Historical riddle solved: M. Tal vs O. Panno

6/21/2021 – When Mihail Tal won the Interzonal Tournament in Portoroz 1958 he impressed chess fans all over the world with his bold and daring sacrifices. One of Tal's most complicated and most deeply analyzed games from Portoroz is his win against Oscar Panno. A number of annotators have tried to find the truth about this fantastically complicated game, and Karsten Müller invited ChessBase readers to join the discussion. Zoran Petronijevic had a particularly close look. Is this the final word on this remarkable game?

Master Class Vol.2: Mihail Tal 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.


Complicated: Tal vs Panno, Portoroz 1958

Tal remembered the game fondly: "The game with Panno gave me great pleasure and it won a prize for the most interesting game of the tournament." (Tal, Damsky, V ogonj ataki, Moscow 1978, page 31).

Zoran Petronijevic: "The game has been annotated countless times, but it is so complex that these analyses still contain mistakes and omissions. I do hope that my analyzes bring us a bit closer to the truth. Mistakes are, of course, unavoidable."



By Zoran Petronijevic

  • The first interesting moment in the game arises after 14.e5, which is dubious. Better is Kasparov’s suggestion 14.b3, after which White has a clear edge.
  • 19…Nxa1 is a mistake (which none of the previous annotators pointed out), after which the position is lost. Better is 19…Nxd4 which leads to even play.
  • After 23.Be1! (instead of the game move 23.Bxf4 which is a mistake that leads to an even position) White is winning.
  • 23…Rxd4 is best and leads to even play. The alternative 23…cxd4, which was given by many sources, should lose.
  • 26…Bf7 is best and gives Black comfortable play. 26…Kh8 looks weird, and was given as by bad by Tal, but also leads to even play.
  • 27…Bg6 is a mistake, after which Black is lost. After 27…Rd1, the position is even.
  • 32.g3 is a mistake after which the position is even. Better is 32.Kh2 or 32.g4. White wins in both cases.
  • After 32…Be4 the position is even.
  • 41…Rxe3 is given by all sources as a mistake but leads to draw. The alternative 43…Re6 also leads to a draw as Black can build a fortress.
  • 45…Kd4 is given by all sources as a mistake but in fact it leads to a draw. All sources give 45…Rxg3 (a suggestion by the Yugoslavian IM V. Vukovic) as better by my analyzes indicate that this loses. But the game move 45…Kd5 should also lead to a draw.
  • 49…Ra2 is a decisive mistake. 49…Re6!! saves the game for Black.

If the analyzes are correct Tal was never lost, and with best play Black could have reached no more than equality.



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Keith Homeyard Keith Homeyard 6/22/2021 09:40
Although very enjoyable to examine games like this with strong engines and no time limit but we shouldn't forget the games were played by humans with much less time to consider. :)
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 6/22/2021 09:38
With the engines available in 10 years time it will be shown that the above analysis is a collection of 'mutual blunders' as well.
rakerchess rakerchess 6/22/2021 08:04
Analyzing famous games with the aide of a good chess program (I'm using Fat Fritz 2 with Syzygy tablebases, opening book turned off) and an HP Z8 workstation (48 cores, 3 GHz, & 192 GB RAM), analyzing each move (including annotations) for at least one minute, clearly shows that most of these famous games are a collection of mutual blunders (defined as moving from equality to losing in one move, or moving from winning to equality in one move, characterized by the double question mark "??").
In the specific case of Tal - Panno, Interzonal, Portoroz 1958, Panno played 19 .... Na1??+-, where 19 ... Nd4 20 Nd8 Bf5 21 Qf1 Bd8= would have led to equality. Tal reciprocated a few moves later with 23 Bf4??=, where 23 Be1 cd 24 b3 Rfe8 25 Bb4 Ne5 26 Qb7 Re7 27 Qe7 Nf7+- would have won.
The blunders continued a few moves later, when Panno played 27 .... Bg6??+-, where 27....Rd1+ 28 Kh2 Nd2 29 Bd2 Rd2 30 Qc5 h6= would have kept the balance. Tal reciprocated a few moves later with 32 g3??=, where 32 Kh2 Be4 33 g4 Kg6 34 h4 h5 35 f3 Bd5 36 Qf5+ Kg7 37 gh +- would have won.
Panno made the final blunder with 49....Ra2??+-, where 49....Re6 50 a5 c4 51 Qb1 Kd4= would have drawn.
I haven't mentioned the mistakes (characterized by "?", one move from = to large advantage, or one move from large advantage to winning/losing, since these are part of the "normal" architecture of a won game).
The analysis does confirm that Tal always had equality or better.
A "great" and "beautiful" game? Rather, a comedy of errors (blunders).