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Mikhail Tal – The Wizard of Chess

Mikhail Tal- The Wizard of Chess

My name is Mikhail Tal and I was a Latvian Soviet chess Grandmaster and the eighth World Chess Champion from 1960 to 1961.

Mikhail Tal ‘s Early Life

I was born in Riga into a Jewish family.   My father’s name was Robert. Although I suffered from ill health  I learned to read at the age of three. 

Through hard work I excelled in my schoolwork and was enrolled in college  while only fifteen. My father introduced me to chess by letting me watch him and a friend play.

I visited the World Chess Championship Tournament in 1948. While at the tournament, (I was  11) I was hoping to play a game against the new champion. I asked the champion’s wife, Mrs. Botvinnik’s , if he would play me. She said she was sorry but the champion was just too tired and could not play me at that time but maybe it could happen in the future.

  Road to the Champion

Shortly after that I played in the Latvian Championship and I won the title of Candidate Master. Then after that I became a Soviet Master by defeating Vladimir Saigon in a qualifying match.
In 1959 I married 19-year-old Russian actress Salli Landau.

I first qualified for the USSR Chess Championship final in 1956, finishing joint fifth, and became the youngest player to win it the following year, at the age of 20.

In 1960, at the age of 23, I finally got my chance to play Botvinnik and this time it was no casual game but for the World Championship!

I thoroughly defeated him in a match held in Moscow, making me the youngest-ever world champion. The record was later  broken by Garry Kasparov, who earned the title at 22.
People say that I was naturally artistic, witty and impulsive. Leaning towards living a bohemian life of chess playing, heavy drinking and chain smoking. Since I was already in a fragile health, I spent much time in the hospital.  I had an operation to remove a kidney in 1969. 

My nicknames were “Lucky Tal” and “The Wizard of Riga”.

If you would like to know more about me you can visit this page.

If you would like to find out more about Chess for Children lessons you can see that here. 

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Mikhail Tal
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Mikhail Tal