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Mikhail Tal

Number of games in database: 2,928
Years covered: 1949 to 1992
Highest rating achieved in database: 2705
Overall record: +1106 -289 =1291 (65.2%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 242 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (361) 
    B43 B46 B32 B82 B96
 Ruy Lopez (264) 
    C92 C95 C93 C96 C84
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (166) 
    C92 C95 C93 C96 C84
 Caro-Kann (106) 
    B18 B17 B14 B12 B10
 French Defense (105) 
    C07 C18 C09 C05 C16
 English (95) 
    A15 A14 A13 A17 A16
With the Black pieces:
 Sicilian (333) 
    B43 B40 B92 B22 B46
 King's Indian (111) 
    E92 E69 E80 E62 E66
 Modern Benoni (84) 
    A56 A64 A61 A70 A62
 Nimzo Indian (82) 
    E48 E52 E56 E53 E46
 English (81) 
    A15 A14 A10 A13 A16
 Queen's Pawn Game (74) 
    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
   Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960 0-1
   Tal vs H Hecht, 1962 1-0
   Tal vs Koblents, 1957 1-0
   Spassky vs Tal, 1973 0-1
   Fischer vs Tal, 1960 1/2-1/2
   Fischer vs Tal, 1959 0-1
   Bobotsov vs Tal, 1958 0-1

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

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Latvian Championship (1954)
   URS-ch sf Riga (1955)
   Latvian Championship (1958)
   Bled (1961)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Reykjavik (1964)
   Zuerich (1959)
   Asztalos Memorial (1963)
   USSR Championship (1972)
   Keres Memorial (1977)
   Riga Interzonal (1979)
   Lublin (1974)
   USSR Championship (1962)
   Amsterdam Interzonal (1964)
   Capablanca Memorial (1963)

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" per JFQ by fredthebear
   "Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973" per JFQ by Littlejohn
   Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973 by Bokke
   Tal's Tournament and Matches 1949-1973 by jessicafischerqueen
   2 Mikhail Tal's Best Games by Littlejohn
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by Okavango
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by KingG
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by markkumatt
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by mneuwirth
   Mikhail Tal's Best Games by takchess

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 age 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: 2021-06-28 21:06:43

 page 1 of 118; games 1-25 of 2,928  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Tal vs M Strelkov 1-0161949RigaC10 French
2. Tal vs Weldrou 1-0651949VilniusB40 Sicilian
3. Kholmov vs Tal 0-1211949SimulD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
4. Tal vs I Zilber 1-0331949Riga Pioneer Palace ChampionshipC07 French, Tarrasch
5. A Parnas vs Tal 0-1291949RigaC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
6. Butvit vs Tal  0-1371949RigaC01 French, Exchange
7. J Klavins vs Tal 0-1181949RigaC10 French
8. Tal vs Leonov 1-0251949RigaB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
9. Tal vs Ripatti ½-½411949RigaB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
10. A Nevitsky vs Tal 0-1431949Semi Finals Youth ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
11. Tal vs I Miglans 1-0211950Latvian Youth ChampionshipC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
12. Tal vs A Darznieks 0-1261950Riga Championship semifinalC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
13. Lavrinenko vs Tal 0-1381950RigaB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
14. Tal vs M Straihers  1-061950Riga Championship semifinalB00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
15. K Klasup vs Tal ½-½411950Riga Championship semifinalD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
16. A Pakalns vs Tal 0-1291950Riga Championship semifinalD02 Queen's Pawn Game
17. Juliks vs Tal 0-1391950Riga Championship semifinalA16 English
18. Liepins vs Tal 0-1441950Riga Team ChampionshipB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
19. Leonov vs Tal 0-1341950URSE17 Queen's Indian
20. V Ivanovs vs Tal 1-0251950URSC90 Ruy Lopez, Closed
21. Tal vs J Klavins 1-0541950Latvian Youth ChampionshipB74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
22. Tal vs Sodell 0-1231950URSC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
23. Tal vs Pliss 1-0371950Riga Championship quarterfinalC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
24. Tal vs Gipslis 1-0241951RigaE30 Nimzo-Indian, Leningrad
25. Tal vs S Giterman 1-0631951LeningradD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
 page 1 of 118; games 1-25 of 2,928  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 115 ·  Later Kibitzing>
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:

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Tal v. Spassky, 1954 USSR junior championship, first game ever


