Historical riddle: M. Tal vs O. Panno

by Karsten Müller
5/12/2021 – Mihail Tal played many mind-boggling and beautiful games full of stunning tactics and surprising sacrifices. Modern engines may find out that Tal's sacrifices might not always have been correct but it is still fun to play through and analyse his games. Now, Karsten Müller invites the ChessBase readers to take a close look at one of Tal's classics.

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M. Tal vs O. Panno, Portoroz 1958

Tal's victory against Oscar Panno at the Interzonal in Portoroz 1958 is a famous classic and it  has been analysed countless times.

But Zoran Petronijevic has taken another look at the whole game and asks the readers to find the turning points of this intense struggle in which Tal not only shows his creativity but also demonstrates how strong a single queen can be.

In the game Tal gives all of his pieces to attack the enemy king with just his queen and a number of pawns – and he eventually succeeds. But Panno gets so many pieces in return that it is hard to believe that he did not have an adequate defense. The readers are invited to take a look at this fascinating encounter to search for the truth: when was Tal winning?


Master Class Vol.2: Mihail Tal

On this DVD Dorian Rogozenco, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh and Karsten Müller present the 8. World Chess Champion in video lessons: his openings, his understanding of chess strategy, his artful endgame play, and finally his immortal combinations.


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.


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Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 5/15/2021 08:58
MickyMaus90: Many thanks! Your conclusions basically agree with Zoran Petronijevic's. But there are more mistakes to be found earlier...
MickyMaus90 MickyMaus90 5/14/2021 10:17
move 45...Kd4?!
Previously declared the decisive error, which seems incorrect because of the setup with Re6 in move 49.
Actually 45...Kd4 is second best, but for another reason.
1) 45...Kd5 seems more accurate, as it is gives White's queen less options to check around. Black can avoid Kc4 which blocks his c-pawn for a moment.
E.g.: 45...Kd5 46.Qa8+ Kd4 47.Qd8+ Kc3 48.Qf6+ Kc2 49.Qf2+ Kd3 50.Qf1+ Kc2 51.Qc4+ Rc3 52.Qe4+ Kb2=, Black can at least exchange his c5 for the a-pawn.
2) 45...Rxg3+ (the Vukovic defense). I don't like it. From all the pieces on the board the g3 is least important. The capture costs a tempo here, which ruins the coordination of Black's pieces, at least for some time. 46.Kf2 Rf3+! 47.Kg2 Rd3!? (the original 47...Kd4 runs into the SF13 novelty 48.Qb6 and Black is in deep trouble) 48.Qc4+ Rd4 49.Qc2+ (49.Qxc5? Rd2+ with a draw by perpetual) 49...Kd5 50.a4 and here Black's problem is that: 50...Bd7 51.Qh7 Bxa4 52.Qxh5 is a loss by TBs. So probably 45...Rxg3+ is lost, but for sure weaker than the two alternatives.

move 41...Rxe3?
Tal: 'Black could get an easy draw by 41...Re6 42.e4 c3 43.Qxc3+ Kxe4 44.Qxc5 Kd3'. Yes, no trouble with White's passed a-pawn. The construction Re6, Bg4, h5 and a6 is ideal. A wonderful fortress.

Wolfram Schön
MickyMaus90 MickyMaus90 5/14/2021 10:16
Karsten Müller: Thank you!
I have some more notes, but I would like to restrict to the endgame.

move 51...c4
Instead Black could try to transfer his rook to e6. But it is too late:
51...Ra1+ 52.Kf2 Ra2+ 53.Ke1 Ra1+ 54.Kd2 Ra2+ 55.Kc1 Re2 (first some checks so White's king doesn't control e2 anymore) 56.Qb5 c4 57.Qb4 (57. Qb6+!?) 57...Re6 (now SF13 would like to have Black to move, so he proposes a kind of triangle) 58.Kb2 Re2+ 59.Kb1 Re6 60.Kc1 Kd3 (because of zugzwang Black's king can be chased away now) 61.Qd2+ Ke4 62.Kc2+-, White's king has broken free, c4 is about to fall soon.

