Mikhail Tal's interview after winning his 5th USSR Championship in 1974

What were your sporting targets at the 1974 Championship?

Essentially, I didn't play any chess in the first half of the year, but after the Olympiad, my schedule was very intense: 96 games in half a year, with short breaks. So I didn't count on any sporting success. I went to the championship to achieve the +2 score and remain in the High League. It was more than enough for me from the sporting point of view.

But I quickly learned that my age "colleagues" in this tournament - I don't know for how much longer I'll be counted as a veteran - wound up in the exact same situation. Polugaevsky played perhaps just one tournament less than me, Savon constantly travelled from one tournament to another, Taimanov also played very much, Vasyukov had just returned from his Philippines triumph. Kuzmin felt unwell. I don't know if they had to invite him to Leningrad so persistently. As a result, we all played without much fervour, tiredness did take its toll.

You're speaking about the experienced players. What about the youth?

The youth played, as always, with much appetite, fervour, ambition, and they fully deserved their successes. The opponents from different generations were worthy of each other. There's grandmaster Vaganian and grandmaster Polugaevsky, Beliavsky, who'd just become a grandmaster, and grandmaster Tal... And youth is an advantage that wears off as you age. We played the same chess, on the same board, with same pieces. We have our own advantages, and they have their own, and it's only natural. But I think that there's no sense in contrasting one generation with the other.

Which young player did you like the most?

I liked all young players. It's important that a beginning chess player shouldn't become somebody's imitator. In this tournament, there was only one player I've never faced before; I played my first game with him, and I was quite satisfied. I'm speaking about Romanishin. From the sporting point of view, he wasn't very stable. He's had his highs and lows: good start, decline in the middle, then a brilliant finish. I think that he was one of the most interesting players of the tournament. The prize he received - for amount of theoretical novelties - wasn't given for some particular novelty. It was awarded for Romanishin's improvisations on some opening themes. His ideas weren't always correct, but he's got his own, completely his own vision of chess.

And next to this very interesting, distinctive player, there's Beliavsky. Both are from Lviv, both were coached by Kart, but Beliavsky is very different. He plays "correct" chess. Beliavsky sees the board well, has a good tactical vision (which is characteristic for youth), but he'll never intentionally play a move that visually worsens his position. By the results of the First League, we could say that Romanishin was stronger than Beliavsky, now we can say that Beliavsky is stronger than Romanishin. Those players are still growing.

I just can't bring myself to call Vaganian a youth player - I played him in the USSR Championship as far back as 1971. He's a grandmaster with a very bright future ahead of him. His talent is visible very clearly.

Did the idea with High League justify itself?

It's hard for me to tell. I have played in both tournaments. In 1973, I performed very bad. Now - much better, at least from the sporting point of view. I'm not so sure that this total mobilization is justified. If you really need to hold a championship with all the strongest players taking part, then you should think about schedule. It would be ridiculous for Karpov and Korchnoi to take part in the tournament immediately after their match, for Geller, Furman and Dzindzichashvili to join after they spend half a year at the board. Or, for instance, Smyslov didn't play. If me and Polugaevsky both feel tired, what can be said about Smyslov, who's much older. Spassky felt unwell, and Petrosian's sense of danger is better than Vasyukov's. He played in Manila very well, but the climate there wasn't the best, so Vasyukov couldn't adapt to Leningrad after that...

Have you gone to a game already determined to achieve some concrete result?

Here, I played all my games for a win, except with Savon.

What couldn't you achieve?

I couldn't apply for a brilliancy prize. Though I'm flattered by the referee's board's decision to name my game against Dvoretsky "the best game of the tournament", but I think it was just an act of courtesy towards me.


  • 4 lat temu


    The game Tal - Dvoretsky that was named "the best". Annotated by Mikhail Tal.

  • 4 lat temu


    I believe it's accurate and incisive to say, as iocagio put it, that "in Russia chess is a cultural aspect of like."  Because of this many things were published, or written and not published, handed down, passed around that we have no idea of, yet were used in the teaching and augmenting of chess, not only as a cultural element but as a political tool. 

    As always, Tal gives a modest and fair appraisal.  Thanks, Spektrowski, for this and all your other contributions.  They are exquisite.

  • 4 lat temu


    I haven't read much "specialized" literature on chess theory, both in Russian and in English, I'm more into chess history.

    Concerning the Makogonov rule - Vladimir Makogonov (honorary IGM) was much older than Fischer (he was born in 1904) and probably formulated the principle way before Fischer started playing competitive chess. Makogonov was a good chess coach (he was Smyslov's second when Smyslov defeated Botvinnik, and he was the first chess coach of a very young Garry Kasparov) and theoretician (has variants named after him in King's Indian and Gruenfeld, also put much work into Tartakower - Makogonov - Bondarevsky system in QGD), but never published any works himself. So while Makogonov can be credited as the inventor, it's much less likely that Fischer "lifted" the principle directly from Makogonov. Though I did read somewhere that Fischer studied Soviet chess literature very carefully.

    Remembered a funny story told by Garry Kasparov: when he studied under Mikhail Botvinnik, he and his fellow students showed Botvinnik some positions, and Botvinnik would say, "This position already occurred in some trade union championship in 1930 between Master X and Master Y." It looks very similar to claim "It had already been written in a book X somewhere long ago" :)

  • 4 lat temu


    Thanks for translating. Great job.

    Since you are Russian, I'd like to ask one question.

    It seems that everytime something was thought to be invented in chess, the Russians would take credit saying it was written by a certain writer in a certain book (Maybe it was just communist propaganda, I don't know). In fact, it makes sense, since it seems in Russia chess is a cultural aspect of life, like soccer for Italians (I hope I'm correct, eventually tell me the differences).

    I discovered through Mikahlchishin the Makogonov rule, but everyone says that Fischer had the an incredible skill in placing the pieces in the right place, activating them, and also exchanging the bad for the good one of the opponent. Which seems to apply to the Makogonov rule/idea.

    Now my question is: since you are able to appreciate the literature of both worlds (English and Russian) do you believe or have actual examples of differences that the Russian chess literature is actually superior or tells more than what we have in English?

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