Bobby Fischer - Mikhail Tal; Leipzig, 1960. 


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  This is a game I have studied since before I was a teen-ager. (Somebody at chess club probably got a 
  copy of Fischer's book - which was new at the time.)  I always thought this was a great game. A GM at 
  a U.S. Open I attended (in the mid-1970's) named this game when I asked him to give me a list of the 
  10 best draws. Several other players also told me this was a pretty exceptional draw. 

  I personally thought this was a great game of chess, but I a little disappointed when Soltis named this as 
  one of the most over-rated games of all time. I have gotten dozens of e-mails from people asking me what 
  I thought of this game. I was going to annotate this game right away, when I first started my Geo-Cities 
  web site. But I got caught up in many other projects first. (My "Short Games" page. My Page on the "Best 
  Moves." Etc. I felt those projects logically should be completed first.) But since many of those other projects 
  are finally finished, I can - at last! - get around to annotating a few of those other games. 


I was told by one person who was there - that this game was carefully covered by the news media. The USSR vs. America clash was one aspect. A still fairly young Tal ... was the favorite of the Russian press. And Fischer - born in 1943 - was 16 or 17 at the time ... and very much the darling of photographers and news-people everywhere. This match - and the game - was front page news for many newspapers. There were also articles on this in many magazines of the era. 


 GM R. Fischer (2550) - GM M. Tal (2685) 
[C00]
 World Team Championship (FIDE Olympiad) 
Leipzig, West Germany;  (Rd. # 5, Board # 1), 1960.

[A.J. Goldsby I]

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A very famous game, perhaps one of the most well-known draws ever played. It has been 
 reprinted an almost countless number of times. (Newspapers, books, and magazines.)

[In the old days, every book on the French Defense quoted this game.] 

Several GM's have named this game when I asked them to list some of the best draws 
ever played.

Dozens of annotators have taken a whack at this game. The list is very long, but a few of 
the better known names are: Fischer, Tal, Botvinnik, Khalifman, Gligoric, Huebner, Nunn, 
Uhlmann, Chernev, Barden, and of course, ... GM Andy Soltis. 

This contest gained added stature when  Fischer  chose to include it in his excellent book, 
 "My Sixty (60) Memorable Games." 

Surprisingly, GM Andy Soltis trashes this game. He even calls it: 
 "The MOST over-rated game ever played!!" 

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The ratings are only estimates ...  the ELO system had not been invented yet in 1960.

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1.e4 e6!?;  {Diagram?}  
A surprising decision, as Tal had usually played VERY poorly with the French Defense. 
But Tal - and his trainer, Koblentz - decided Fischer was not  'at ease'  playing the White 
side of these lines. Therefore they decided it would be a reasonable try against Bobby. 

   '!' - M. Tal.   

     [ Tal could play:  1...c5{Diagram?}  
        ---> The Sicilian Defense. 

       Or  1...e5{Diagram?}  with equal skill. ]   

 

2.d4 d5;  3.Nc3,  {Diagram?}  
Fischer almost always played this move ... especially in his younger days.  

     [ Karpov - much later - was to play the Tarrasch System with the move: 
       3.Nd2, ('!')  {Diagram?}  and revived an entire branch of the openings 
       that was virtually dormant for close to 75 years. ]   

 

3...Bb4;  {Diagram?}  
The Winawer System. 
(Invented by one of the better masters who ever lived. Most young players 
 today cannot even tell you who Winawer was or when he lived.) 

The Winawer is both the main line, and probably the best and most solid 
 choice for Black at this point.  

 

     [  Black could also try:  3...Nf6!?4.e5 Nfd75.f4,  "+/="  {Diagram?}  
         with maybe a slight advantage to White in this position.  ]   

 

4.e5 c5;  5.a3 Ba5!?;  {See the diagram given below.}  

This line was considered very, very, VERY risky ... at the time 
 this game was actually played.

 

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   rnbqk1nr/pp3ppp/4p3/b1ppP3/3P4/P1N5/1PP2PPP/R1BQKBNR (White)  (fis-tal_lp60_pos1.jpg, 20 KB)

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You see, 5...Ba5  was actually one of the original ideas of Winawer, but he 
later stopped playing it entirely. (After a few reversals.) 