move 47...Re1+!
This and the next move are good moves from Black to draw the white king to the white square f1. If instead the immediate 47...Re6?, Black loses after 48.Qb8 Kc3 49.a5 c4 50.Qb7 Kd2 51.Qb2+ Kd3 52.Qb1+ Kd4 53.Qa1+ (the queen has checked herself into the corner, but in a position to support the a-pawn) 53...c3 54.a6+-, as now Black misses the ressource Be2. With the white king on f1 this would save him.

move 47.a4
47.Qf4+ Kd3 48.Qd6+ Kc4 is the same position as before. If White wants to make progress, he has to try 49.a4, transposing to the game.

move 46.Qd6+
46.Qf6+ Kd3 47.Qd6+ Kc4 is another way to come to the position, where White will have to try 48.a4, transposing to the game again.

to be continued
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 5/14/2021 02:25
MickyMaus90: Well done! Your analysis is basically the same as Zoran Petronijevic's. But there are more mistakes to be found earlier...
MickyMaus90 MickyMaus90 5/14/2021 02:08
As this is my first post here, this is a bit of a test, if my old CB account is still valid.

My only source is GK MGP II, 1st ed from 2003. So all of the following might be "snow of yesterday".
According to Stockfish 13 (and me) the last mistake seems to be 49...Ra2?; instead 49...Re6 seems to hold. This was Black's last chance to set up the defensive system with Re6, Bg4 and h5. Which was already possible in a stronger version in move 41.
The points of 49...Re6 are: a) to have an easy life with a protected rook on e6, instead of a loose rook on a2. b) it kicks the white queen away from a6 and gains a tempo.

49...Re6 50.Qb8 Kc3 51.a5 c4 52.Qb5 Kd2! (trick defense of the c4, the black threat is now Re1-e2-e1 with perpetual check.) 53.Qd7+ Ke3 (53...Kc3? is not good because of 51.Qa4, so Black has to block the e-file for a second.) 54.Qa4 c3 55.a6 Be2+ 56.Ke1 Kf3! (the problem with 56...Bxa6 is, that Black loses the coordination of his pieces, SF13 thinks White is winning after 57.Qb3 Re5 58.Qxc3+ and a timely g3-g4 later. The text is easier, at least with TB access, and surely more spectacular.) 57.Qf4+ Kg2 58.Qf2+ Kh1 59.Qxe2 c2!! (tada) 60.Qxe6 c1Q+ (Now we are in a queen ending, with White two pawns ahead. But to escape the flood of Black's checks, White has to make concessions. Like in the following main line to give up the g3 with check.) 61.Ke2 (or 61.Kf2 Qd2+ 62.Qe2 Qd4+ 63.Kf3 Qg4+ 64.Ke3 Qe6+ 65.Kf2 Qb6+, SF13: 0.00 forever) 61...Qc2+ 62.Ke3 Qc3+ 63.Kf4 Qd2+ 64.Kf5 Qf2+ 65.Kg6 Qxg3+ and we have reached TBs, so this is a draw.

Wolfram Schön, Bergisch Gladbach (Germany), IM Fide and GM Iccf
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 5/13/2021 04:19
brian8871: Your suggestion 39...Be6 is indeed playable. But Panno's game move 39...Bg4 is no mistake. It also defends. The mistake comes later...
brian8871 brian8871 5/13/2021 04:06
39...Bg4 looks wrong. After 39...Be6 40. fxe3 Rxe3, White doesn't have a clear victory.
turok turok 5/12/2021 08:01
gosh why do we feel the need to use databases to take away from great games. It is a fact we are HUMAN and not robotic so when a sacrifice works that is not sound regardless of the competition it works for many reasons which normally is about humans not being able to handle the stress. That is one reason why the database and chess engines are killing our games today, We have people analyzing a game even between top players and then saying how this move was good or bad based on a chess engine and not because they could've done better.