Kavalek in Huffington: New and Old Chess Champions
13.01.2011
– The new ones are clear: World Champion Vishy Anand, who at 41 can look back on his career contentedly; Hou Yifan, the women’s champion, at age 16 the youngest in chess history; and Magnus Carlsen, who last January became the world’s top-rated player. In his chess column GM Lubomir Kavalek focuses on a player who clinched the world title a half century ago:
Mikhail Tal (1936-1992).

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New and Old Chess Champions

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

As we enter the new decade, the chess world is ruled by a middle-aged man and
a teenage girl. A twenty-something phenom presides over the world’s ratings
and a new book recalling one of the greatest chess magicians has been published
recently.

The Champions

Vishy Anand steps into the year 2011 as the world chess champion. At 41, the
Indian grandmaster can look back on his career contentedly. In 1991 in Brussels,
he almost eliminated Anatoly Karpov from the world championship cycle. In the
next 20 years, Anand won many major tournaments and world championships under
different formats and time controls. How long can Anand keep the world title
is not clear, but I can’t imagine him free-falling from the chess Olympus any
time soon.

Hou Yifan is the current women’s world champion and at age 16, the youngest
in chess history. Discovered by the chess world at the age of 11, she was predicted
to win the world title one day. Her confidence grew and at the age 12 the Chinese
girl stated her plans as follows: buy real estate in Paris and overtake Judit
Polgar, the all-time best woman. It may happen, but not yet. Polgar, who was
rated among the world’s top 10 in her prime, is rated 95 points above Hou –
a steep mountain to climb.

In Fischer’s footsteps

Anand has to wait for his next challenger for the world crown. He will come
from the eight-player Candidates competition in May. It will not be the world’s
top rated Magnus Carlsen, who decided to skip the current world qualification
cycle. His move drew some criticism from other players and chess celebrities,
but the Norwegian was merely being consistent. In December 2008, Carlsen and
Mickey Adams withdrew from the World Cup, a series of six tournaments that were
losing form and shape. FIDE changed the venues and the players even though it
was a qualification for the next world championship.

Bobby Fischer made a similar move after the Soviet players cheated on him during
the 1962 Candidates tournament. After FIDE changed the qualifying tournament
to one-on-one Candidates matches, he showed up again at the 1967 Interzonal
in Sousse, Tunisia. He played 10 games with us and left after a dispute with
the organizers. Fischer returned in 1970, stronger than ever, and went all the
way, becoming the world champion at the age of 29. Like Fischer, Carlsen has
time, but his game has to keep maturing.

Last January, Carlsen fulfilled one of his dreams and became the world’s top-rated
player. A year later, the Norwegian grandmaster is still number one on the FIDE
rating list with 2814 points, Anand is second with 2810 and third is the Armenian
GM Levon Aronian with 2805 points. Aronian dominated the FIDE Grand Prix tournaments
and for the last 18 months dwelled among the world’s top five players. Last
November in Moscow, he won the World Blitz championship and shared first place
at the Tal Memorial, played in honor of one of the most fascinating world champions.
You start talking about attacks, combinations and magic in chess and you ultimately
end up talking about Misha Tal. It is inevitable.

On a magical journey with Misha Tal

Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) clinched the world title a half century ago, arriving
with hurricane force. He won the 1957 Soviet championship and within three short
years he became the world champion. It was a fast, reckless journey. Misha Tal
was a free spirit. You gave him freedom and he would fly. It was a joy to watch
him create his masterpieces, it was a great time to grow up in chess.

“You played like Tal,” became one of the highest accolades for attackers.
With his spectacular sacrifices and combinations, Tal won the hearts of chess
fans and inspired many players. Plenty of them tried and failed to play like
him. It was especially tempting to sacrifice pieces when Tal was present. At
the 1961 European Team Championship in Oberhausen, Germany, Tal could only watch
the incredible adventures of the young master Jindrich Trapl who in nine games
sacrificed eight pawns, two exchanges, two light pieces and a queen. He was
promptly called the Czech Tal and some wondered why the real Tal was not nicknamed
the Latvian Trapl.

In
today’s computer-infested chess world the attacks of the late world champion
Mikhail Tal are as remarkable as they were a half century ago. A fascinating
book by Karsten Mueller and Raymund Stolze, ” Zaubern wie Schachweltmeister
Michail Tal,” recently published in German by Edition Olms, re-lives the
magical moments created by the Latvian grandmaster. Two years in the making,
the book invites the reader to solve 100 positions from Tal’s games. It is also
loaded with tactical tips and memories of players who knew Tal well or played
against him, such as Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Vladimir Kramnik, Robert
Huebner and Artur Yusupov.

Tal had a great sense of humor. “There are two kinds of sacrifices,”
he said, for example. “The correct one and mine.” His were spectacular
and speculative. The book treats both kinds, adds warm-up combinations and ends
with a chapter on how to correctly defend against the magician.

Most analyzed game

Huebner, one of the world’s best defenders and analysts, wrote the longest
piece for the book. He argues that Tal was not a pure tactician and his sacrifices
were made with strategical goals in mind. Throughout his life, Tal did not write
most of his articles and game comments. He usually dictated them. Incredible
variations came from his head. But there was one game he skipped commenting
on and it became the most analyzed game.

In his book “The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal,” Misha provided only
a diagram and the last 20 moves of his game against Dieter Keller from Zurich
1959, explaining that the variations left behind the scenes were numerous and
complicated. “I did not want to give a faulty analysis, and to work through
it to the end is, I am afraid, hardly possible,” he said.

Of course, this was a challenge for Huebner. He wrote his first analysis of
the Tal-Keller game 18 years ago. Some annotators, including Garry Kasparov,
copied it with all of Huebner’s mistakes. The new corrected and expanded version
is 43 pages long. Before going deeply into the game, Huebner briefly points
out the critical moments.

Note that in the replay windows below you can click on the notation to
follow the game.

Best game

When once asked to name his best game, Tal answered: “As long as I live, I
can’t.” Everybody has his own favorite Tal game. I like his combination against
Hans-Joachim Hecht at the Varna Olympiad in 1962, but this amazing game almost
didn’t take place. Tal, a heavy smoker, shared room with Spassky. One morning,
around 3:30, Spassky returned to his room only to see Tal’s bed in flames and
saved him.

Hecht speaks very highly about his encounter with Tal: “The whole game resembles
an artistic creation of the highest order. The Latvian artists Juta Mareks
used the position before 19.exf6 to honor their countryman. They recreated it
on an one-by-one meter canvas, but they left out the black pawn on c5. In early
November 2008, I discovered the piece in an art shop in Munich and immediately
bought it even with the artistic mistake.”

Mueller and Stolze wrote a fascinating book, bringing out Misha Tal’s personality
and his magical touch. I am sure it will be appreciated by any chess player.
I only wish it would be translated into English soon.

Original
column here
–
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Huffington Post


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