The move  5...Ba5  was later picked up and revived by a whole generation 
of young Soviet players in the 1930's and the 1940's. But it was Botvinnik 
who really forged this line into a coherent and viable system. He used it in 
Soviet Championship tournaments, and even at the World Championship 
level. (This line did not do very well against Smyslov, who began to show its 
seamier side.) But after several losses, especially a noteworthy loss to 
Unzicker at an earlier Olympiad, opening theory had branded this whole line 
as being completely unsound.  

Tal had done much work with these lines in preparation for his matches with 
Botvinnik. I guess he decided that he did not want all that material to go 
forever unused!  

     [ The main line today is: 5...Bxc3+6.bxc3, "+/="  {Diagram?}  
        when White has a very solid advantage. 
        (White can play  Qg4!?  - which is highly tactical, and many books 
         consider to be the best. Or White can try the positional approach 
         with  Nf3  or even  a4!?  All of these methods probably yield White a 
         slight edge.)  ]   

 

6.b4!,  {Diagram?}  
A very good move ... and basically a gambit for White. This is a sharp idea 
originally of Rubinstein's that was later deeply analyzed and nearly perfected 
by  Alekhine.  

     [ Interesting is:  6.Qg4!? ]  

 

6...cxd4;  {Diagram?}  
The book line, and probably the best move. 

It is far too dangerous for Black to grab one ... or even two pawns in this position - as 
Alekhine was the first to clearly demonstrate.  

     [  After the moves:  6...cxb4!?; 7.Nb5! bxa3+!?{Diagram?}  
        This is much too risky for Black.  

          ( Maybe better is:  7...Nc6!?; {Diagram?}    

            Maybe Black should also consider:  7...Bc7;  {Diag?}      
            to protect the vital d6-square. )      

        8.c3! a6?!;  (Maybe - '?')  {Diagram?}  
        If Black does not want to lose, he might have to guard d6 here. 

          ( >/= 8...Bc7[];  9.Qg4!, "+/=" )     

        9.Nd6+ Kf8[]10.Qf3!, ''  {Diagram?}  
         ... and White has a very dangerous, (if not winning); attack.  ]    

 

7.Qg4!?,  (Maybe - '!')  {Diagram?}  
A very sharp move ... and a very interesting one. 
(White hits the obviously undefended g7-square.) 

     [ Today theory recommends that White play:  >/=  7.Nb5!,  (!!)  
       7...Bc78.f4,  "+/="  {Diagram?}  with a solid advantage to White. 

       One of the more recent examples I could find in the database was 
       the following encounter: 

       P. Smirnov (2535) - V. Popov (2580)  
       The Premier Russian Cup, (Stage IV);  2002.  
       {White won a long and difficult game in 80 moves - one that featured 
       TWO Q+P endings, after promotions! But White seemed to be ... 
       always - at least - a little better.}  

***

       This was also played in the game: 
        M. Tal - Koblentz;  
        Riga Championship, 1954.  
        (See the book: "The French Defense.
         By GM's S. Gligoric & W. Uhlmann. Copyright (c) 1975, RHM Press.)  ]  

 

7...Ne7;  8.bxa5!? dxc3;  9.Qxg7 Rg8;  10.Qxh7 Nbc6!;  {Diagram?}  
This is a big improvement ... a TN, actually ... over how this line had been 
previously played.  

     [ 10...Bd7!?; or 10...Qxa5!? ]   

 

11.Nf3 Qc7;  12.Bb5!?, (Maybe - !')  {Diagram?}  
A very sharp and interesting move that was praised by some ... 
and condemned by others. 

I think the move is both viable and playable, but current theory seems 
to prefer >/= Bf4! 

   '!' -  GM R.J. ('Bobby') Fischer.  

     [  Better is:  >/=  12.Bf4!,  "+/="  {Diagram?}  
        and White holds a small edge. 

