first Latvian Championship in 1953, and earned the title of Soviet Master the following year. In 1957, aged twenty, he became the youngest-ever Soviet Champion. In 1960, following a string of victories in strong tournaments (including a second consecutive Soviet Championship, the Portorož Interzonal and the Candidates in Yugoslavia), Tal became the youngest World Chess Champion with a match victory over Mikhail Botvinnik. This record was broken by Garry Kasparov in 1985. Suffering from poor health, Tal lost the rematch with Botvinnik in 1961. He never qualified for a title match again.

Tal continued to struggle with health problems for the rest of his career, which was often marked by inconsistent results. On a number of occasions, however, he was still able to achieve world-class successes. Tal added four more Soviet Championship victories to his resume (in 1967, 1972, 1974, and 1978), equalling Botvinnik's all-time record of six. In 1979, he won joint first place at Montreal with Anatoly Karpov, briefly climbing back to second place in the world rankings and becoming only the third player after Fischer and Karpov to reach a rating of 2700.* In 1988, Tal won the World Blitz Championship. He died of renal failure in 1992, at the age of 55.

Paul Keres was a font of inspiration for him and Tal won three Keres Memorials: 1977, 1981, and 1983. Renowned for his aggressive, sacrificial playing style, Tal was also a noted chess journalist and author. In his autobiography, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, he annotates 100 of his greatest games.

A list of books about Tal can be found at

Wikipedia article: Mikhail Tal

A chronological list of Tal's Tournaments and Matches 1949-1973: Game Collection: Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973


Last updated: 2018-07-24 17:47:20

 page 1 of 115; games 1-25 of 2,857  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Kholmov vs Tal 0-1211949SimulD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
2. Butvit vs Tal  0-1371949RigaC01 French, Exchange
3. Tal vs M Strelkov 1-0161949RigaC10 French
4. Tal vs Ripatti ½-½411949RigaB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
5. Tal vs Leonov 1-0251949RigaB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
6. A Nevitsky vs Tal 0-1431949Semi Finals Youth ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
7. A Parnas vs Tal 0-1291949RigaC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
8. Tal vs Weldrou 1-0651949VilniusB40 Sicilian
9. J Klavins vs Tal 0-1181949RigaC10 French
10. Tal vs J I Zilber 1-0331949RigaC07 French, Tarrasch
11. Lavrinenko vs Tal 0-1381950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
12. Vladimirs Ivanovs vs Tal 1-0251950URSC90 Ruy Lopez, Closed
13. K Klasup vs Tal ½-½411950RigaD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
14. Tal vs Pliss 1-0371950RigaC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
15. Jullik vs Tal 0-1391950RigaA16 English
16. Tal vs N Darsniek 0-1261950RigaC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
17. Tal vs Miglan 1-0211950URS jrC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
18. Tal vs J Klavins 1-0541950Latvian jr ChampB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
19. Pakala vs Tal 0-1291950RigaD02 Queen's Pawn Game
20. Tal vs Sodell 0-1231950URSC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
21. Liepin vs Tal 0-1441950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
22. Leonov vs Tal 0-1341950URSE17 Queen's Indian
23. Tal vs J Fride 1-0401951RigaB28 Sicilian, O'Kelly Variation
24. Tal vs V Veders 1-0341951RigaC13 French
25. Tal vs Gaiduk ½-½411951LeningradC07 French, Tarrasch
 page 1 of 115; games 1-25 of 2,857  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Tal wins | Tal loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 114 OF 114 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <AK>, I was a halfway strong player in my best days, with a FIDE rating of 2186 at the time of retirement eighteen years ago, and got to sit across the board from a number of titled players in my day. Nowhere near the class of those GMs or IMs, but no milksop, either.

For all that, I stand by my post above: 2600 today does not even get one near the top 100 players overall, so certainly while that player will be a GM, there are a powerful lot more of those than formerly.

Sep-13-19  diagonal: The <Notable Games> (and corresponding cg. features) of Tal, Korchnoi and all other players who were concerned, are back and fixed properly. <Good news, and many thanks!>

Grandmaster Zenon Franco Ocampos on legendary Mikhail Tal:

(with various pictures from the Dutch Anefo archive, Tal played five times in the traditional Wijk aan Zee Hoogovens series, and won it in 1973; main focus of the article is on Tal's last tournament in classical chess at Barcelona 1992, that year, the city was hosting the Summer Olympic games).

Nov-09-19  cunctatorg: After World War II the mankind made really great, courageous and -above all- honest efforts for recovery and survival...

Misha Tal was one of The God's gifts to the mankind for that...

Nov-09-19  gars: Will ever be a chess player as loved as Tal was and still is?
Premium Chessgames Member
  fabelhaft: Maybe Keres is the one to come closest?!
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: How about Jana Malypetrova Hartston Miles Bellin?
Nov-09-19  cunctatorg: @ <MissScarlett>:

I am afraid that your -clever indeed- observation is way out of context, though Misha Tal would smile perhaps, reading that darkest piece of humor...

Mar-17-20  asiduodiego: Ok, I'll say this.

In my opinion, Tal is the Anti-Bobby Fischer. Not in terms of style of chess, but in terms of attitude to the game.

I think that, for Bobby, chess was always about ego. I guess that was good for him, because, for a while, it made him undefeatable for some years in the early 70s, But then after winning the WC, he just decided to retire, rather to find someone who would inevitably defeat him in the end.

