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Mikhail Tal (2650) - Johann Hjartarsson (2575) [C99]

Reykjavik, Iceland 1987



Where would a collection of the greatest attacking games of all time be without one by the "Taciticismo?" Many GM's consider this game to be Mikhail Tal's very best game.

A very tense Ruy Lopez is suddenly torn wide open, as Tal shows why he is one of the greatest tactical geniuses of all times.


1.e4 e5

2.Nf3 Nc6

3.Bb5

The Ruy Lopez

3...a6

4.Ba4 Nf6

5.0-0 Be7

6.Re1 b5

7.Bb3 0-0

8.c3 d6

9.h3 Na5

Chigorin Variation. Black plans Queenside expansion and counterplay in that sector of the board.

10.Bc2 c5

11.d4 Qc7

This is blacks most flexible option. Black has secured good maneuvering space and contained the white center.

12.Nbd2 Bd7!?

Usual is 12...cxd4 first.

13.Nf1 cxd4

Black opens the c-file for counterplay and the exchange sets up a potential counter-attack on the white e4 pawn.

14.cxd4 Rac8

15.Ne3 Nc6!?

This way of bringing the knight back into play was discredited in the 1960's because of a few examples of 16. a3, Nxd4. It was revived in the 80's by Hjartarsson. A game Geller-Hjartarsson, Reykjavik, 1984 continued 16. Bb3 and was drawn. Gavrikov-Hort, Tunisien, 1985 continued with the discredited line 16. a3, Nxd4 17. Nxd4, Qxd4 18. Qxd4, d5!? and black won.

16.d5

Tal prefers to immediately close the center.

16...Nb4

17.Bb1 a5

18.a3 Na6

19.b4!

The tactics of this move 19...axb4!? 20.axb4 Nxb4? leaves the knight with no retreat after 21.Bd2 and The Nb4 is lost. The strategy is more profound: Blacks knight, which began life on b8, is severely restricted for the rest of the game. Thanks to whites precise play it is limited to aquares such as c7 and e8. The c-file, currently blacks only asset, will be neutralized and whites space edge and attack on the b5 pawn will gradually become more signifcant.

19...g6!?

This keeps White's Knight out of f5, and possibly prepares the pawn break, ...f5.

20.Bd2 axb4

21.axb4 Qb7

22.Bd3!

A theoretical novelty. (22.Nh2!? was played in GM V. Jansa - D. Prasad, Calcutta, 1986.) The point of the text is it attacks b5 prevetns black from rehabilitating the knight with...Nc7-a8-b6. Another black try 22...Ne8 23. Qb3, Ng7 24. Ng4, f5? allows white the strong reply 25. exf5, gxf5 26. Ngxe5!, dxe5 27. Nxe5!

The idea of sacrificing a knight on e5 remains a threat.

22...Nc7

23.Nc2! Nh5

24.Be3 Ra8

Black cannot allow 25. Ra7 and prepares to swap all four rooks.

25.Qd2 Rxa1

26.Nxa1!

This Knight is now headed for the a5-square via b3.

26...f5!?

Nimzovich: Attack the pawn chain at its base.

27.Bh6

The dynamic 25...f5!? created tactical problems such as 27...Ra8 28. exf5, gxf5 29. Nxe5 dxe5 30. d6! Bxd6 31. Qg5+

27...Ng7

28.Nb3 f4!?

I am not sure about this move. CM 9000 after 45 minutes thought considers both 28...Bf6!? or 24...Bd8!? better than the text though white maintains an edge in either case.

29.Na5

Continuing with the remarkable story of this knight, which has made 7 moves so far.

29...Qb6

30.Rc1 Ra8

A spectacular winning line runs 30..Rc8 31. Qc2, Nce8 32. Qxc8!, Bxc8 33. Rxc8 e.g. 33...Kf7 34. Nc6, Bf6 35. Rb8 or 33...Bf8 34. Nc6, Qa6 35. Rb8, Nc7 36. Bxb5!, Qa1+ (or 36...Nxb5 37. Ng5!! and 38. Ne7+) 37. Bf1, Nge8 38. Bxf8, Kxf8 39. b5, Qb1 40. Nfxe5!, dxe5 41. d6. Line by GM Soltis.

31.Qc2 Nce8!?

