Mikhail Tal

All juniors should know the 'Fried Liver' (fegatello) sacrifice

[Event "?"]
[Site "Wijk aan Zee"]
[Date "1998.01.21"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Fried Liver Attack"]
[Black "Two Knights Defence"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "C57"]
[Annotator "Regis,Dave"]
[PlyCount "16"]
[EventDate "1998.01.16"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "13"]
[EventCountry "NED"]
[EventCategory "17"]
[SourceDate "2020.07.09"]
[SourceVersionDate "2020.07.09"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5 (5... b5) (5... Na5) 6.
Nxf7 Kxf7 7. Qf3+ Ke6 8. Nc3 Ncb4 (8... Nce7) *


White buys a ferocious attack for a piece.

Would you prefer to be White, making threats, or Black, with an extra piece?

I think I'd prefer White!

What if I told you that a computer thinks that things are about equal?

I think I'd still prefer White! Attacking is fun and it's clear what White should do; defending is often no fun and if you miss anything, you lose!

What about Grandmasters?

Surely, masters will calmly defend and win with the extra piece? Surely...

[Event "sacrifice: unclear ('genuine' "]
[Site "sacrifice: unclear ('genuine'"]
[Date "1956.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Tal, Mikhail"]
[Black "Simagin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B07"]
[PlyCount "89"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f4 Qb6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. e5 Nd5 8. O-O
Nxc3 9. bxc3 {[#]} e6 (9... Bxf3 10. Bxf3 dxe5 11. fxe5 Nxe5 12. Ba3) 10. Ng5
Bxe2 11. Qxe2 h6 {[#]} 12. Nxf7 {Easy to see, hard to play! Spielmann calls
this a 'real' sacrifice as opposed to those sacrificial combinations where the
hoped-for gain is clear and short- term.} Kxf7 13. f5 dxe5 14. fxe6+ Kxe6 15.
Rb1 Qxb1 16. Qc4+ Kd6 17. Ba3+ Kc7 18. Rxb1 Bxa3 19. Qb3 Be7 20. Qxb7+ Kd6 21.
dxe5+ Nxe5 22. Rd1+ Ke6 23. Qb3+ Kf5 24. Rf1+ {[#]} Ke4 (24... Kg6 25. Qe6+ Bf6
26. Qf5+ Kf7 27. Qxe5) 25. Re1+ Kf5 26. g4+ Kf6 27. Rf1+ Kg6 28. Qe6+ Kh7 29.
Qxe5 Rhe8 30. Rf7 Bf8 31. Qf5+ Kg8 32. Kf2 Bc5+ 33. Kg3 Re3+ 34. Kh4 Rae8 35.
Rxg7+ Kxg7 36. Qxc5 R8e6 37. Qxa7+ Kg6 38. Qa8 Kf6 39. a4 Ke5 40. a5 Kd5 41.
Qd8+ Ke4 42. a6 Kf3 43. a7 Re2 44. Qd3+ R6e3 45. Qxe3+ 1-0


This was Tal's great insight: "Not only was I nervous, but also my opponent."

Tal played wonderful, daring, exciting chess, sacrificing not just when he could see he was winning, not just against minor players, but against the greatest players of the day, including ex-champion Smyslov champion Botvinnik.

Click [...] to see list of games


[Event "Lessons from Tal: combos based"]
[Site "Lessons from Tal: combos base"]
[Date "1954.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Saigin"]
[Black "Tal, Mikhail"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E01"]
[PlyCount "58"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nf3 e6 4. g3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 d5 6. Bg2 e5 7. Nf3 d4 8. O-O
Nc6 9. e3 Be7 10. exd4 exd4 11. Nbd2 Be6 {[#]} 12. Re1 O-O 13. b3 Qd7 14. Bb2
Rad8 15. a3 a5 16. Ne5 Nxe5 17. Rxe5 b6 18. Nf3 Bc5 19. Qd2 Ng4 20. Ree1 d3 21.
Rf1 {[#]} Qd6 {"Such quiet and apparently non-constructive moves are among the
finest and most difficult to find in a game of chess." - Clarke.} 22. Qc3 (22.
b4 axb4 23. axb4 Bxb4) (22. h3 Nxf2 23. Rxf2 Qxg3) 22... f6 23. Rad1 Rfe8 24.
Rd2 Bf5 25. Ng5 {[#]} Ne3 $3 26. fxe3 (26. Re1 Nxg2 27. Rxe8+ Rxe8 28. Kxg2
Qc6+ 29. f3 (29. Nf3 Be4) 29... Re1) 26... Bxe3+ 27. Kh1 (27. Rff2 Bxf2+ 28.
Kxf2 Qc5+ 29. Kf1 Re1+ 30. Kxe1 Qg1+ 31. Bf1 Re8+) (27. Rdf2 Bxf2+ 28. Rxf2 (
28. Kxf2 Qc5+) 28... d2 29. Bd5+ Qxd5 30. cxd5 d1=Q+) 27... Bxd2 28. Qxd2 Re2
29. Qc3 Rxg2 (29... Rxg2 30. Kxg2 d2 31. Rd1 Bg4 32. Nf3 Qd3) 0-1



