Mikhail Tal

Mikhail Tal

(1936-1992)
World – Inducted 2003

The 8th World Champion, Mikhail Tal was the fiercest attacking player ever to hold the title. As a young and irresistible force, he won the Soviet Championship in 1957 and 1958. Following victories at the 1958 Interzonal Tournament and the 1959 Candidates Tournament, he became the then-youngest World Champion in 1960. Bad health and a dominant Mikhail Botvinnik would lead to his loss of the crown just a year later; however, he would continue his strong play throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Over the course of his career, he won the International Chess Tournament five times, the Soviet Championship a record six times, represented the Soviet Union on eight Olympiad teams—winning team gold medals each time—and was a competitor in six Candidates Tournaments. Chronic health problems hampered his career, but he continued to play in tournaments until a year before his death in 1992.

Known as “the Magician from Riga,” many players were inspired by Tal’s highly creative and explosive style. Particularly during his early years, his imagination and powerful play led to complicated situations on the board, situations to which most leading grandmasters of the time eventually fell prey. During the 1970s, he became slightly more sedate and positionally-minded. What resulted was a successful integration of classical play and youthful imagination. Tal holds the record for the first and second longest unbeaten streaks in the history of competitive chess, and his legacy lives on in his numerous writings and in the Mikhail Tal Memorial tournament, which features many of the world’s strongest players.