Mikhail Tal, the Wizard from Riga, was one of the most devastating tacticians in the history of chess. His rise to become world champion was meteoric and included an equally devastating first prize in the 1959 Candidates tournament as well as demolition of the incumbent champion Mikhail Botvinnik in their 1960 title contest.
Tal’s forte was the creation of inexhaustible attacking potential that was almost impossible to refute. Harry Golombek, then the Times chess correspondent, related an anecdote about this week’s game in his book Fourth Candidates Tournament (Hardinge Simpole): ‘Tal sacrificed a piece for an attack that certainly should not have been sufficient. All seemed over and I had left the scene to type out my report, giving the result as Smyslov 1 Tal 0, when the assistant director of the tournament came to me and said Smyslov had resigned. In fact, Smyslov’s last move was a complete blunder, throwing away the game. I had to rewrite my report whilst the Russian journalist who had already informed Moscow that Tal had lost had to contact Moscow again by telephone and eat his words.’
As I write the Tal Memorial tournament is in progress in Moscow. This week’s puzzle was selected from the preliminary blitz section, which determines colours in the main event.
Tal-Smyslov: Candidates Tournament 1959; Sicilian Defence
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 Be2 a6 7 0-0 Nbd7 8 f4 b5 9 Bf3 Bb7 10 a3 Qc7 11 Qe1 Be7 12 Kh1 12 e5 would be bad on account of 12 … dxe5 13 Bxb7 Qxb7 14 fxe5 Bc5. 12 … Rb8 Further protecting the bishop puts a stop to White’s plans for e4-e5.