[Event "style: real sacrifices"]
[Site "Bled cs"]
[Date "1965.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Tal, Mikhail"]
[Black "Larsen, Bent"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B04"]
[PlyCount "67"]

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5. Nxe5 e6 6. Qf3 Qf6 7. Qg3 h6 8. Nc3
Nb4 9. Bb5+ c6 10. Ba4 Nd7 {[#]} 11. O-O (11. Bd2) (11. Ne4 {"I was intending
to continue examining this variation when my attention was attracted by the
possibility of a piece sacrifice which I played in the game a few moves later"
- TAL}) 11... Nxe5 12. dxe5 Qg6 13. Qf3 (13. Qxg6 $14) 13... Qf5 14. Qe2 Be7
15. a3 $5 (15. f4 $1) (15. g4 $5) 15... Nd5 16. Nb5 $3 cxb5 17. Qxb5+ Kd8 18.
c4 {[#]} Qxe5 (18... Nf4 {"The main variation conceived by White was..." - Tal}
19. Rd1+ (19. Qa5+ b6 20. Qd2+ {makes the whole main line unecessary}) 19...
Kc7 20. Rd7+ Bxd7 21. Qxd7+ Kb8 22. Qxe7 Qxe5 23. Be3 Ng6 {(else Rd1)} 24. Qxf7
Qf6 25. Be8 $1 Qe7 (25... Ne5 $2 26. Bf4) (25... Qxf7 26. Bxf7 Nf8 {Dvoretsky})
26. Qxg6 Rxe8 27. Bc5 Qd7 28. Bd6+ Kc8 {"and the Bishop on d6 is noticeably
stronger than the Rook" - Tal "Again we see a long main variation containing a
spectacular 'point'. And again it is utterly unconvincing"- Dvoretsky.}) (18...
Nb6 {is also noted by Tal who gives} 19. Qa5 Kc7 (19... Bd7 20. Be3 Kc7 21. c5)
20. c5 Kb8 21. cxb6 axb6 22. Qb5 Ra5 (22... Rd8 {Dvoretsky}) 23. Qb3 {(with,
according to Tal, pretty good attacking chances)} (23. Qc4 {Dvoretsky}) 23...
Qxe5 24. Bd2 Rd5 {Dvoretsky}) 19. cxd5 Bd6 20. g3 Qxd5 21. Qe2 Ke7 22. Rd1 Qa5
23. Qg4 Qf5 24. Qc4 Qc5 25. Qd3 Qd5 26. Qc3 Be5 27. Qe1 Qc5 28. Bd2 Kf6 29.
Rac1 Qb6 30. Be3 Qa6 31. Qb4 b5 32. Bxb5 Qb7 33. f4 Bb8 34. Bc6 {"Thus the
sacrifice of a piece was objectively not the strongest continuation. But what
do we mean by the strongest continuation? Tal played in full accordance with
his style, which has brought him outstanding sporting and creative success." -
Dvoretsky. "Years of analysis and minutes of play are not the same thing" -
Tal.} 1-0



[Event "style: Tal on the attack (JUG "]
[Site "style: Tal on the attack (JUG"]
[Date "1959.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Tal, Mikhail"]
[Black "Smyslov, Vasily"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B10"]
[Annotator "Regis,Dave"]
[PlyCount "51"]

