My Misha - Mikhail Tal


'My  head  is  filled  with  sunshine'  - these  were  the  first words  of  the 23 -year-old Misha Tal  in an overcrowded hall in Moscow,  immediately  af­ter his brilliant victory in  the  candidates tournament in Yugoslavia  in  1959. It  was  there,  too,  that  he  said:  'In  the  first game  of  the  match  with Botvinnik I will play e2 -e4 and beat him! '

In the mid-50s a young man, practically a boy, with fiery black eyes and a  manner  of  playing  that  surprised  everyone,  burst  into  the  world  of strictly positional chess. His manner of playing  amazed  some and  shocked others. A  Dutch  newspaper made  an  observation  that was  typical  of the general reaction of  the entire chess world:  'For a player of world class, Tal's play  is amazingly  reckless, not to say  foolhardy  and  irresponsible. For  the moment he is successful ,  because even the most experienced and tested    de­fenders are unable to withstand this terror on the chess board. He aims first and foremost for  attack,  and  in his games one commonly  sees sacrifices of one  or  even  several  pieces. Opinions  are  sharply  divided  about this  fool­hardy way of  playing. Some see him as nothing more than a gambler, who has luck on his  side, while others  think that he is a genius who  is opening up unknown fields in chess.'

Although he was already  the  challenger,  Tal had met  the world  champion only once,  during  the Olympiad in Munich in  19 58, where they played to­gether  on  the  Soviet  team.  The  story  that  the  little  Misha,  with  a  chessboard under his arm, was not admitted by Botvinnik, when the latter was spending  a holiday by the seaside near Riga in  1948 ,  is of  course a fabrica­tion  by  journalists.  Strolling  between  the  tables, while  his  opponent was considering  his  move,  the  world  champion  asked  the  young  candidate:'Why  did  you  sacrifice  that  pawn?'  And  he  received  a  'hooliganish',  asMisha himself expressed  it,  reply:  'That pawn was  simply  in my way.' He loved this word  'hooligan',  and  often,  when  analysing,  if he  suggested some unclear sacrifice, he would add:  'Let's have a bit of hooliganism.'


I  got to know Misha in the Autumn  of  1967. He had  come  from Riga  to Leningrad for a  few  days,  and  in  the  small room of a mutual acquaintance we  played  an  enormous  number  of blitz  games,  of which  I  managed  to win one and draw a few. After a few more visits we became friends ,  and it did not come as a surprise when he invited me  to Riga, to his city,  to work together.  He was  preparing  for a match with  Gligoric.  Of course,  for me this was a  flattering  invitation. During  this  and  subsequent visits  to Riga,  I must have spent something  like half a year with him.

I would arrive  at about  eleven  at his big flat  in  the  centre  of Riga,  and within half an hour we would be sitting at the chess hoard. Now, a quarter of a century later , I  realise  that variations were not especially necessary for him.  The most important thing for him - and here I completely agree with Spassky - was  to  create  a  situation  on  the  board,  where  his  pieces  came alive,  and  for  him,  as  for  no  one  else,  they  did  indeed become  alive.  His credo was  to  create  tension and  to  seize  the  initiative ,  to create  a position
such that the spiritual factor - that of giving mate - would prevail over and even laugh at material values.

We  spent a mass  of time on variations  such as  l.d4  dS  2.c4  e6  3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5  cS ,  and the pawn sacrifice d4-d5  in the Queen's Indian Defence which he employed in a little-known  training  game with Kholmov.  But we also  looked  at  the  Nimzo,  and  the  Spanish,  which  turned  out  to  be  the main openings in his match with Gligoric.

