Endgame riddle solved: Najdorf could have drawn against Tal in Bled 1961

by Karsten Müller
4/15/2022 – On 3 April Karsten Müller invited ChessBase readers to analyse the bishop vs knight endgame from Tal vs Najdorf, Bled 1961. The endgame was tricky - Tal won the game but a close look revealed that Najdorf missed a couple of chances to save the draw and that both sides made mistakes.

Chess Endgames 14 - The golden guidelines of endgame play Chess Endgames 14 - The golden guidelines of endgame play

Rules of thumb are the key to everything when you are having to set the correct course in a complex endgame. In this final DVD of his series on the endgame, our endgame specialist introduces you to the most important of these rules of thumb.


Endgame analysis of M. Tal vs M. Najdorf, Bled 1961

Conclusions by Zoran Petronijevic

  • 1. Our initial position is winning for White.
  • 2. 27.Qb3? allows Black to hold. After the stronger 27.Rd3 White has a decisive advantage.
  • 3. 30…Ke7? is a mistake. After the stronger 30…Ke8 White only has a symbolic advantage.
  • 4. 31…axb5? is a serious mistake after which Black is lost. Better was 31…a5 after which Black has good chances to hold.
  • 5. Tal’s straightforward move 33.Rb6? is a mistake that throws away his advantage. Better was the strategic move 33.g3 or first 33.Bd5 with good winning chances.
  • 6. 34…Rf4?! is dubious and the first sign that Black will make a decisive mistake – on his next move. After the better alternatives 34…Rf8 or 34…Re7 Black has good chances to hold.
  • 7. 35…Ra4?! is also dubious. After 35…Rf8 Black should be able to hold.
  • 8. After 36…Ra1? Black is lost. 36…Ra5 with good drawing chances was better; but to save this position Black must find a lot of good moves, which in practical game is difficult.
  • 9. After 37.Kg2 White has a winning position.
  • 10. After the adjournment Tal made an important mistake: 43.Ra8? spoils the win. Better was 43.h4.
  • 11. 44…Nb7? is the final error in this game. Better was 44…Kd8 after which Black has good chances to save the game.
  • 12. 47.Ra8?! is dubious, but Black is lost anyway.

As usual, Charles Sullivan and Zoran Petronijevic provided the main part of the analysis:



Wolfram Schoen explains the endgame with more text and less variations:



Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.