Malcolm Pein remembers the great Mikhail Tal’s tactics in today’s Daily Telegraph column – and shows that having knowledge of the old masters and their games is still very worthwhile.

Malcolm Pein on…Tal’s Tactics

The chess historian Olimpiu Urcan has been posting some photos and footage of Mikhail Tal recently. The pictures reflect Tal’s energy at the board and fearsome stare, which intimidated many an opponent. It’s well worth studying Tal’s games, both for recreation and for improvement.

At the recent Russian Team Championships, it appears that one of the players had overlooked or forgotten a fine game played by Tal.

A. Timofeev – A. Alexeev
Nimzowitsch Sicilian

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.e5 Nxb5 6.Nxb5 Nd5 7.Ng5 Nc7? (A losing blunder already!)

Test Your Strength

Tal's Tactics in the Game A. Timofeev – A. Alexeev

White to play and win

Tal’s opponent played better.

M. Tal – E. Mnatsakanian
Yerevan 1986

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.e5 Nxb5 6.Nxb5 Nd5 7.Ng5 f6! 8.Ne4 f5 9.c4 Nc7 10.Nxc5 Nxb5 11.cxb5 Qb6 (After 11…d6 12.exd6 exd6 13.Nd3 Qe7+ or 13.Na4 Qe7+ 14.Qe2 Qxe2+ 15.Kxe2 Be7 16.d3 Black’s bishops supply some compensation for the pawn) 12.d4 Qxb5 13.Nd3 (Blocking the b5-f1 diagonal to enable castling) 13…e6 14.0–0 Be7 15.a4 Qc4 16.Be3 0–0 17.Rc1 Qa6

M. Tal – E. Mnatsakanian

18.d5! b6 (18…exd5 19.Nf4 is clearly disastrous for Black when the knight arrives on d5) 19.dxe6 dxe6 20.Qb3 b5? (After 20…Qb7 21.Nf4 Kf7 22.Rfd1 Bd7 Black is worse but fighting) 21.axb5 Rb8 22.Rc7 Rxb5

Test Your Strength

Tal's Tactics: M. Tal – E. Mnatsakanian

White to play and win

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answers.

Answer One: 8.Qh5 g6 9.Qf3 f5 10.exf6 exf6 (10…Nxb5 11.f7#) 11.Nxc7+ Qxc7 12.Qxf6 Qd6 13.Qxh8 Qe7+ 14.Kf1 Qxg5 15.d4 Qh4 16.Qe5+ 1–0

Answer Two: 23.Qc2 1–0 If 23…Re8 24.Rxa7 traps the queen or 23…Rd5 24.Nf4 Rd7 25.Rc6 Qb7 26.Nxe6 followed by Rc1 is crushing.

Play Through Tal’s Game

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