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andy94 111 ( +1 | -1 )
The Magician from Riga. Mikhail Tal is been one of the greatest chess player ever, of course. What do you want to remember of him? His playing style, his character, his quotes, his sacs or his wonderful games?
I know some quotations on chess by him.
"There are two kinds of sacrifices: sound ones and mine."

"To play for a draw, at any rate with White, is to some degree a crime against chess."

"They compare me to Lasker, which is an exaggerated honor. He made mistakes in every game and I only in every second one!"

Referring to his piece sacrifices: "They can only take them one at a time!"

"If playing chess were made illegal by law, I would become an outlaw."

And about Bobby Fischer: "It is also important to remember that Bobby Fischer was a real chess gentleman during games. He was always very fair and very correct."

Unfortunately he suffered from bad health. He was a heavy drinker and a chain smoker.
In 1962, in CuraƧao, while he was admitted to hospital, he received a famous visit by Bobby Fischer.
Anyway, I'm sure health problems destroyed Tal's career, but the question is: how much?

ionadowman 169 ( +1 | -1 )
I have long thought... ... that Mischa Botvinnik wouldn't have beaten a Tal in good health in 1961. It seems that Tal's health problems affected his kidneys, and I vaguely recall reading somewhere a suggestion that one of the effects of this was to make his play fidgetty and impatient - or at least that he had to exercise a high level of self control to prevent this. If I'm right about this (and my memory on this is very vague), it would go far to explain why occasionally Tal lost control of some of his games.

Ever since back in 1971 when I read P.H. Clarke's book "Tal's Best Games of Chess (1951-1960)" I have been a Tal fan. Over 100 years ago, H. N. Pillsbury once remarked that when making combinations, you make sure that "when the fire was out, it isn't out!" Well, Tal seemed to be able to ignite the dampest lump of vegetable matter at will. How I wish I could play as he did!
I liked what little I've heard of his sense of humour as well. Sometime during the 1980s, Mischa won the World Blitz Championship. In receiving his prize, Tal welcomed the opportunity once more of becoming "ex-World Champion".

In an interview for a chess magazine on one occasion, the subject of Tal's fondness for fiery fluids was touched upon, though rather obliquely. When asked whether he would play for a Russian team or the "Vodka" team, Tal rather thought he would choose the latter.

Tal's caveat notwithstanding, probably he stands best in comparison with Em. Lasker than with anyone else. In Lasker's view, Chess was neither a science, nor an art, but a fight. I'm sure Tal approached the game in the same way.

Such are my impressions of my all-time favorite player.
More: Chess
tag1153 12 ( +1 | -1 )
An example of his magic.....
ionadowman 201 ( +1 | -1 )
Hi Thomas... I recall P.H. Clarke's comment on this game:
'Just one round after the positional triumph over Khasin came one from a different mould. It amonf the first of Tal's games that I ever saw, and I well remember being amazed by its sheer ferocity.
'Furthermore it illustrates very clearly, even starkly, ... practical approach to the opening, attacking inclination, and wonderful skill on one side; on the other carelessness, lack of technique and overindulgence in combinative play and fantasy. And all the time you can feel [Tal's] spirit, determination and exuberance coming through. A game full of life and excitement.' P.H.Clarke "Mikhail Tal's Best Games of Chess".

One regrets that a long time addiction to alcohol and tobacco - and morphine as well it seems - did so much to depreciate Tal's talent, finally to cut it short well before Tal reached 60 years of age. I recall with horror Tal crashing and burning at the Leningrad Interzonal in 1973, after having posted a record to rival Fischer's contemporaneous 20 World Championship cycle wins in a row. Tal had gone 80+ (83 I think) Master level games without a defeat. But then, maybe the sort of person who plays chess like that is the sort of person who is going to ply himself with dangerous organic chemicals. Who knows?

Just as an aside, I guess in the world of sport we sometimes have to take the rough with the smooth. Though never a John McInroe fan, I could not help but admire his fighting qualities. Sure, his ranting and raving on the court was embarrassing and unpleasant to watch and hear. Yet it has always seemed to me that what within McInroe that made him capable of extraordinary winning or saving shots was also responsible for his flying off the handle when he misliked an umpire's call. McInroe called on a good deal of emotion in his play. That was his style.

What the connection might be between Tal's fiery chess play, fantasy and imagination and his overindulgences, I wouldn't have the foggiest. I'll leave that to the psychoanalysts.

ionadowman 118 ( +1 | -1 )
In a game I recently annotated... ... under the title of "Swindle!" a comment was made in respect of a famous and extraordinary game played between Lajos Portisch and Mikhail Tal in the Amsterdam Interzonal, 1964. In that game Tal just went berserk, giving away nearly all his pieces but somehow managed to emerge from the wild affair with a draw. Fantastic game. At any rate, I thought I might annotate that game as well. You'll find it in the annotated games under my profile.

For a game just as wild and of the same stamp, I would commend you to an earlier annotated game in my list: "Die Hard: It's always too early to resign" between ian_want and nathanman22. To be sure there are several mistakes in the game, but there are some brilliant moves as well that shine all the brighter(especially White's astonishing endgame Q sac that ought at least to have saved the game). But for sheer overall entertainment it's a hard game to go past.

ccmcacollister 99 ( +1 | -1 )
ION .... Then again, alcohol is a diuretic and helps pull the fluid from your system (and I don't know what the stock of dialysis machines in like in Riga !?), the morphine helps kill the pain from stones which also promote frequent kidney infections when present and adding some unpleasantness; tho nephritis is much the worse culprit than that for breaking the concentration, except of course when both exits get obstructed. Then its all about the same.
Tobacco? Well its nice to relax after a day of someone poking a cold plastic tube ... lets rephrase that and just say you'd just about rather have the stones stay IN, even if it is like sliding a jagged jellybean .... well never mind again there. Suffice to say, the steady knaw may be ignored, its those totally untimed stilletto-like pokes of back to front joy that play havoc with the analysis tree :))
ccmcacollister 53 ( +1 | -1 )
PS ... I too love those Tal games. If you study enough of em, it DOES kind of rub off. Last time I did, I offered like three pieces en prise on the same move of the Iowa Postal Champ. (Well yeah, I actually Did Intend To, in this particular case :) What's more, the sac was "wrong"! I think he could have equalized by taking the right piece and largely snuffed the attack into drawishness. This made me feel all the more Tal-like (There are correct sacs, or mine...") , and its about my favorite game. }8-)
ionadowman 54 ( +1 | -1 )
Craig... ... it sounds like you know what you are talking about - I was only guessing. I'm not really inclined to pass judgement. I smoked habitually myself for over 20 years, until I quit (cold turkey) 31st March 2003. I haven't smoked since: haven't dared, though the actually quitting wasn't all that hard. I have a feeling that restarting would be too easy!

But what you say does seem to confirm my earlier guess about why Tal seemed sometimes to lose control of his pieces.