        (I have 2 new French books and  MCO-14.  They all recommend 
         that White play Bf4 on move 12.)  ]     

 

12...Bd7!;  {Diagram?}  
Tal fully deserves an exclam for passing up Bobby's (prepared) trap - nasty things 
 happen to the second player if he grabs the g2-Pawn. 

     [  </=  12...Rxg2!?, (Probably '?!')  13.Kf1!, "+/="  ]   

 

13.0-0 0-0-0!?;  (Maybe - '!')  {Diagram?}  
This is an obvious and also a very logical move. 
(Black is understandably nervous about his King being in the center.)  

This line is not without risk for Tal, he must be prepared to gambit one (f7) 
or even two pawns in this line. 

Thus far Soltis covers this game with no comments. Only now he speaks out 
and awards Black a full question mark. (He says that LATER analysis showed 
that the move ...Nxe5; was much better.) 

   '?' - GM Andy Soltis.  

     [  Possibly better is: >/=  13...Nxe5!;  {Diagram?}  
         Tal saw this - and spent many minutes analyzing this move. 
         But then he decided that it did not appeal to him. 

        (Petrosian first recognized the value of this move, and published his 
         analysis in a Soviet magazine shortly after this game was played.) 

        14.Nxe5 Qxe515.Bxd7+ Kxd716.Qd3!, "~"  {Diagram?}  
         Tal AND Fischer looked at this position in the post-mortem analysis. 
         (After the game.) They BOTH came to the conclusion that White was 
         better in this position!! 

        Soltis  says Black should play the move  ...d4!; "=/+"  here, and he 
        may be correct. But it is still not really one-hundred percent clear. 

          ( 16.Qxf7? Raf8; "-/+" )    ]   

 

14.Bg5!?,  (Probably - '?!')  {See the diagram given - just below.}   
 Bobby played this, believing it gave him an advantage. And he said he 
 had 'under-estimated' the strength of Tal's reply. 

 

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   2kr2r1/ppqbnp1Q/2n1p3/PB1pP1B1/8/P1p2N2/2P2PPP/R4RK1 (Black)  (fis-tal_lp60_pos2.jpg, 19 KB)

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To be honest the move is no good and has been universally condemned by 
all the annotators  - most gave it a full question mark.  ('?') 

ALSO  ...  Fischer himself (later) came up with a significant improvement to 
this move. (In this position.) 

     [  Bobby Fischer analyzes:  >/=  14.Bxc6! Bxc6!?;  {Diagram?}  
        This could be Black's best bet. 

        ( Probably worse was: </=  14...Qxc6?!; ('?')  15.Bg5 d4;      
          16.h4!, ''  (Maybe  "+/-")  {Diag?}  and White is hugely better.   

          Or Black could try: </=  14...Nxc6!?; ('?!')  15.Re1!?, "+/=" {Diag?}        
          followed by Bg5! and h4, "with a winning bind," according to      
          GM Robert J. Fischer. )       

        15.Qxf7! d4!16.Qxe6+ Bd717.Qxe7!! Rxg2+!?18.Kxg2 Bh3+;  
        19.Kxh3 Qxe720.Bg5, "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
         and White consolidates, and wins easily.   -  GM R. Fischer.  ]  

 

14...Nxe5!;  (Maybe - '!!')  {Diagram?}  
"Setting off a dazzling array of fireworks! I thought Tal was simply 
  trying to confuse the issue."  - GM R.J. Fischer.  

     [ 14...Rh8!?; "~" ]   

 

15.Nxe5,  {Diagram?}  
This is virtually forced. 

     [ 15.Bxe7? Nxf3+16.Kh1 Rh8; "-/+" ]   

 

15...Bxb5!;  (Maybe - '!!')  {Diagram?}   
I personally think this is the best move here. Literally over a DOZEN GM's have given 
 this move an exclamation mark. (Many strong programs also choose this move.) 

Soltis - however - gives it ... A FULL QUESTION MARK!!!  ('?') 
(And he is completely alone in this opinion, as far as I can determine.) 

Several annotators have all looked at this position. Many have said Black should 
play ...Qxe5!! here. BUT! ... the experts are FAR from being unified as to the 
results of this move.  

