Sixty years ago, the great Mikhail Tal won the Candidates tournament by a massive margin to qualify for a world title match against Botvinnik, which Tal also won, equally convincingly. This week, in homage to Tal, one of his four zero wipeout games against Bobby Fischer, with notes based on those of eyewitness Harry Golombek from his book Fourth Candidates Tournament 1959 in the Hardinge Simpole edition edited by David Regis.
Fischer-Tal: Candidates Tournament Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade 1959; Sicilian Defence
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 Be7 8 f4 0-0 9 Qf3 Qc7 10 0-0 b5 11 f5 White should not permit his queen’s knight to be driven away from c3, so 11 a3 was indicated. 11 … b4 (see diagram 1)
12 Na4 Interestingly modern software prefers to give up a piece here with 12 fxe6 bxc3 14 exf7+ Kh8 15 Qxc3 Qxc3 16 bxc3 and assesses the position as about equal. 12 … e5 13 Ne2 Bb7 14 Ng3 Nbd7 15 Be3 Bc6 16 Bf2 Qb7 At first 16 … Qa5 appears to win a piece but 17 a3 maintains material equality. 17 Rfe1 d5 Black achieves a key strategic advance and now stands very well. 18 exd5 Nxd5 19 Ne4 Nf4 20 c4 g6 (see diagram 2) A brilliantly dynamic idea which is typical of Tal’s inventive genius. Further lines are opened on the kingside. 21 fxg6 After 21 g4 gxf5 22 gxf5 Kh8 White’s king will clearly be very vulnerable. 21 … f5 This is vigorous but 21 … hxg6, planning … f5 is also very good. 22 g7 After 22 gxh7+ Kh8 White would lose a piece. 22 … Kxg7 23 Qg3+ Kh8 24 Nec5 Nxc5 25 Bxc5 Bxc5+ At first sight 25 … Bxg2 looks like a mistake as White can reply 26 Qxf4. However, Black can continue 26 … Bh1! 27 Qxe5+ Bf6 when he still wins. 26 Nxc5 Qc7 27 Qe3 Rae8 28 Re2 Equivalent to resignation but by now there was nothing better. 28 … Nxe2+ 29 Qxe2 Bxg2 30 Nxa6 Qa7+ 31 Kxg2 Rg8+ 32 Kh3 The king has no good square. After 32 Kh1 Qb7+ follows. 32 … Qg7 33 Bd1 Re6 White resigns
Tal admitted that many of his sacrificial concepts were unsound, and modern computer analysis exposes numerous flaws in his flights of fancy. Where he scored was in the unexpected force of his attacks, rendering his opponents quivering wrecks. Tal lost just three games in the 1959 tournament, two against Keres and one against Smyslov, where his sacrifices backfired. For the rest of the competition, Tal tempered his aggression in a way that resulted in a colossal victory for him.