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.

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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."

 

Conclusions

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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