But for Tal, I think, Chess was not about ego, it was always about the game itself and his love for chess. For example, I love the anecdotes about Tal losing games against Rashid Nezhmetdinov, and he being delighted, because the game they played was beatiful. For Tal, in some way, the result wasn't always the most important thing (but yes, let's not lose sight here: chess is a competitive game, and tal was always playing to win), but for him. I guess it was always something more than just that: it was about beauty and love of the game itself.

So, in my opinion, Tal was a better WC than Bobby, because he kept on playing and he really loved the game. For Bobby, it was just an ego trip. And when that thing ended, he went insane. Tal kept on playing till near his death, because, for him, chess was something beautiful, worthy of a lifetime of learning.

Mar-17-20  Sally Simpson: ***

Tal was born to play chess, I'd not put Fischer in a pigeon hole. It was not all about ego, there were a lot more complex things going on.

At one time he loved chess probably just as much as Tal, remember some of his most famous quotes.

"All I want to do, ever, is just play chess."

"You can only get good at chess if you love the game."

Sadly he fell out of love for the game.


Mar-17-20  Petrosianic: <Sally Simpson>: <Sadly he fell out of love for the game.>

<Because> he couldn't be the best at it forever. Nobody can. But people like Tal, Smyslov, and others could go on playing forever knowing that they'd never again be the very best, just for the sake of the game.

Another way Tal was an anti-Fischer was in his study habits. Fischer was one of the hardest workers in the game off the board, while Tal would rather play chess than study it. Of course, the flip side is that that's another reason Tal was ABLE to go on forever, and Fischer burned out before he was 30.

Mar-17-20  Granny O Doul: Whatever one thinks of Fischer as a chess player, I think few would argue he was a great World Champion.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Whatever one thinks of Fischer as a chess player, I think few would argue he was a great World Champion.>

Better to say he was a world champion who was great.

Mar-17-20  asiduodiego: <Petrosianic> Perhaps I exaggerated a little, but I think it was a great difference of characters and attitude to the game between these two guys. I think one issue was that Fischer was very, VERY averse to losing games. I mean, I understand: we all hate losing, but it's part of the game. I think that attitude was something that really affected him, and in his decision of quitting chess. I can't imagine Bobby saying something as Tal said, describing his famous loss with Nezhmetdinov in 1961 as "probably the best day of his life".

Bobby, I admit, sometimes took the cavalier route after losing, for example, in 1992, after losing a game to Spassky, I recall he said something like: "Sometimes in chess you give lessons, sometimes you receive a lesson". But, he really, REALLY hated losing, and I think that contributed to his retirement, because, as you said, the only way to keep on being SO good was with a complete immersion method which burned him out.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: < MissScarlett: <Whatever one thinks of Fischer as a chess player, I think few would argue he was a great World Champion.> Better to say he was a world champion who was great.>

Correct. C'mon, Granny. You can't be even a minimally adequate World Champion, never mind a great one, if you never play.

Premium Chessgames Member
  wordfunph: Milan Dinic's game story taken from BCM 2019 December..

<This was in 1988 and he came to play in Wijk aan Zee. Mikhail Tal wasn’t in great shape then. For many people - including myself - he was a hero and it was fantastic to meet him. Tal was a very gentle person and he talked to everyone. He even played a blitz tournament for amateurs on a free day, because he was bored! Of course, he won every game in the Blitz, but everyone was so happy to see him there.

When he played in our tournament it was tough for him, you could see he was frail.

At that time there was a casino in Wijk aan Zee, owned by some Yugoslavs. Needless to say, all the chess players were hanging out there. That casino, however, had a rule that you can’t be served any alcohol no matter what. Even the top people of the Wijk aan Zee tournament organisation were not allowed to have even a sip of alcohol. One evening I walk in and see Tal - at the bar, smoking and drinking - gin and tonic! He was the only person ever to be served alcohol in that casino because the Yugoslavs, who love chess a lot, were very fond of having Tal there.>

May-23-20  1d410: I like this player
May-23-20  1d410: I love this player
Jun-12-20  Chessonly: Mikhail Tal [Biography and Attacking Chess Games]

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Via Britbase, some 20 new Tal simul games from his famous (?) Knotty Ash simul from 1974:

Nov-10-20  Eduhttp: Genius, inspiration even in our days!
Nov-24-20  JCaRo: Nice match
Nov-24-20  Everett: Wow, what short bio for such a legend.
Nov-24-20  Everett: < Another way Tal was an anti-Fischer was in his study habits. Fischer was one of the hardest workers in the game off the board, while Tal would rather play chess than study it. Of course, the flip side is that that's another reason Tal was ABLE to go on forever, and Fischer burned out before he was 30.>

<Petrosianic> succinct and accurate. Thank you

Mar-10-21  Whitehat1963: To me, Tal is a “loud”player, that is, his sacrifices and attacks often make audiences gasp in disbelief as he bangs his opponent over the head with a hammer or goes straight for the direct frontal chokehold. Petrosian, by contrast, is a quiet player. His moves are usually more obscure, subtle, and often make the audience shake their heads and ponder quietly. All the while, he is applying a variety of limb-breaking leg locks that may not always look exciting to the audience but are just as effective as one of Tal’s punches in the face. I’m interested in seeing games in which the roles are reversed, when a Tal or Keres uses very quiet and subtle moves to gradually suffocate his opponent, or a Petrosian or Smyslov delivers a roundhouse kick in the face and finishes his opponent with a couple of loud sacrifices. Can someone point out some examples?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: I had no idea he spoke Serbian that well:

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