1. e4 c6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 e5 4. Ngf3 Nd7 5. d4 dxe4 6. Nxe4 exd4 7. Qxd4 Ngf6 8.
Bg5 Be7 9. O-O-O O-O 10. Nd6 Qa5 11. Bc4 b5 12. Bd2 Qa6 13. Nf5 Bd8 14. Qh4
bxc4 15. Qg5 Nh5 (15... g6 16. Qh6 (16. Bc3 Qxa2 17. Nh6+ Kg7 18. Ng4 Qa1+ (
18... h5 19. Qh6+ Kg8 20. Ng5 hxg4 21. Rxd7 Ba5 22. Ne6 Qa1+ 23. Kd2 Bxc3+ 24.
Ke2) 19. Kd2 Qa6 20. Qh6+ Kg8 21. Ng5) 16... Nh5 (16... gxf5)) 16. Nh6+ Kh8 17.
Qxh5 Qxa2 18. Bc3 Nf6 {[#] Not even his strongest opponents were immune from
Tal's sacrifices.} 19. Qxf7 Qa1+ 20. Kd2 Rxf7 21. Nxf7+ Kg8 22. Rxa1 Kxf7 23.
Ne5+ Ke6 24. Nxc6 Ne4+ 25. Ke3 Bb6+ 26. Bd4 1-0


[Event "Clock control: WM Moskau"]
[Site "WM Moskau"]
[Date "1960.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "BotvinniK, Mikhail"]
[Black "Tal, Mikhail"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E69"]
[WhiteElo "2500"]
[PlyCount "92"]

1. c4 {(0h:00)} Nf6 {(0h:02)} 2. Nf3 {(0h:03)} g6 {(0h:03)} 3. g3 {(0h:06)} Bg7
{(0h:03)} 4. Bg2 {(0h:06)} O-O {(0h:04)} 5. d4 {(0h:08)} d6 {(0h:04)} 6. Nc3 {
(0h:09)} Nbd7 {(0h:04)} 7. O-O {(0h:10)} e5 {(0h:05)} 8. e4 {(0h:10)} c6 {
(0h:05)} 9. h3 {(0h:11)} Qb6 {(0h:06)} 10. d5 {(0h:15)} cxd5 {(0h:08)} 11. cxd5
{(0h:16)} Nc5 {(0h:09)} 12. Ne1 {(0h:20)} Bd7 {(0h:13)} 13. Nd3 {(0h:30) "The
text move is the most precise, but the time spent in thinking about it proved
that Botvinnik had not played competitively for some time. Why was it
necessary to waste ten minutes out of an allotted two and one-half hours to
play the most evident and surely the strongest continuation of the previous
move?" - MT} Nxd3 {(0h:16)} 14. Qxd3 {(0h:30)} Rfc8 {(0h:32) B14: "Black took
a long time to choose which plan he would use in the middle game."} 15. Rb1 {
(0h:50)} Nh5 {(0h:41)} 16. Be3 {(0h:53)} Qb4 {(0h:41)} 17. Qe2 {(0h:59)} Rc4 {
(0h:50)} 18. Rfc1 {(1h:08)} Rac8 {(1h:06) B18: "A rather long think for this
move - sixteen minutes. Black was calculating whether or not he should
temporarily pass on his idea and carry it our later."} 19. Kh2 {(1h:14)} f5 {
(1h:17)} 20. exf5 {(1h:16)} Bxf5 {(1h:18)} 21. Ra1 {(1h:17)} Nf4 {[#] (1h:23)}
22. gxf4 {(1h:26)} exf4 {(1h:23)} 23. Bd2 {(1h:36)} Qxb2 {(1h:37) B23: "It is
interesting that Black spent fifteen minutes thinking about the move that
immediately followed the piece sacrifice. /\ This is but a confirmation, if it
can be expressed this way, of an intuitive sacrifice, a confirmation of the
fact that Black did not calculate all of the variations beginning with the
sacrifice and ending with mate."} 24. Rab1 {(1h:40)} f3 {(1h:41)} 25. Rxb2 {
(2h:01)} fxe2 {(1h:41)} 26. Rb3 {(2h:02)} Rd4 {(1h:43)} 27. Be1 {(2h:08)} Be5+
{(1h:45)} 28. Kg1 {(2h:08)} Bf4 {(1h:46) B28: "(After disturbance by
spectators) I consciously chose the less strong but safer continuation."} 29.
Nxe2 {(2h:14)} Rxc1 {(1h:46)} 30. Nxd4 {(2h:17)} Rxe1+ {(1h:46)} 31. Bf1 {
(2h:17)} Be4 {(1h:49)} 32. Ne2 {(2h:21)} Be5 {(1h:51)} 33. f4 {(2h:22)} Bf6 {
(1h:53)} 34. Rxb7 {(2h:24)} Bxd5 {(1h:53)} 35. Rc7 {(2h:24)} Bxa2 {(1h:54)} 36.
Rxa7 {(2h:26)} Bc4 {(1h:55) B36: "Beginning with the 26th move, Black has been
playing lightning chess."} 37. Ra8+ {(2h:27)} Kf7 {(1h:56)} 38. Ra7+ {(2h:28)}
Ke6 {(1h:56)} 39. Ra3 {(2h:29)} d5 {(2h:05)} 40. Kf2 {(2h:29)} Bh4+ {(2h:06)}
41. Kg2 {(2h:29)} Kd6 {(2h:07) B41: "Forty moves had been made but the
opponents remained in their places. Obviously, Botvinnik considered that since
Black was playing at such a rapid speed, he must have made a mistake somewhere,
and as for me, I was still full of energy."} 42. Ng3 {(2h:35)} Bxg3 {(2h:07)}
43. Bxc4 {(2h:36)} dxc4 {(2h:07)} 44. Kxg3 {(2h:36)} Kd5 {(2h:08)} 45. Ra7 {
(2h:40)} c3 {(2h:12)} 46. Rc7 {(2h:42)} Kd4 {(2h:13)} 0-1


