Please checkout the original article on the Rashid Nezhmetdinov vs Mikhail Tal at William’s site that includes an interactive chessboard and more information.

Although Boris Spassky won the 29th USSR Championship in Baku 1961, the best known game in that tournament occurred in round 15 between Mikhail Tal and Rashid Nezhmetdinov. Nezhmetdinov won the brilliancy prize for this tactical masterpiece, earning the nickname “Evergreen Rashid.” Years later, Tal told a journalist that this loss was “the happiest day of my life,” due to the beauty of his opponent’s play.

Watch the infamous game …

JessicaFischerQueen’s commentary on the game: In the game, Tal responds to Rashid’s favorite 1.e4 with a somewhat passive Scheveningen Sicilian set up. White mounts a kingside pawn storm with the black king still in the center, and with 13…g6? Tal weakens his own dark squares, allowing 15.Nh6! making it virtually impossible for black to castle kingside. Nezhmetdinov then sacs the exchange with 17.Rxf6, securing a dangerous initiative against an already precarious black position. The timely pawn advance 21.e5 puts the question to black’s central control, and leads quickly to a pinned bishop on the e-file against a still uncastled king. The desperate king side-step 24…Kf8 fails to 25.Rxe5, with a rapid collapse of the black position. Nezhmetdinov finishes with the beautiful 26.Rf5+, an extremely temporary rook sac that forces the black king up the board, to inexorable doom.

Nezhmetdinov and Tal

Nezhmetdinov and Tal began a warm and long lasting friendship after Rashid posted his first career victory over the “Magician from Riga” at the 24th USSR Championship in Moscow 1957. Tal won this event, becoming the youngest USSR Champion in history, and went on to become World Champion just three years later. Rashid and Mikhail greatly admired one another, which may seem natural since both Masters favored an attacking, sacrificial style and felt most at home in complex open positions. Nezhmetdinov became a frequent guest at Tal’s apartment, where they enjoyed Blitz sessions that lasted long into the night, generally fueled by plenty of strong black tea laced with vodka. Their most momentous collaboration, however, occurred in 1960, as Tal began preparations for his World Championship match against Mikhail Botvinnik. Although Tal relied heavily on his friend and fellow Latvian Alexander Koblentz for help with opening theory, he also included Nezhmetdinov on his team, which raised a few eyebrows in the chess world. After all, Rashid was not even a Grandmaster. However, as Tal put it:

“In 1960 I asked my friend Rashid Gibiatovich to help me prepare. And I think this move was surprisingly successful. Nezhmetdinov was not a theoretician in the conventional sense of the word, but his ideas attracted my attention with their paradoxes, [which] at first proved very dangerous for opponents.”

Nezhmetdinov won three of his four encounters with Mikhail Tal, and played the last tournament of his life in Latvia 1973. Rashid finished only third, but he took the brilliancy prize for his game against Karasev. In his obituary for Nezhmetdinov, Tal wrote the following:

“I am both sad and pleased that in his last tournament, Rashid Gibiatovich came to my home in Latvia. He did not take first place, but the prize for beauty, as always, he took with him. Players die, tournaments are forgotten, but the works of great artists are left behind them to live on forever.”

Rashid Nezhmetdinov documentary

Jessica Fischer is a chess documentary filmmaker. Her latest work is “Nezhmetdinov Chess Biography” You can find more of her work at her youtube channel

Please checkout the original article on the Rashid Nezhmetdinov vs Mikhail Tal at William’s site that includes an interactive chessboard and more information.

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William Stewart is a National Master. He specializes in Online Chess Coaching and maintains a daily updated Chess Blog

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