Quite  often  Misha's  permanent  trainer  Alexander  Koblenz,  'Maestro'  to his  friends, would arrive. This  is also what Misha  invariably called him.  Be­hind  their distinctive  jokingly-ironic manner of conversing  lay  a  sincere  at­tachment that went back many years.  'That's enough for today' Misha wouldsay,  'Blitz,  blitz.' Sacrificing  pieces  against  each  of us  in  turn,  for  the mostpart ,  incorrectly,  he would repeat:  'Never mind,  now I'll make his flag fall .'Or in very sharp  situations, when he himself had only a few seconds left, his
favourite:  'Calmness is my  sweetheart. ' I  do not recall  an occasion when he played blitz without  any  evident pleasure. Whether  it was  a  game  from  the championships  of Moscow or Leningrad, most of which were won by him, the  world  championship  in  Saint  John  in  1988,  or  simply  a  five-minute game with an amateur who had cornered him in a hotel foyer.

The computer age was  a  long way  off,  Gligoric's games were  scattered about  in  various  bulletins ,  and  in  searching  for  them Misha would  often get  sidetracked  in  one  of the magazines  that  had  been sent  to him  from various countries of the world, and, glancing at a diagram, would suggest : 'How  about ,  instead,  looking  at  the  games  from  the  last  championship  of Columbia?'

'Perhaps  you  should  take  a  break?' would  suggest Misha's mother,  Ida Grigoryevna,  a  tall ,  imposing woman.  She was  the  oldest sister of a  bour­geois  Jewish  family  from  Riga,  which  fate  had  scattered  throughout  the world. Her  sister  Riva  lived  in  The  Hague  from  the  late  30s,  and Misha nearly always used  to  see  her  during  his  frequent  visits  to Holland.  As  a young  girl  she  had  gone  for  six months  to  Paris,  to  improve  her  French, but fate had  turned out dif ferently. The first time  that Aunt Riva  saw her       fa­mous nephew was  in  1959 in Zurich,  when she  learned about  the coming chess  tournament  there.  'He  was  all  full  of energy,  so  bright,'  she  said,'and that tall thin American,  still just a boy, he used literally to hang on ev­ery word of Misha.'

She had  another  sister,  Ganya  - two  years  younger  - who  settled  in Brooklyn,  New York,  and whom  I  remember well  from when  she was  in Riga.

The  surname  of  Misha's  mother,  who  died  in  19 79,  was  Tal ,  like Misha's father:  she married her  cousin.  In  an  enormous  flat  (by my  con­cepts at the  time)  there lived: Misha's mother, Misha's elder brother Yasha, who outlived her  only  by a short  time, Misha himself with his  girlf riend, who  emigrated  in  19 72  and who  lives,  as  far  as  I  know,  in  Germany, Misha's  first  wife,  Sally,  who  left  the country  in  19 80  and  now  lives in Antwerp,  and  their  son Gera, a charming boy with  fair  curly hair,  now  the father of three  children  and  a  dentist  in Beer-Sheva,  in  Israel.  In  19 80,  in my house  in Amsterdam, Misha  several  times met his  son. The  times  then were not  so  liberal ,  and an open meeting  between a  father  and an emigre son,  even in the presence only of fellow-grandmasters, could have had un­pleasant  consequences,  such  as  being  forbidden  to  travel  abroad  for  two years or more (which Misha in fact had to experience in his time).

Nearly  every  evening  they  were  visited  by  Uncle  Robert,  as  everyone called him, a friend of Misha' s father who was a doctor. He was a wonderful man,  according to  all who  knew  him. He  died  in  19  57. Uncle  Robert , a taxi-driver  in  Paris  in  the  20s, who  had  lost al  his family  during  the war, himself rather  a weak player,  could watch for  hours  our analysis and blitz games,  looking  at Misha with  loving  eyes.  Sometimes  he would  reprimand Misha  for  something,  Misha would  defend  himself  weakly,  and  Ida Grigoryevna, who always took  the  side of Uncle Robert, would  say:  'Misha, don't be  rude,  please;  don't forget  that he  is  after  all your father.'  It was  a well-kept family  secret  that his Uncle Robert was his biological father. Now, a  quarter  of a  century  later, with  all  of them  gone, I  can  picture very well Uncle Robert with his  invariable cigarette in his nicotine-stained fingers ,  of­ten with  a glass of cognac,  and Misha,  especially in his  later years,  so  similar to him in appearance, manner of speaking,  and holding himself.

