Mikhail Tal was born on this day in 1936

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A Soviet-Latvian world champion chess player
Common clues: Russian chess master; 60's chess champ; Youngest world chess champion before Kasparov;
Chess champion, Mikhail; Latvian chess master
Crossword puzzle frequency: once a year
Frequency in English language: 27354 / 86800
The Life and Chess of Mikhail Tal

You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one ~ Tal

Mikhail Tal (November 9, 1936 – June 28, 1992) was a Soviet-Latvian chess player, a Grandmaster, and the eighth World Chess Champion.

He was often called "Misha" (a diminutive for Mikhail) and also "The magician from Riga" for his daring combinational style. Both The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games (Burgess, Nunn & Emms 2004) and Modern Chess Brilliancies (Evans 1970) include more games by Tal than any other player.

Tal was also a highly-regarded chess writer. Many authorities consider him to have been the greatest attacking player of all time.

Tal loved the game in itself and considered that "Chess, first of all, is Art." He was capable of playing numerous blitz games against unknown or relatively weak players purely for the joy of playing.

Known as "The Magician from Riga," Tal was the archetype of the attacking player, developing an extremely powerful and imaginative style of play. His approach over the board was very pragmatic – in that respect, he is one of the heirs of ex-World Champion Emanuel Lasker. He often sacrificed material in search for the initiative in chess, which is defined by the ability to make threats to which the opponent must respond. With such intuitive sacrifices, he created vast complications, and many masters found it impossible to solve all the problems he created over the board, though deeper post-game analysis found flaws in some of his conceptions. Although his playing style was scorned by ex-World Champion Vasily Smyslov as nothing more than "tricks," Tal convincingly beat virtually every notable grandmaster with his trademark aggression. Viktor Korchnoi and Paul Keres are two of the very few with a significant plus record against him. It is also notable that he adopted a more sedate and positional style in his later years; for many chess lovers, the apex of Tal's style corresponds with the period (approximately from 1971 to 1979) when he was able to integrate the solidity of classic chess with the imagination of his youth.

Of the current top-level players, the Latvian-born Spaniard Alexei Shirov has probably been most influenced or inspired by Tal's sacrificial style. In fact, he studied with Tal as a youth. Many other Latvian grandmasters and masters, for instance Alexander Shabalov and Alvis Vitolins, have played in a similar vein, causing some to speak of a "Latvian School of Chess." Tal contributed little to opening theory, despite a deep knowledge of most systems. But his aggressive use of the Modern Benoni defense, particularly in his early years, led to a complete re-evaluation of this variation at the time, though it is seldom seen in tournament play in the 21st century.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mikhail Tal".