23 Sep

The Magician’s Memorial

Under the motto "Chess is Art" the Russian Chess Federation and the Timchenko Foundation have organised several important tournaments and matches in museums. And on Sunday, this symbiosis continues with the newly-opened Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow playing host to the 10th Tal Memorial that fittingly begins with a blitz tournament - the fast and furious form of the game favoured by Mikhail Tal himself.

After 22.Bxf7+!

Everyone loved Mikhail Tal (1936-1992), the Latvian-born 8th world champion; albeit that he had the shortest reign of all the world champion, just under a year from 1960-61. And if it weren’t for the fact that current World Champion Magnus Carlsen, and his Russian challenger, Sergey Karjakin were about to enter final training camps ahead of their upcoming title match in Manhattan in November, then I’m sure that they, too, would have accepted invites to play.

Despite their absence, there’s still a strong field with an average rating of 2750 and featuring a couple of ex-champions doing battle to honour Tal. The full line-up being: Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Vishy Anand (India), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Li Chao (China), Peter Svidler (Russia), Boris Gelfand (Israel), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) and Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia).

The opening ceremony and lots-drawing blitz tournament will take place on September 25 at 6 pm local time. Playing days for the 9-round Swiss tournament will then run September 26 through October 6, with two rest days on September 28 and October 3.  Apart from Russian coverage at the official tournament site, there will also be live English coverage at the usual chess portals of Chess24.com, ChessBase, and ICC.

The “Magician from Riga” they called him. And in his best years it seemed Tal was a force of nature who could make magic at the board by will as he conjured up spectacular attacks from nowhere; showing the world in the process that wild, romantic adventures were still possible in chess - adventures that had been considered unthinkable for over half a century before his rise.


Even to this day, the compliment "You played like Tal" is regarded as the highest praise we can give to anyone who wins a dazzling attacking game, whether that be at your local chess club or even one of the world's top players in an elite tournament.

And Tal played so many brilliant attacking games throughout his career that today’s win over Hungarian star Laszlo Szabo - played in 1973 during the 6th Chigorin Memorial in Sochi, Russia - didn’t even rate a mention in his classic must-read memoir, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal.

GM Mikhail Tal - GM Laszlo Szabo
6th Chigorin Memorial, 1973
Modern Defence
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 a6 The Modern Defence was all the rage during this era. 5.Nf3 b5 6.Bd3 Bb7 7.Qe2 c5?! Black get's just the double-edged position you should always avoid against a player like Tal, with the tactics coming early and often - and this opening up of the centre will prove disastrous for Black. 8.dxc5 dxc5 9.e5 Nc6 10.Be3 Nd4 11.Nxd4 cxd4 12.0-0-0! b4 The pawn fork is toothless, and Black is is more than welcome to play 12...dxc3 (12...dxe3 leads to the same thing) 13.Bxb5+ axb5 14.Qxb5+ Kf8 15.Rxd8+ Rxd8 16.Qxb7 winning. 13.Ne4 Nh6 14.Bxd4 0-0 15.Bc5 Qa5 16.Bxe7 Rfe8 17.Bd6 Typically Tal, he blithely ignores his opponent's "threats" to pursue his own attack. 17...Qxa2 18.Bxb4 Bxe4 19.Qxe4 Ng4 20.Bc4! Qa1+ 21.Kd2 Qxb2 22.Bxf7+! (See Diagram) A typical Tal shot, leading to a big material advantage. Szabo was perhaps betting on 22.Bc3?! Red8+ 23.Bd3 Qb6 and Black is fine - but Tal was never one to miss the opportunity of a tactical trick. 22...Kxf7 23.Qd5+ Re6 24.Qb7+! Casually sidestepping 24.Qxa8?? Qxb4+ 25.Ke2 Nxe5! 26.fxe5 Rxe5+ and Black is the one with the winning attack. 24...Re7 25.Qxe7+ Tal emerges with a big material advantage, but he still must safeguard his king to secure the point - and Tal does this in style. 25...Kg8 26.Qe6+ Kh8 27.Qc4 Nxe5 28.fxe5 Qxe5 29.c3 a5 30.Qc6 Rb8 31.Rhe1 White has to be careful. If 31.Bxa5? Bh6+ 32.Kd3 (32.Kc2?? Qe2+ 33.Rd2 Qxd2#) 32...Qe3+ 33.Kc4 Qe2+ 34.Kc5 Qf2+ and the White king can't escape the checks. 31...Bh6+ The alternative led to a forced lost ending after 31...Qf4+ 32.Kc2 axb4 33.Re8+ Rxe8 34.Qxe8+ Bf8 35.Rd8 Kg7 36.Qxf8+ Qxf8 37.Rxf8 Kxf8 38.cxb4. 32.Kc2 Qf5+ 33.Qe4 Qc8 34.Rd7! Giving the piece back for a crushing mating attack. 34...axb4 35.Qe5+ Kg8 36.Qe6+ 1-0 And Black resigns facing 36...Kh8 37.Qf6+ Kg8 38.Qf7+ Kh8 39.Qxh7#  

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