During  these  squabbles I used  to avert my  eyes  in  embarrassment,  but no  one  paid  any  attention  to me,  since they  accepted me as  one  of their own.

But  then  evening would  arrive,  and we would have  to go somewhere to eat. A  taxi was  summoned,  and we would drive  to one of the  restaurants , where,  of course,  Misha was  always  recognised. When  Tal  became world champion  he was  presented with  a  'Volga'  - effectively  the  top  brand  of Soviet car at that time. But he gave  the car to his brother . He was totally in­ different  to  any  form  of  technology,  and  it  goes without saying that he never entertained  any  thoughts of  learning  to drive. Only  in the last period
of his  life  did  he  acquire  an  electric  razor ,  and  the  marks  of  its actionscould be seen here and there on his face.  In my time the shaving procedure was entrusted to his elder brother ,  or more often,  and always when he was away,  he went  to a barber's. He did not like  ties ,  and wore one only when circumstances demanded it. Needless to say, he never learned how to fasten one. And he never wore a watch.  'What's that! You've  got  something  tick­ng on your arm!' For him,  time in the accepted  sense did not exist.  I recall many  a missed  train,  and from  the days of his youth there was the  story of how  he  once  attempted  to  overtake  a  plane  by  taxi  by  exploiting  the plane's  three-hour  stop-over ,  which, according  to  eye-witnesses,  was completely successful.

In taxis we often played  a  game which  I  first  learned  from him:  from he four figures of the number of the car  in front, one had to make  21 us­ing  each  figure  only  once.  I  found  it  hard  to  follow  as  he  triumphantly achieved  this with  a  complicated  arrangement  of roots ,  differentials  and integrals.

During  dinner  and frequently  after  it, we would  drink.  Misha did not like and did not drink wine, preferring  something  stronger: vodka,  cognacor  rum-cola,  for  example.  To  avoid  any misunderstanding , I must  say  im­mediately  that  this was no  slow  sipping  through a  straw.  To  this day  I  re­member  the  face  of  the  barman  in  Wijk  aan  Zee,  at  our  first  meeting outside  Russia  in  January  19 73, when  he  had  to  pour  five portions  of cognac  into one glass . A few years ago, Misha, who by then found  it hard
to  take his  drink,  simply  fell  asleep  at  the  end of a  banquet  in Reykjavik. This  happened  to him  increasingly  often,  especially  in  his  last  years.Kortchnoi  and  Spassky,  who  were  also  playing  there,  at  that  time  had strained relations. But it couldn't be helped,  and they looked at each other : 'Carry  him  out?'  asked  one.  'Alright' ,  replied  the  other.  The  distance was considerable, but  the opponents  of his  youth  coped  admirably with  their task, and  to the dumbfounded hotel porter  it was  explained  that this  chess
player had thought for a long time, and he was very tired.

I remember very well his sparkling.  always gentle humour, his laughter, infectious  and  often  leading  to  tears ,  his  instant reactions  in  conversation, and  his  trademark  expression,  usually  around  midnight:  'Waiter !  Please change my  table  companion!' I  think it was Sheridan who  said  that  genu­ine humour is much closer to  good nature than we think. Misha's wit was always genuine.

Despite a physical defect - from his birth he had only  three fingers on his right hand - he played the piano,  and not at all badly. His first wife,  Sally remembers  that  on  the  evening when  they met, Misha was  playing  some Chopin etudes. Besides Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov were his fa­vourite composers . A few months before his first match with Botvinnik, he asked the well-known pianist Bella Davidovich, with whom Tal was partic­ularly friendly, whether Rachmaninov's  'Elegy' was part of her  repertoire. On learning that it was not, he said:  'Promise me that after my victory over Botvinnik you will play it at the concluding concert.' In the Soviet Union at that time,  after  the opening or closing ceremony of a  chess  tournament or match,  there was the custom of arranging a variety concert. On the evening after  the  17th  game,  when  the match  score  became  I 0-7  in Tal's favour, the  telephone  rang  in  the  Davidovich  flat :  'You  can  begin  practising  the 'Elegy'  ..  .' When  she  plays  Rachmaninov's  'Elegy'  Bella  Davidovich always remembers Misha Tal and  that  evening  in  the Pushkin Theatre, when  she performed it for the first time.

