Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, The

by Mikhail Tal

Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, The
Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, The
Everyman Chess (1997)
496 pages
Reviewed by Jeremy Silman
Here is a recipe that every chess player will like: Take a deep bowl. Put in one hundred of Talís games (annotated by the late World Champion) and mix in an additional one hundred positions. Blend well and then slowly let the mixture absorb an in-depth autobiography written in Talís typically humorous and playful style.

The result, of course, is perhaps the greatest chess book ever written. The games and notes alone would make this a classic, but you can toss your chessboard away and spend many fascinating nights just reading the words of this sparkling chess legend.

Having known Tal personally, I found him to be exactly as I had imagined: funny, charming and full of life. In fact, in a world where most players have grudges against most other players, Tal was the only chess personality who appeared to be loved by virtually everyone (even Fischer adored the guy!).

This book brings him to life in several respects: you hear many references to his "illness,Ē which of course was brought about by his love affair with the bottle (his addiction to cigarettes didnít help him either). You get to follow his rise to the top, his descent, and his efforts (practical, psychological and physical) to wade through various candidate matches.

As is common in most chess autobiographies, you donít get much of a sense about his life away from the game. However, in Talís case we can forgive him simply because chess WAS his life! The guy ate and breathed the game. If he wasnít playing in a tournament he was playing blitz or talking about the latest chess news; nobody adored chess as much as Tal did!

This absolute delight with chess shines through in his writings and often reminds me of why I started playing in the first place. If you havenít read this book, youíre missing something really special: an affirmation and explanation of why we sit like statues for hours pushing silly little pieces around with reverence in our eyes.