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Miguel Najdorf vs Mikhail Tal
USSR vs. Rest of the World (1970), Belgrade SRB, rd 2, Mar-31
Queen's Gambit Declined: Semi-Tarrasch Defense. Pillsbury Variation (D41)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  ToTheDeath: Najdorf's sole victory against Tal. It doesn't seem like Black should have lost this one.
Mar-22-09  outsider: it is tal who found a way to lose, not najdorf found a way to win
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sastre: Black could have held with 31...Qg5. For instance, 32.Rxc3 Rxc3 33.Qb8+ Kg7 34.Qxa7 Qe3+ 35.Kh1 Qh6 =.

If 32.Rf6, Black has at least a draw with 32...Qe3+ Kh2 33.Qh6+.

Aug-15-13  Zugzwangovich: Interesting anecdote to this game, as related by Dragoslav Andric: "The game was adjourned with White to move. Impatient to know whether Najdorf had more than perpetual check, the Russians gathered in the adjoining room to analyze. Checking the Black King from all angles, they could find nothing concrete for some time. Spassky then suggested the right maneuver for White. A man jumped up behind them, leaped to Spassky and kissed him enthusiastically. The thankful onlooker, of course, was Najdorf. The game ended in a White victory after only a few moves the next day."
Aug-15-13  MarkFinan: It takes Najdorf 5 moves from 39 to move 44 to find Rf1, which even i saw!
Sep-16-18  sakredkow: <Spassky then suggested the right maneuver for White. A man jumped up behind them, leaped to Spassky and kissed him enthusiastically. The thankful onlooker, of course, was Najdorf.>

That doesn't sound true at all. It sounds like a story someone told just to stick it to Najdorf.

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: <MarkFinan: It takes Najdorf 5 moves from 39 to move 44 to find Rf1, which even i saw!> Probably M. Najdorf was waiting for adjournment to clinch it. He was an extraordinary player.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <sakredkow> Maybe it's a story someone told to stick it to Spassky? After all, he and Tal were on the same team.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: Vlastimil Hort narrated this game in one of his books:

<4.d4...> After the round, Najdorf and I sit in his room once again. Miguel smiles because he did not let his opponent to play Ben-Oni. And because now, during intermission, he stands to win.

<6.e3...> "6.e4 is also good," says Najdorf, "but I always like it when there is a lot of pieces on the board. Most of my games I won in the middle-game."

<10...Nxc3> Najdorf was surprised by the last move by Tal. "I expected Nf6," he says and continues to show me his game.

<16...Na5> Of course, 16...Bxh4 was not feasible for 17.Nxh4 Qxh4 18.Bg5 Qg4 19.Re4 Qf5 20.Rh4... with a devastating attack of White.

<17.Ng5...> After 17.Ne5 the pawn h4 could already be taken.

<19...Nc4> "What was I supposed to do?" asks Najdorf. "The 20.Qf4 was most attractive. Black can not play 20...e5 21.Qg3 exd4, because of 22.hxg6 hxg6 23.Ne6! and White wins. Nor he can play 20...Nb2 for 21.hxg6 with 22.Qh4! I though a whole hour here, but did not know what to play after the correct 20...h6!"

<23.f3...> Thus far, both players are playing flawlessly. White could not play the tempting 23.Ne4 f5 24.Qh6 for 24...Rc7!

<24.Qg3!...> For Najdorf, this must have been the hardest move in the game. The exchange 25.Qxf5 gxf5 26.Nd6 Rc7 27.c4 Rd8 would have probably been more advantageous for Black. By playing the last move, White actually sacrifices a pawn for an attack along the f-file.

<29.Ref3...> This is the core of the whole thing. Black now has problems protecting the black squares of his king-side.

<30.Qf4...> Outlines of the threat 31.Qf6+ with the following Rf3-f4-h4-h8 are suddenly on the board.

<31...Rxf3?> This in fact is the first and last Black error. After the correct 31...Qg5! 32.Rxc3 Rxc3 33.Qb8+ Kg7 34.Qxa7 Qe3+ 35.Kh1 Qh6+ 36.Kg1 Qe3+ the game would have ended a draw.

<32.Qd8+...> Important in-between move. I have to prize the move; Najdorf is watching if I am impressed. White takes under control the square h4.

<34...Rc3> Tal must have pinned his hopes upon this moves, but in vain.

<40...Kh5> Here, the game is adjourned. Najdorf knows that victory can no longer escape from his grasp. Deliberately and with epicurean care he writes the winning moves on a piece of paper. So that he does not forget? Rather that he can delight in the whole thing.

<44.Rf1!...> The winning move!

<50.Rg4...> Black surrenders. The weakness on g6 can not be protected.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: Thank you <Gypsy>! Very generous of you to type the whole thing. 16.h4 is a typical Najdorf move. Not necessarily the best move, probably, but the most enterprising. He was a dynamic, attacking, tactical player who indeed loved the middle game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<Gypsy> <29.Ref3...> This is the core of the whole thing. Black now has problems protecting the black squares of his king-side.>

I wondered why Tal didn't play 29...Rxf3. After all, he's a pawn up and on the defensive, and in those situations it's generally desirable to reduce the number of pieces on the board since it makes the attack more difficult and increases the power of the extra pawn.

Stockfish 10 at d=43 evaluates the position as dead even, [0.00], after either 29...f5, 29...Rxf3, 29...Kg8, or 29...f6. Black doesn't seem to have a problem on the dark squares. But after 29...R8c7 as played by Tal Stockfish at d=43 evaluates the position at as decisively winning for White, [+8.20], after Najdorf's 30.Qf4.

So it looks to me that 29...R8c7 was the losing move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <AylerKupp> It proves -- once again -- that even the combined power of such legendary GMs as Tal, Najdorf and Hort is not a full tactical match for today high-end chess engines.

My take here is that perhaps the most obvious defensive move in the position <Rc8-c7> is in fact weak. For instance, after the sequence <29...Rxc3 30.Qxf3 Rc7? 31.Qf6+...> Black is lost. (More or less, because of the general weakness of black K-side squares.)

Instead, Black can still sue for peace via a counter-intuitive return the pawn <...30...Kh6 31.Qxf7 Qd2!>, where draw arrives by perpetual in various lines such as <32.Kh2 Qxd4 33.Qf4+ Kh7 34.Qf7+ ...> or <32.Qf6 Rc2 33.Qh4+ Kg7 34.Qf6+ ...>.

Premium Chessgames Member
  saffuna: In Predecessors 4 Kasparov says Tal's decisive error was 29...R8c7. compounded by 31...Rxf3. 31...Qg5 would have saved the day.

He says Najdorf should have played 31. Qf6, though Kasparov admitted the variations would have been difficult to calculate during the game.

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