Taimanov in Action


Following on from our investigations into the Taimanov Sicilian, it is time now to see Taimanov in action.

By that I mean Mark Taimanov himself, the Grandmaster after whom the variation is named. He played many fine games with the Sicilian Defense and here are a few notable snippets.


In the book, Taimanov’s Selected Games (Cadogan Chess, 1995) Mark Taimanov devotes a whole chapter to his favourite defense, starting with the comment:

‘I can state with complete conviction that throughout all my long years of tournament appearances, creative searchings and analytical work on the building of my opening repertoire, a constant ‘comrade-in-arms’ and support to me has been the Sicilian Defence.’

Winning Chess Openings


Taimanov is two pawns down in our first position, but that is of little consequence as both sides are racing to attack the opponent’s king.

Taimanov in Action

V. Shiyanovsky – Mark Taimanov
USSR Championship, 1962

Black to play

It should come as no surprise that Black, with five pieces paying attention to the white king, has a sacrifice in the air.

26 …Bxb3! Destroying part of the defensive wall

27 cxb3 Rxb3+ Crashing through with check.

28 Kc2

Taimanov Sacrificing

Now what? Another sacrifice, of course!

28 …Rxc3+!

29 Rxc3 Rb2+

30 Kd3 Qd5+

31 Ke3 Qxd1 White resigns due to the inevitable heavy loss of material; 0-1.

Two Giants

Our next snippet demonstrates once of the classic exchange sacrifices that all Sicilian players must know.

Taimanov in Action Exchange Sacrifice

Paul Keres – Mark Taimanov
USSR Championship, 1952

Black to play

15 …Rxc3! This sacrifice happens time and again in the Sicilian Defense. Sometimes it is purely for positional purposes; wrecking White’s pawn structure and removing the main protector of the e-pawn. Here, it is used to split open the king’s defense.

16 bxc3 Qxc3

17 Kb1

Draw by Perpetual Check

Taimanov was concerned about Keres playing 18 Bc1, bolstering the defense, so he decided to force a draw.

17 …Qb4+

18 Ka1 Qc3+ 

A draw was agreed here; Black will force a perpetual check. Not a bad result at all against a 1952 vintage of Paul Keres.

Taimanov Checkmates the King

Today’s final example shows Taimanov producing a snap checkmate against the then-reigning World Champion, Anatoly Karpov.

Checkmating Karpov

Anatoly Karpov – Mark Taimanov
Leningrad, 1977

Black to play

38 …Ng3+!!

Karpov resigned (0-1) due to 39 Qxg3 Rxb1 and 39 hxg3 Ra8! followed by 40 …Rh8, with a checkmate on the cards.

Beating Karpov – the king of chess, at the time – was something very few people did in the 1970s, especially as Black.

I hope these snippets showing Mark Taimanov in action will encourage the reader to seek out more games by Grandmaster Mark Taimanov. We can all still learn a great deal from the chess giants of the past.

Find out more about the Taimanov Sicilian here.

Head to the Lifetime Repertoires: Taimanov Sicilian Chessable course to considerably expand your knowledge!