Tal did a very deep analysis of this idea and it was published in several different 
(Soviet) magazines.
[It was later incorporated into his book of his life and games that was first published 
 by RHM Press in 1976.]  Tal's conclusion was that ...Qxe5 eventually led to a position 
that ... WAS MUCH BETTER FOR WHITE!!! Many years later, GM Robert Huebner 
did an extremely deep analysis, and came to the conclusion that ---> 
 ...  BLACK WAS WINNING!!!!!!!! 
(Much of Huebner's analysis can be found in ChessBase's annotations of this game, 
 and also in the excellent books of Tal's games by GM Alexander Khalifman.) 

My analysis of Tal's and Huebner's work (as just concerns ...Qxe5); has taken YEARS 
and is not even finished yet. It would also probably fill a small book. And at this point, 
I am not even willing to say who is right. 

     [ Many of the experts feel that:  >/=  15...Qxe5!?; ('!!')  {Diagram?}  
        would be better than the game. But I don't think that it is really 
        all that clear-cut. 

        The best line may still be:  16.Bxe7 Rh817.Rfe1! Qxe1+18.Rxe1 Rxh7;  
         19.Bxd8 Kxd820.Bxd7 Kxd7; "~"  {Diagram?}  
         with a position I evaluate as being totally unbalanced and unclear.  ("~") 
         Fischer  says now the move  R-K3!  (Re3)  "bails White out," ... 
         and he may be correct. 

         {This is the position that many analysts have looked at deeply, and even 
          come to  OPPOSING  conclusions about!}  ]   

 

16.Nxf7 Bxf1!;  (Maybe - '!!')  {Diagram?}  
"This move is the sole bright note of the whole game,"  says Soltis. 
  He notes that the game now winds up with a few tactical flourishes. 

     [ 16...Rdf8!? ]  

 

17.Nxd8,  {Diagram?}  
Some annotators have given this move an exclam,  
 - - - to me this move is nearly forced. 

     [ 17.Rxf1? Rdf8; "/+" ]   

 

Both players now find a series of fine moves in an extremely complex 
position ... that eventually leads to the correct result. (A draw.)
17...Rxg5!;  18.Nxe6! Rxg2+!;  19.Kh1,  {See the diagram given.}  
Fischer and Tal BOTH give this move an exclam  ...  but in my opinion 
it is completely forced.
{And totally undeserving of any praise.}  (Kf1 looks to be losing.)

 

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   2k5/ppq1n2Q/4N3/P2p4/8/P1p5/2P2PrP/R4b1K (Black)  (fis-tal_lp60_pos3.jpg, 17 KB)

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Certainly Kh1 makes more sense here than anything else.

     [ After the moves: 19.Kxf1?!, ('?')  19...Rxh2!;  "/+"  
       and now  20.Nxc7!?, ('?')  20...Rxh7;  "-/+"  {Diagram?}  
       White is losing.  
       (If the first player saves his N, then ...Rh1+; picks off a Rook.) ]   

 

The last few moves are all best and/or forced. 
19...Qe5!;  20.Rxf1 Qxe6;  21.Kxg2 Qg4+;  {Diagram?}  
 Draw Agreed.

  -   

 

Black can check on g4 and f3 for as long as he likes ... at least until White tires 
of the sport and agrees to split the point! 

This is certainly one of the better and more interesting draws I have ever studied. 
And while it is short and far from being perfect, its content and entertainment value 
more than makes up for it. 

I certainly do not think it deserves the treatment it has gotten from critics, most notably 
Huebner and also GM Andrew Soltis. 

<< Tal wrote of Fischer, "I gained the impression that it was only after this encounter 
      that he began to  'respect'  me." That's a remarkable comment - considering that 
      Tal had beaten Fischer 4-0 in the previous year's Candidates Tournament, and  
      [also] considering what a {worthless} trifle this game really is. >> 

       - GM Andrew Soltis.   (His book, "The 100 Best," page # 16.) 