In  the  summer,  during  my  visits  when  he was  preparing  for  the  match with  Kortchnoi ,  we  often went  to the  Riga  seaside,  where  he  had  been given  a  dacha,  or,  more  correctly.  three  rooms  on  the  second  floor  of  a house beside  the  beach. When I look  back now  it requires  some effort  to picture  Misha  on the  beach  in  sunny weather  in  an  improvised  goal  (a T  -shirt  and  a  beach  bag)  recklessly,  like  everything  that he  did,  parrying my attempts to score a goal. He had played goalkeeper in a university team, and he retained an attachment to football until the end of his life.


He never  enjoyed good health. At that time, both  in Riga and at the sea­side,  he  suffered  kidney  failure,  and  frequently  an  ambulance had  to  be summoned.  He was  often  in  hospital,  and  during  his  life  he  underwent twelve  surgical operations. His forehead bore  the  scars of a  fearful blow  to the head by a bottle  in a Havana night bar during  the Olympiad in Cuba in 19 66.There was a well-known joke by Petrosian at  that  time:  'Only some­one with  the robust health of Tal could endure  such a blow. '  It was  in  thelate  60s,  that Misha became  addicted  to morphine.  The veins  on  his  arms were black  and blue as if covered with ant bites ,  and  the nurses ,  trying in vain  to find a place  that had not yet been  touched.  I know that later too,  in Moscow, ambulances were forbidden  to come at  the  summons of Tal .  Ru­mours about this used to spread around the city.

At  one  of  his  lectures  someone asked:  'Is  it  true that you  are  a morphinist,  comrade  Tal?'  And  his  lightning  response :  'What  do  you mean?  I'm a chigorinist  ..  .'  I think that this period lasted a couple of years. How  he kicked  the  habit,  I  do not know.  A  guess :  when  the  drug  dose threatened  to  exceed  legal  limits ,  his  strength  of spirit  and will  them­selves put an end to it.

Why did he play like he did, and why did he win? Of course,  it is easy  to hide behind the words talent or genius. Tolush,  after losing the game of his life  in his best  tournament in  19  57, said to  Spassky:  'You know, Borya,  to­day  I  lost  to  a  genius .' At  the  Interzonal  tournament  in  Taxco,  another strong grandmaster  said  to me without  any  flattery:  'We  are  none  of us worth Misha's little finger. ' And Petrosian himself, who was  sparing  in his praise, said that in chess he knew only one living genius.

But that is not the point , or, at least, not the only point. I am reluctant to follow Kortchnoi. When  I  asked  him  about the secret  of Tal's play he  re­torted:  'Well , you know, don't you? Once in a restaurant Tal said to me:  'If you want,  I'll look at  that waiter,  and he will  come up  to us. ' '  Pal Benko thought similarly when he put on dark glasses at  the  19 59 candidates tour­nament  as  an  inadequate defence  against Tal's piercing  eyes.  Still ,  the  fact that his  entire  appearance,  especially  in  his  younger  years,  radiated  some
kind of aura - this  is  certain. Here we  have  approached  the mystery,  as  I see  it, of  the Mikhail Tal phenomenon.

That face bent over the board,  that stare of burning eyes , penetrating the board and  the opponent ,  those moving  lips ,  that  smile which appeared on his inspired face when a combination had been found,  that intense concen­tration of thought ,  pressure  of thought  rather - all  this  created  something that the weak of spirit could not withstand. And when  this spirit was com­bined with  the  energy of youth  in  the  late fifties and  early  sixties ,  he was invincible.  'You, Mishik' ,  the  late Leonid Stein said to him  in Riga in  1969 'are  stronger in spirit  than  all of us.' He was  strong  in spirit,  like no one else. Even when  his  organism was  destroyed, right  to  the  end,  to  his  last days, his spirit remained unbowed.

