Mikhail Tal Biography - The Wizard of Riga

14/04/2023 - Actualizado: 21/06/2023

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Mikhail Nekhemyevich Tal, better known as Mikhail Tal, was born on November 9, 1936 in Latvia into a Jewish family and died on June 28, 1992 in Russia after suffering a severe esophageal hemorrhage and undergoing several surgeries. Mikhail Tal had dual Soviet and Latvian nationality.

Mikhail Tal had a rating of 2705, a high Elo rating for the time. He had a game strategy that was tactical, risky and surprising, which led him to become champion on several occasions. His death at such a young age was described as a tragedy and left many in dismay.

Facts about Mikhail Tal's Life

Mikhail Tal loved to play the piano, even though he was born missing two fingers, a condition that never became an obstacle for him. He started learning chess when he was 7 years old, thanks to his father, who played it very often.

He also liked to give chess lessons and started this task when he was only 10 years old, together with Yanis Krúzkop, who was also a teacher. At the age of twelve he tried to organize a tournament, but this game was interrupted by the presence of a bacterial disease called scalinata, which led to his hospitalization, and the Riga Junior Championship fell into oblivion.

He had a love affair with the bottle and the cigarette, so his aging was quite premature. At an early age, he went from one hospital to another because his kidneys were not working properly; he even underwent emergency surgery for kidney failure.

Another important fact about Mikhail Tal is that he was married several times and had two children. He was also addicted to morphine, women, alcohol and music.

Mikhail Tal's Playing Style

As a chess player, Mikhail Tal had certain peculiarities in his playing style that set him apart and made him stand out from other players. He seemed to understand chess differently from the rest.

Mikhail Tal

Some of his most outstanding characteristics were the following:

  • He liked to attack quickly.
  • His moves were often unlikely.
  • He often took risks.
  • He made tactical moves when moving pieces.
  • Mikhail Tal was fearless and calculating.
  • He had a great taste for chaos on the board and this was part of his creativity, for which he was heavily criticized.

In 1953

At the age of 17, Mikhail Tal played a match against a chess master, Paul Keres, who was the champion in Latvia. He also lost a game against Koblenz. In that year he received an award, the Candidate Master.

In 1954

In this year he became the Grandmaster of the Soviet Republics after defeating Vladimir Saigin. After that he was known as the "Wizard of Riga" for his unpredictable and improvised way of playing, which made him win countless games and break the world record several times.

From 1956 to 1958

In 1956 Mikhail Tal played in the final of the Soviet Union Championship, this time he finished 5th. However, a year later he played again and won the tournament, becoming the youngest player to win this title.

In the same year, 1957, he managed to get a Bachelor's Degree in Literature from the University of Riga. He would devote himself to teaching for at least two decades.

FIDE, for its part, decided that Mikhail Tal, after defeating several opponents of international rank, was worthy of the title of Grandmaster and awarded him the title, ignoring the rules established by the organization in question.

In 1958, as on previous occasions, he represented the Soviet Union at the Student Olympiads, where he won three gold medals. He also won a prize in the interzonal tournament.

In 1960

This was a great year for Mikhail Tal as he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik to become the eighth World Champion and once again won a new position. He was the youngest player to win this title, which lasted until Garry Kasparov won it at the age of 22.

In that year his health deteriorated, he had chronic health problems, which led him to interrupt his chess career.

Mikhail Tal

From 1970 Onwards

After recovering from serious health problems, Mikhail Tal began to play chess again in the 1970s and participated in tournaments, many of which he won in succession.

Relationship Between Mikhail Tal and Alexander Koblenz

Koblenz was a chess player of great importance, considered to be an International Master, with quite interesting methods. He was a friend and coach of Mikhail Tal for many years, considered him as a son and gave him the wisest advice throughout his life.

Mikhail Tal as a Writer

In his younger years Mikhail Tal was recognized by many as one of the most incredible players in the chess world, he faced many and few could stop him, at least that's how it was until he became ill and alcohol, along with other vices, wreaked havoc on his life.

But he was not only celebrated for his chess playing, he also devoted himself to writing books related to this board game. Many of his books became very popular.

  • Master Chess Practice
  • Magic on the Board
  • On the Attack
  • Unpublished Games
  • Tal-Botvinnik
  • Life & Games of Mikhail Tal
  • Attack with Mikhail Tal

It should be noted that some of these books even have four volumes, as is the case with "Magic on the Board".

Here you can find a compilation of their games

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