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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tahl, Positional Genius

When we think of Tahl, we usually think of sacrifices and slashing attacks, but you don’t get to be world champion without being a virtuoso in all areas of the game.  This game is all the more amazing because it was played early in his career at the age of 19.

At the age of eight Tal learned to play chess while watching his father, a doctor, and shortly thereafter he joined the Riga Palace of Young Pioneers chess club. His play was not exceptional at first but he studied under Alexander Koblents and by 1951 qualified for the Latvian Championship.  He had not played in enough international tournaments to qualify for the title of Grandmaster, but in 1957 FIDE decided to waive the normal requirements and award him the title because of his achievement in winning the Soviet Championship.
In this amazing game we don’t see any real tactics.  There’s the early thrust 14.h4 that made his opponent think a K-side attack was coming…after all, Tahl had castled Q-side so the K-side P-storm looks logical.

Then there was the “mini-tactic” at move 22 when he sacrificed a P to apparently weaken Black’s K.  But, only apparently.  The move was a diversion and Tahl immediately reverted to his real plan of advancing his K deep into enemy territory on the Q-side by way of the dark squares.  It’s amazing that in the process he even gave Black control of the e-file. It's fascinating to watch his King walk!

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