In  19 79, after winning  a major  tournament  in Montreal  together with Karpov,  the 43 -year-old Tal , who was more balanced  and understood chess much better than in his years as champion,  said:  'Now I would  smash that younger  Tal  to  pieces.'  I  have my  doubts.  And not  because  his  favourite squares e6 ,  dS  and  fS ,  as he himself expressed it, were now guarded more strictly.  No,  the  point  was  that  the  erudite  and  all-comprehending  Tal would have had  to withstand  the  concentration  of thought and pressure of
youth, which the best of  the best had been unable to withstand.

In  the  summer  of  19 68  I  was  Misha 's  second  for  his  match  with Kortchnoi,  a  very  uncomfortable  opponent for  him.  Tal  lost  the  match 4'/I-51/2 .  In  the  last  game Misha , with Black,  built up  a  strong  attack  in a Dutch Defence  and  could  have  won, but  he  delayed  and  the adjourned position did not promise more  than a draw. A  sleepless night of analysis followed,  the  resumption,  the  closing  ceremony,  and  a  lengthy wander­ing around Moscow, where he had so many friends . His energy, his inex­haustible  energy  ...  There  was  a  wooden  house  in  the  very  centre  of Moscow,  by  the main  Post Office, where  the  artist  Igin  lived,  who  has now long been dead.  He was a  friend of many chess players , who would drop  in to  see him  at any  time  of day or night.  Artists ,  poets ,  young  ac­tresses,  bohemian  Moscow  of  the  sixties  and  seventies,  and  the  pictur­esque host  himself,  who  described  himself  succinctly  as  'an  old cognac-drinker'.  And  finally,  the  last flight  from  Moscow  to  Riga,  no tickets, but  they recognised Misha,  and  there we were in the pilots '  cabin flying  to Riga, night, Misha's flat,  and  I,  no longer feeling  anything, fell asleep. When  I woke up  in  the  morning,  the  room was  thick with  ciga­rette smoke,  and somewhere in the background Misha was sitting on a di­van looking  at me with  a  thick book  in  his hands that had  almost been finished. He  read  exceptionally quickly,  and  I  knew,  in  the Western part of my life, that when  I  set off to  some  tournament  I had  to  take with me as many as possible of the books  that were then banned in the  Soviet Un­ion.  At  the Olympiad  in Nice  in  1 9 7 4 I  gave him  one  evening  a  copy of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, which had just been published,  and the latest  issue  of a  Russian  emigre newspaper.  The  following morning,  re­turning  it  to me after reading  it all ,  he  said:  'In  the newspaper crossword I  couldn't find a  single word' .  'But  the book, what  about  the book?'  'He writes very maliciously  ...  ' At the time , I was staggered by the reply,  but a vague  explanation,  another  aspect  revealing  the  personality  of Mikhail Tal ,  occurred to me. The point was that  on the whole  this  did not  interest him.  He was  not  at  all  interested  in material values ,  as  if he  dissociated himself from such matters .

After one of  the  tournaments in Tilburg I was  sharing with him the pro­cedure  of  shopping,  which  he  so  disliked.  His  pockets  were  full  of five-guilder notes  (it need hardly be said that he never had a wallet) mixed up with  thousand-guilder notes  that were very  similar  in  colour,  and  I  re­member his  sincere  astonishment when he  found  another of the  latter  in one of his  side pockets. And how many  lost prizes  there were,  how many passports  left  in hotels ,  or simply forgotten somewhere. He looked askance at me,  when in  the  hotel  in  Taxco  I  told  him off for  paying  $70  for  a three-minute  telephone call  to New York.  It is doubtful whether it had got through  to him  that  in  certain  countries,  and  especially  from  hotels,  one should avoid telephone  calls.  Beliavsky  told  me  that ,  when  he  scolded Misha  for  giving  to  the  Sports Committee almost all of his prize of several thousand dollars for winning  the World Blitz Championship  in Saint John, Misha simply  replied:  'Well ,  they asked me for it and I gave it to  them. '

Of course,  he was  not  interested  in  titles  and  awards.  I  think  that  even the  title  of world champion  did not  greatly  interest  him.  And he was not interested at all in  the careerism, power or benefits  (or what is understood by  these words)  of his fellow champions of later years .  And,  in  contrast  to them,  it  is altogether  impossible  to  imagine him as a member of any party at all .

