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Mikhail Tal

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Born: November 9, 1936 in Riga, Latvia

Died: June 28, 1992 in Moscow, Russia

Playing Style and Legacy:

Mikhail Tal was known as "The Magician from Riga," and with good reason. His tactical prowess was perhaps the greatest of any of the World Champions, and his imaginative, aggressive attacking play was difficult for opponents to resist. He would often make speculative sacrifices -- sometimes sound, sometimes not -- that would force his opponents to solve difficult problems. Rather than concern himself with playing the objectively "best" moves, Tal seeked to find moves that his opponents wouldn't be able to deal with.

World Championship Matches:

1960: Defeated Mikhail Botvinnik 12.5-8.5 (+6 -2 =13) to become World Chess Champion

1961: Lost to Mikhail Botvinnik 13-8 (+5 -10 =6); Botvinnik regains World Chess Championship

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Won USSR Chess Championship 6 times
  • Built the two longest undefeated streaks in modern chess: 95 games (+46 =49, 1973-1974) and 86 games (+47 =39, 1972-1973)
  • Tournament victories included first place finishes in 1958 Interzonal and 1959 Candidates Tournament
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