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Bibliography: 
I have seen this game in print many times over the years. It would be impossible to say 
how many times. But the following were my chief sources of material that I consulted 
while annotating this game ...  given in the order that I used them:  

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# 1.)  "The 100 Best." ('The 100 Best Chess Games of The 20th Century, Ranked.') 
            By  GM Andrew Soltis.  Copyright (c) 2000. Published by: McFarland Books, Inc. 
            (GM A. Soltis considers this to be a very OVER-RATED game ... his analysis 
            begins on page # 15.) 

# 2.)  ['The Mammoth Book' Of]  "The World's Greatest Chess Games," 
          (100 of the best games ever played, deeply annotated.)  
          By  GM John NunnGM John Emms,  and  FM Graham Burgess
          Copyright (c) by the authors, 1998. Published by Carroll & Graf Books.  

# 3.)  "My Sixty Memorable Games,"  by  GM R.J. ("Bobby") Fischer.  
          (With an introduction to all the games by IGM Larry Evans.) 
          Copyright (c) 1969 by the author. Published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.  
          (New York City, NY;  U.S.A.) 

# 4.)  "The Life and Games of MIKHAIL TAL."  (By M. Tal.)  
            {Edited by  IM D.N.L. Levy.}  Copyright (c) 1976 by the author.  
            Published by R.H.M. Press. ISBN: # 0-89058-223-8 

# 5.)  "The  (complete, collected)  Games of Robert J. Fischer," 
            by  Robert G. Wade  &  Kevin J. O'Connell. 
            Copyright (c) 1972. (reprinted 1981, '85, '87) Published by B.T. Batsford, Ltd. 
            ISBN: #  0-7134-2099-5

# 6.)  A notebook of analysis. 
          (This is a very large nb of stuff I have collected over the years. 
           This one is dedicated to some of the greatest draws of all time. 
           Unfortunately, I have not always recorded my sources.)

# 7.)  My CB (CB = ChessBase) analysis of this game. 
          (I have merged this database many times, so contributions by different 
           authors are all together.)

# 8.)  A photo-copy of the complete magazine article that Huebner did on this 
          game in 1991. 

# 9.)  I recently purchased the 'ChessBase' CD-ROM  by  GM R. Huebner 
         
on Fischer's games. VERY detailed analysis of all of Fischer's games, 
          some of these are to a depth and a level I had not seen before.

***

(I have a book in Yugoslav by GM Svetozar Gligorich. But I am not good at translating; 
 although I can follow the game notation. I also have a pamphlet on the French by 
 GM M. Matulovich. {It's pretty old.} This game is in there as well. A friend and {former} 
 Internet student also scanned a copy of an article - which was also translated into 
 English - that Tal did on this game in 1976. In addition to all of the above, I referenced 
 MCO-14 many times ... and literally dozens of other opening books - mainly on the 
 French Defence.)  

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  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I   Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 1978 - 2002.   
  Copyright (c) A.J.G;  2003.   

*******

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  I actually have annotated this game quite a few times. I annotated it first in the mid-to-late 1970's, for a 
  scholastic chess magazine in another state. (GA, I think.) I thought I still had a copy of that game, but 
  I could not find it when I went looking for it. I annotated this game in GREAT depth, but this game/file is 
  a complete mess. (I imported a lot of chess games, and other stuff. It would NOT make a good looking 
  web page ... it would take centuries to format!!) I annotated this game again ... starting about two years 
  ago. That version is still not really finished yet. It also would NOT make a good web page, it runs close 
  to fifty pages. (There is an opening repertoire/survey, about 30-50 games in the ...Ba5; variation. There 
  are diagrams after every move and many analysis diagrams as well. I might even finish it ... one day.)

  This is a version of this game that took almost a week to do. (My goal was 5 pages or less.) While I 
  did not really meet that goal, I am quite happy with the job I did here. It is reasonably short, it has some 
  good analysis, and the verbiage is excellent. (I basically tried to summarize what I had done earlier.) 
  

  This is NOT the most in-depth version you are likely to see. If you would like a very deep analysis, I 
   highly recommend you get a copy of one of the books I quote in the bibliography. 


  This page was first posted:  Wednesday; April 16th, 2003.  This page was last updated on 05/15/06


 Copyright  (c)  A.J. Goldsby I 

 Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 1975 - 2005.  

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 2006.  All rights reserved.  


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