Although  in  later  times  he visited Israel , I  think  that Jewishness only  in­terested him to a limited extent.  I recall how, before one of  the Olympiads , Pravda  wrote :  'The  team  of the  Soviet Union  is  represented  by  players  of various nationalities :  the Armenian Petrosian,  the Russian Smyslov,  the  Es­tonian Keres, and Tal from Riga. '

He showed little interest in his health or his  appearance, or in what oth­ers  thought of him. He was as from another planet ,  and there was only one thing that really excited and interested him:  chess.

He  belonged  to  that  rare  category  of people,  who,  as if it were  something that went without  saying, rejected everything  to which  the majority aim,  and  went  through  life  with  an  easy  step, a  chosen  one  of fate,  an adornment of the  earth.  In  burning out his  life, he  knew  that this was no dress  rehearsal ,  and  that  there would not  be  another  one.  But he  did  not want to and could not live in any other way.

­In January  19 73 I  played in the reserve master  group  in Wijk  aan Zee, my first  tournament after leaving  Russia. Misha,  who was playing  in  the main tournament,  appeared every day  in  the  general hall  and, after studying my position, moved  on  to  other  games,  and  often  also  to  games  of the  other groups, with an  average rating  of somewhere  in the  region  of  19 00  ... We
often  talked  then  until  deep into  the night  and  sometimes  I would  set off on foot from Wijk aan  Zee to Beverwijk, where  I was lodged just like most of the participants.  The buses were no  longer running ,  or,  as  it would be more correct to say, they had not yet started running. On the free day there was a big blitz  tournament for all-corners, which  lasted  the whole day,  and which Misha won.  For  the  information of modern  professionals:  the  first prize was one hundred guilders.

One of  his favourite expressions was 'tasty chess '. And that was what he played.  In his commentaries  to his own games  there was  a predominance of good nature,  respect for the opponent, and self-irony, which is so rarely encountered  nowadays.  He  did  not  like writing  his  comments,  but  pre­ferred  to  demonstrate  the  games, while  the  text was  recorded  on  tape.  In older  times he simply used to dictate.  This was how he met his wife Gelya in  the autumn of  19 70, when for some formal  reason he was not allowed into  the Championship  of the  Soviet Union, which was  being held  in his own city of Riga.

He always  used to write his move  in  short notation,  and always before executing  it  on  the  board.  In  rare  instances,  when  his  opponent  became very  curious  and  looked openly  at his  scoresheet,  he would  cover  it with his pen.  If he did not like  the move, he would cross it out and write a new one.  In his  later years he used  to say  increasingly  often:  'I  even wrote  the winning move on my scoresheet, but crossed it out at the last moment  ...  '

Somewhere  around an  hour  and  a half  to  two  hours  before  a game  he would eat something, but more for appearances'  sake,  then speak little and disappear  into his own private world. That, for example,  is what happened during  his match with Kortchnoi ,  and  I  realised  that  at  such moments  it was  better not  to disturb him. We  ate in various  places - this was  a  long time  before  the  matches  where  everything  was  regulated  to the  nearest minute  and  calorie.  It  goes without  saying  that he  adored  everything  that was bad for him:  spicy,  salty,  peppery. Misha always  smoked heavily,  nor­mally  2-3 packets  a day - he preferred Kent - but when he was playing  a further two  could be added.


