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Friday, February 23, 2018

Tal vs. Nievergelt Classic

     Pick up a chess book on tactics and you may very well find a position from this game played at Zurich, 1959 in which Tal exploits white's weak King position with a decoy/deflection Queen sacrifice. 
     I first learned of the Zurich, 1959 tournament in the early 1960s while playing a friendly correspondence game with a fellow teenager in England when he kindly send me a small tournament booklet. 
     The event consisted of ten GMs who were invited to compete against six top Swiss masters, The tournament took place from May 18th to June 8th, 1959. Among the GMs invited were Mikhail Tal and Paul Keres from the Soviet Union, Bobby Fischer from the United States, Svetozar Gligoric from Yugoslavia, Bent Larsen from Denmark, Wolfgang Unzicker from Germany, and Fridrik Olafsson from Iceland. 
     Although Tal easily defeated five of the six Swiss players, Edwin Bhend dealt the future world champion a fatal blow in the first round. Tal found his form, but lost again to Gligoric, but the latter was not quite able to catch Tal and finish a half point behind. 
     It was also an important tournament for Fischer who was improving by leaps and bounds. He almost caught Tal, but in the next to last round suffered a defeat at the hands of the Swiss Champion Dieter Keller.  Fischer's only other loss was to Gligoric. 
     Tal's opponent in this game, Dr. Erwin Nievergelt, finished tied for places 15-16 with Max Blau. Nievergelt scored only one win and three draws. Not much is available Nievergelt, but Antonio Iglesias Martin did publish a book on him, (Erwin Nievergelt: Entre la emoción y el talento) in Spanish in 2005. 
     Nievergelt, a retired professor of computer science, was born in Zurich in 1929 and was one of Switzerland's biggest chess hopes in the 1950s. His chess career was hindered as a result of increasingly focusing on his professional career, the fledgling fields of Operations Research and Computer Science. For almost 25 years he worked as a professor at the University of St. Gallen. After his retirement, Nievergelt, who was also gifted as a concert pianist, moved to the south, where he found a second and third home in Italy and Spain. Chessmetrics puts his rating at 2511 in 1959, way down the list at 189th place, but a 2500 rating is still pretty nice.

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