32.Qb3 Bf6!?

33.Nc6 Nh5

34.Qb2!

The younger Tal might have been tempted into the unclear complications of 34. Nfxe5!?, Bxe5! 35. Nxe5, dxe5 36. d6+, Kh8 37. Qd5, Qxd6

34...Bg7!?

35.Bxg7 Kxg7?

A natural-looking move that meets with one of the best combinations ever played. Whites edge would not yet be decisive after the stronger 35...Nhxg7 36. Qe2 Nc7.

36.Rc5!!

The text wins the unprotectable b-pawn because of 36...dxc5 37. Nfxe5 (the knight sac is still in the air), Kg8 38. Nxd7, Qa6 39. bxc5 with a huge edge for white.

36...Qa6

37.Rxb5! Nc7?

Fritz7 considers this a mistake and gives 37...Bxc6 as a better defense. However after 38. dxc6 Qxc6 Fritz gives this quick analysis: [37...Bxc6 38.dxc6 Qxc6 39.Ng5! Nhf6 (39...Nef6 40.Ra5 Rc8 41.Ra7+ Kh6 42.Nf7+ Kg7 43.Nxe5+ Qc7 44.Rxc7+ Rxc7 45.Nc4 Rc6 46.b5+- 8.00/2 with a crush) 40.Ne6+ Kf7 41.Ra5 Rc8 42.Ng5+ Kg8 43.Qb3+ Kh8 44.Qf7 Qc1+ 45.Kh2 h6 46.Qf8++- 1.72/2 46...Ng8 47.Nf7+ Kh7 48.Ba6 Ra8 49.Nxd6 Nc7 50.Bc8 Rxa5 51.Qf7+ 51...Kh8 and now 52.Nf5! A) 52...gxf5 53.Bxf5 Nf6 54.Qxf6+ Kg8 55.Qg6+ Kf8 56.Qxh6+ Ke8 57.Qg6+ Ke7 58.Qg7+ Ke8 59.Qd7+ Kf8 60.Qd6++- 4.13/2 A1) 60...Kg8 61.bxa5 (61.Qg6+ Kf8 62.Qf6+ Ke8 63.bxa5 Qc5 64.Qh8+ Kf7 65.Qh7+ Kf8 66.Bg6 Qc4 67.Qh8+ Ke7+- 4.75/2 -white is winning clearly) 61...Qc3 62.a6 Kf7 63.Bg6+ Kg8 64.Qe7 Qc4 65.Qh7+ Kf8 66.Qh8+ Ke7 67.Qxe5+ Kd7+- 5.53/2 -white is winning easily. A2) 60...Kg7 61.bxa5 Qc3 62.a6 Kg8 63.Be6+ Kg7 64.Qe7+ Kh6 65.Qf6+ Kh7 66.Bf5+ Kg8 67.a7 Qc5+- 4.94/2 -white is clearly winning B) 52...Ne6 53.Bxe6 Qh1+ 54.Kxh1 Ra1+ 55.Kh2 Rh1+ 56.Kxh1 gxf5 57.Qxg8#]

38.Rb8! Qxd3

39.Ncxe5!

Theme: Double attack. Finally, this knight sacrifice on 35 has been a consistent threat throughout the game. Now it comes with the sudden explosiveness. Black loses after 39...dxe5? 40. Qxe5+, Kh6 41. Qg5+, Kg7 42. Qe7+, Kh6 43. Qf8+, Ng7 44. Qxf4+ or 40...Nf6 41. Qe7+, Kh6 42. Qf8+, Kh5 43. Qxf6.

39...Qd1+

40.Kh2 Ra1!

Now Black also threatens mate. If 41. Nxd7, which would have been a winning reply to 40...Rxb8, then comes 41...Kh6! and all the checks have been cashed.

41.Ng4+!

Tal finishes with flash.

41...Kf7

42.Nh6+ Ke7

43.Ng8+

Black Resigns.

If ...Kf7 44.Ng5#. This is the knight that once stood on f1, a1, and c6.

A grand game.

1 - 0

Tactical Themes: Seizing square, decoy, double attack, x-ray, discovered atack, discovered check

Mating Themes: Queen and Knight, Long diagnol, 3 piece mate.

I consider this to be the 10th greatest attacking game of all time.