The  last  time  I  saw him was  in Tilburg  in  the  autumn  of  1991. Misha had  travelled  from  Germany,  where  he  had  latterly  been  living  with his wife and his daughter Zhanna, whom he  loved very much. He looked terri­ble, much older than his  age,  but he was still the same Misha. Replying to a greeting  by  one  of his  acquaintances ,  he  said  'Thank  you. Thank  you  for recognising me. '  He would  usually  sit  in  the press  centre with his  eternal cigarette,  saying  little,  but  every  remark he made  on  chess was  always  to the point. He  livened up a  little when  in his  customary manner he  showed an  audience  at  the  Max Euwe  Academy  one  of his  latest  games :  against Panno from the  tournament in Buenos Aires. The young people of  the early nineties looked  at him as if he were  Staunton  or Zukertort.  It was a miracle not that he was alive, but that he did not die sooner .

He also played in the last USSR Championship,  and  later wrote a big  arti­cle  for New In  Chess  together with  Vaganian,  with whom  he was  especially close in his  last years.  In February  1992, when  I was  in Cannes , I was asked to phone him.  'Listen, '  said Misha,  'I am reading now about matches for the world championship, which I myself saw from close  to.  It wasn't like  that,  it was  all  different.  Come and  see me,  and we'll write  something  together.'  I promised. But for various reasons it kept getting put off and put off  ...

Misha played his  last  tournament  in Barcelona.  There were  some young and promising players. He used to joke in his time about those that showed promise :  ·At their age  I was already an ex-World Champion  ..  .' For half the tournament he was really  ill , with a  temperature.  In  the  last game,  assum­ing that it would be a quick draw, he played 3.Bb5  in the Sicilian,  offered a draw,  and  received  a  refusal .  In  a lost  position,  already  under  attack,  his young  opponent  himself  offered  a  draw. This was  the  last  tournament
game won by Misha.

We  spoke  by  telephone  quite  of ten,  and  a  couple  of  days  before my departure  to  the  Olympiad  in Manila  I 992  I  received  a  letter  from  him.
Here  it is:

'Dear Genna!
Unfortunately,  I have not finished  the promised  account  of the  tournament - I have been feeling
very  unwell.  On  Monday  I  am  flying  to Moscow  for  another appointment with  the  doctors.
There will most probably  be an operation. All the same,  there will  be plenty of free  time as well
as writing materials  ... In any  case,  I wish  every success  to you and  all  your least Russified  (let's
put it that way)  team.
With warmest greetings. Misha.'

This was  the  last greeting  that I  received from him. Before going into hos­pital  he played  in  a  blitz-tournament  in Moscow,  where he won  against Kasparov and  took third  place  behind Kasparov  and  Bareev, but  ahead  of Smyslov, Dolmatov, Vyzhmanavin and Beliavsky. A few days  later,  on  28th June  19 92, Misha Tal died in hospital in Moscow.  The official cause of his death  was  given  as  a  haemorrhage  in  the  oesophagus,  but  effectively  his entire  organism  had  ceased  to  function.  He was  buried  in  Riga,  the  city
where he was born,  in  a Jewish  cemetery  alongside  the  graves of his  rela­tives. He was 55 years old.

In his  last years he looked older than his age, but I never associated him with being  an old man -he always remained Misha.

Once  I  asked myself:  'Where do  these boys from decent European Jew­ish  families,  Modigliani ,  Kafka,  Tal ,  who  are  even  similar  in  appearance, where  do  they  get  their  all-absorbing  passion  for  self-expression  from? Where is the secret here?' This I do not know.

A  few  years before  his death, Wilhelm  Steinitz  said:  'I am  not  a  chess historian,  I am a piece of chess history, which no one can  ignore.' Anyone who has ever been or will be concerned with  the  amazing world of chess, will not ignore the illustrious name of Misha Tal .


this content was taken from the book 'Russian Silhouettes' wrintten by Genna Sosonko.


  • vor 18 Monate


    Yes thank you.

  • vor 3 Jahre


    thank you for posting this. It's priceless. 

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  • vor 5 Jahre


    Smile Nice article. Really loved it.Foot in mouth

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