TAL, MIKHAIL (1936–1992), Soviet chess master. Born in Latvia, Tal showed promise at an early age. By the time he was 21 he had already won the Soviet championship (1957). He followed this by winning the series of zonal, interzonal, and candidates' tournaments which qualify a challenger for the world championship. In 1960 he qualified to play *Botvinnik and secured the title by winning six games, losing two, and drawing 13. The match was followed by a year of serious illness, which might have partially accounted for Botvinnik's recapture of the title in the return match. Playing brilliantly, Botvinnik won ten games, lost five, and drew six. In 1965 Tal won matches against the Hungarian chess master Laios Portisch and the Danish Bengt Larsen in the new type of candidates' tournaments, but was defeated by Boris Spassky in the final. In 1968 he again qualified to participate in the Candidates' Match tournament. Tal's play was characterized by a remarkable awareness of balances and imbalances. He exploited the imbalances repeatedly in extraordinary long-range combinative attacks. As a result, his chess suggested the tradition of Emanuel *Lasker and Alekhine rather than the more patient playing styles of Capablanca and Botvinnik. Tal's chess articles in the Soviet press contained some profound analyses of opening variations and of endgame position.
Tal went on to win the International Chess Tournament in Tallinn five times (1971, 1973, 1977, 1981, 1983) and tied with Karpov for first place in Montreal's Tournament of Stars in 1979.
D.J. Richards, Soviet Chess (1965), index; P. Clarke, Tal's Games of Chess (1968).