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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mikhail Tal and His Sacrifices Part 1

Pin It In the middle of the 1950 along came Mihhail Tal, a man who needs no introduction. he was something of a throwback to bygone days, the New Romantic of the chess board.

Tal's love of sacrificing was so strong that he felt compelled to make a habit of it. If you take a review of a book 'Complete Games of Mikhail Tal 1960-1966' by Thomas's book you will find that the book gives 231 competitive games, of which 96 featured at least one Tal sacrifice. That's over 40%. Many of the sacrifices were in combination that finished off games, but plenty were played to grab the inititative or open up attacks. Some were unsound, fewer failed. We must ask the question what could Tal find the excuse to play sacrifices in nearly half of his games when few other players, let alone grandmasters playing in the top flight, could manage it in a small fraction of their games? It was said by Reuben Fine that Alekhine" ... would almost literaly shake combinations out of his sleeve", but even in his young days his efforts could not compare with Tal's prolific output of sacrifices.

The comparison with Alekhine is worth taking further. As alekhine progressed, he refined his positional play in order to cope with the leading players of his dya. He still played sacrifices, but more and more they formed the keystones of combinations that merely completed the work that his fine positional play had started. The first objective was to create a winning position; sacrifices could finish the job.

By contrast, throughout his life Tal would play sacrifices in any pahse of the game. Sometimes they were played simply because he wanted an interesting game. No game says more about the man than the following effort against Barcza.

Barcza - Tal Tallinn 1971.
Barcza has clumsily left himself open to an easy shot that wins material,

9 ...Bh3! 10 Nfxd4

Nothing helps. 10 0-0 Nxf3+ 11 Bxf3 Bxf1 is probably best, hoping to survive the exchange behind. The text-move loses a piece; Barca was possibly hoping that Tal would allow his bishop to be trapped.

10...Bxg2 11 Rg1 exd4 12 Nxd4 c5 13 Nb5 Bf3 14 g4 d5!?

Black could come out a whole piece ahead and release the bishop by playing 14...Qd7 and after White saves his attacked knight, 15...Bxg4. But Tal is not interested in that. He has seen a fascinating idea, and is happy to give up his material advantage - and more - to bring it about.

15 Bxc5 Rc8 16 Ba3 dxe4 17 dxe4 Qb6! Bang goes the extra piece. White is handed an exchange advantage instead.

18 Bxe7 Qxb5! 19 Bxf8 Qxb2 20 Bxg7 Kxg7 21Rc1 Rd8 22 Qe3 Qxc2!! 23 Kf1 Rd1+ 0-1

After 24 Rxd1 Qxd1+ 25 Qe1 Qd3+ It is mate next move.

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