He played every part of the game with great dynamic energy, including the endgame:

[Event "king: active in ending"]
[Site "king: active in ending"]
[Date "1956.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Tal, Mikhail"]
[Black "Lisitsin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B71"]
[Annotator "Regis,Dave"]
[PlyCount "107"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4 Nc6 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8.
e5 Nd7 9. exd6 exd6 10. Be3 Be7 11. Qf3 d5 12. O-O-O Bf6 13. Bd4 O-O 14. h4 Rb8
15. Qf2 Rb4 16. Bxf6 Nxf6 17. a3 Qb6 18. Qxb6 Rxb6 19. Na4 Rb7 20. Bd3 Nh5 21.
Rhf1 Re7 {[#] How to save the f-pawn?} 22. f5 {! Can't be done, but Tal gives
it up for a high price - scrambled pawns.} gxf5 (22... Bxf5 23. Bxf5 gxf5 24.
Rxf5) 23. Rfe1 (23. Bxf5 Ng3) 23... Rfe8 24. Rxe7 Rxe7 25. Kd2 {[#] In Exeter
we say "KUFTE!" (King Up For The Endgame!)} Ng3 26. Kc3 f4 27. Kd4 Bf5 {
[#] And there it is, nicely posted in the middle of a lot of weak Black pawns.}
28. Rd2 Re6 29. Nc5 Rh6 30. Ke5 {!} Bxd3 31. cxd3 Rxh4 32. Kd6 Rh6+ 33. Kc7 Nf5
34. Kb7 Nd4 35. Rf2 a5 36. Rxf4 Ne6 37. Rg4+ Kf8 {[#]} 38. Kxc6 {!} Nxc5+ 39.
Kxc5 Re6 40. Kxd5 Rb6 41. b4 axb4 42. axb4 Ke7 {Too late} 43. Kc5 Rf6 44. Rd4
Rf5+ 45. Kb6 Rf6+ 46. Kc7 Rf5 47. Re4+ Kf6 48. Kc6 Rf2 49. g4 h5 50. gxh5 Kg5
51. b5 f5 52. Rb4 f4 53. b6 f3 54. b7 {1-0} (54. b7 Rc2+ 55. Kd5 f2 56. b8=Q
f1=Q 57. Qg3+ Kf6 (57... Kxh5 58. Rh4#) (57... Kh6 58. Qg6#) 58. Qe5+ Kf7 59.
Rb7+ Rc7 (59... Kg8 60. Qg7#) (59... Kf8 60. Qh8#) 60. Rxc7+ Kf8 61. Qh8#) 1-0


Tal also held for a long while the record for the longest runs of games without losing: 86 games in 1972-73 (winning most of them) and then 95 games in 1973-74 (winning nearly half of them). (Ding Liren didn't lose 100 games in a row in 2018, but drew 71 of them.)

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