Bobby Fischer meets Mikhail Tal

Bobby Fischer meets Mikhail Tal

Bobby Fischer meets Mikhail Tal

Fischer Vs Tal – the Magician from Riga

Bobby Fischer meets Mikhail Tal – the magician from Riga . Fischer – Tal 1960 Olympiad Team tournament. Leipzig, East Germany was chosen as the venue of the 14th Chess Olympiad, organized by FIDE.

It comprised of an open team tournament, as well as many other events designed to promote the sport. It took place between October 26 and November 9, 1960.

Fischer BobbyAfter winning a tournament in Reykjavik (3 1/2 out of 4), in October, the teenager Bobby Fischer arrived at the Olympiad in Leipzig, to head the American Olympic team for the first time in his life. And what a team tournament it was for him!

The American team was without Samuel Reshevsky who did not want to play below Fischer, yet the Americans succeeded in winning ‘silver’ for the first time in the postwar period!

The contribution of young Fischer who was also the team captain was significant: 10 wins, 2 losses and 6 tough draws! (+ 1 0-2=6), and more importantly the best result on board 1 in the final that clinched the second spot for the team.

Of his two defeats, one (in the semi-final) caused a shock; the Ecuadorian Master Munoz defeated Bobby who played against his ‘Dragon’ as black!

As for Gligoric, the Yugoslav grandmaster was a veritable opponent for the young Fischer. The 5th round of the team tournament saw Fischer having White against Tal. Fischer had read a lot about Tal’s swashbuckling style of sacrificial play and was also obviously eager to get even with him for past humiliations as well as to show him a taste of his own medicine!

It was a tactical slug-fest by a existing world champion against a future world champion.

Tal had beaten Fischer in their last four encounters, but Fischer came out aiming for Tal’s jugular.

The Olympiad wasn’t that important, they could easily have avoided a fight had it been so, but went for one deliberately to prove who was the better man standing.

The draw was looked as such by spectators who wanted a result, however the draw by perpetual check, was not because both players felt like it on that day, but was born out of practical necessity – the attack had died out and it was prudent to either repeat the moves or lose.

The world champion Tal employed a sharp variation of the French Defense involving the sacrifice of his king side pawns and opposite side castling.

At the critical moment he created a tactical melee on the board, leading to a draw by perpetual check.

This game showed Fischer why Tal was considered a  tactical genius although Tal himself said of his tactical sacrifices sarcastically – “There are two types of tactics, the sound ones and the ones I make”!

As is seen the photo was taken when Tal played 7… Ne7 – see by the game lines.

Fisher appears to be analyzing with rapt attention (little nervous?) while Tal seems to be seemingly easy (preparation home ground?). The above photo is an evergreen classic in the annals of chess.

This fine game, which was annotated by both players and later in great detail by many other authors, rightfully appears in the well-known book The Mammoth Book of World’s Greatest Chess Games as well as in Fischer’s 60 best games of Bobby Fischer


According to Tal himself, when he was interviewing Fischer at the 1962 Varna Olympics, the first question he asked Fischer was: “Whom do you consider to be the strongest player in the world?”

Fischer looked at Tal with surprise to which Tal simply made it easy by adding, “Excluding yourself, of course.”
Fischer replied tounge-in-cheek –  “Well, you don’t play badly.”

By that time (1962), Bobby had defeated Tal twice. One might assume that perhaps Fischer couldn’t consciously admit that Tal was the best, but when Tal eased the question ruling out Fischer, he readily accepted to Tal’s superiority.

Bobby Fischer meets Mikhail Tal

Fischer visits Tal while he was hospitalized during the 1962 Candidates tournament

At that time Tal was still the world’s best chess player, when ever he was in robust health. If you may recall he lost his crown long back to Botvinnik in partly because of ill health.

In Tal’s own words, Tal was Tal but Fischer was not yet Fischer.  They were friends. They became friends at the 1958 Inter-zonal.

Fischer was the only player to visit Tal while he was hospitalized during the 1962 Candidates tournament.

That showed the human side of Fischer and what he cared about friends.


Hope you liked this info about two of my favorite players! Your comments, suggestions and feedback are welcome. I will be happy if you were to share this article or copy it anywhere (provided you attribute it to this webpage).

  • Some good books for you to read about Bobby Fischer at the site with free shipping worldwide.
  • Some good books for you to read about Mikhail Tal at the site with free worldwide shipping.

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