Premium Chessgames Member
  SteinitzLives: <Whitehat> Take a look at this one: Petrosian vs Dzaparidze, 1945 Petrosian plays the Kings Gambit.
Premium Chessgames Member
  gezafan: <kingfu: From the movie , "Hard Times" . James Coburn: "The only thing better than playing and winning is playing and losing.">

I think the quote is "The next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing"

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: Question guys:

From this extended Tal quote on the Hippo story:

"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 Ivanovi? Chukovsky <> : "Oh, what a difficult job it was. To drag out of the marsh the hippopotamus"" etc

My question actually relates to this part:

"from which the chess trainers recommend that you cut off the small branches, in this case spread with unbelievable rapidity. "

I don't remember this tip in Kotov's "Think like a Grandmaster" - could some expand on this for me please. What does the tip actually mean?! The forcing variations or something?

Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: <Whitehat: 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?>

Not quite what you're asking for, but the exchange sac is always exciting.

O Troianescu vs Petrosian, 1953

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <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.>

Tal vs Kavalek, 1979

Smyslov vs Ribli, 1983

Petrosian vs Simagin, 1956

Sep-10-21  login:

Cut off the small branches

'.. concentrating on speculative chess knowledge within the evaluation function; and the use of forward pruning techniques which rely on this evaluation function knowledge ..'


Sep-10-21  Z truth 000000001: Unrelated on the unrelated!

(Winona was good, but she was even better here:

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: <Whitehat1963> I am quite impressed by the positional finesse of Tal in this game - the Na2 move is actually the engine's top choice as well.

Tal vs Andersson, 1975

White starts to get a big positional advantage against the great draw master Ulf Anderssen after this quiet little Na2 move. Perhaps Tal is under the influence of Karpov playing in this "super-tournament"

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: Having analysed hundreds of Tal's games recently, one of my conclusions is that Tal essentially created a massive infrastructure around the quotation by Tartakower:

"The blunders are all there waiting to be made". - Saveilly Tartakower

Examples :

1. Maximising complexity -> Helps create more blunders

2. Being very sensitive to any time of self-destruct move e.g. self-deflect

3. Being so sensitive to 2 and be able to force such matters to realise any subtlety there

4. Being sensitive to 2 also increases one's confidence that opponents will self-blunder in difficult to calculate positions

5. Having a very strong intuition to manage complexity oneself as well as very strong calculation ability - particularly of forcing move variations.

In this respect, I think he is a bit like Lasker who also was a very "practical player" - and realised the limitations of human opponents.

They both understood well that to maximise win probability you can take risks as long as the downsides are not that exploitable.

Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <kingscrusher>

I just want to say that I have been thankful of your recent Tal analyses. I’ve discovered many of his games I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, and I’ve found your comments to be instructive and helpful.

It makes sense that his approach to the game would be similar to Lasker’s as Lasker was his favorite player.

Sep-17-21  Bartleby: Nice change of Tal picture for his page. I prefer the young, swashbuckling Magician from Riga to the villain from a Roald Dahl story.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: <0ZeR0> Thanks :) BTW I wasn't quite aware that Lasker was his favourite player - do you happen to know where he mentioned that?
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: There is a very interesting Kasparov transcript about Mikhail Tal here:

"Tal played 'wrong' chess - entertaining, spectacular, dramatic, combinational..."

He sure did :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <kingscrusher>

In this article Tal is quoted as saying, <The greatest of the champions was, of course, Emanuel Lasker. At the chess board he accomplished the impossible!......He was an amazing tactician, winning games that were apparently quite hopeless.>

Unfortunately, I am unsure as to the original source of the quote but I think I remember seeing it somewhere awhile back.

Premium Chessgames Member

<0ZeR0> that is an interesting article on <Lasker> you provided.

It was written by User: kamalakanta , who remains an active member who regularly posts interesting material here at our website as well.

Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <jfq>

Thanks for the info. Perhaps if <kamalakanta> happens to see this, they could provide the source for the Tal quote.

Premium Chessgames Member

<0ZeR0> lol I was thinking the same thing...

He is active at the moment so maybe he will turn up eh?

Premium Chessgames Member
  fredthebear: Tal explains why he lost the rematch to Botvinnik:
Oct-19-21  Albertan: Riga to host Lindores Abbey Blitz in honour of Mikhaïl Tal’s 85th Birthday:

Nov-09-21  Albertan: In Memory of Mikhaïl Tal:

Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: Happy birthday and rest in peace to the unparalleled Magician from Riga, Mikhail Tal. Wherever there is still chess being played, your games and memory will live on forever.
Nov-13-21  Albertan: The first and last games of Mikhaïl Tal:

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