|Mikhail Tal has
been the 8th World Chess Champion.
He's been champion between 1960 and 1961, for exactly 1 year and 5 days. This was the briefest reign of any world champion.
With his great sense of humour, he used to say about this: "I've been lucky that 1960 was a leap year, so I could be champion for a day more. But this doesn't worry me, for if the title of Champion is provisional, that of ex-Champion is eternal".
He had a sparkling attacking style, which let him soon become a darling of the chess public, and let GM Ragozin express his famous comment: "Tal does not move pieces by hand, he uses a magic wand".
Tal took his first great victory in 1957, when he won the 24th USSR championship (+9 =10 -2), ahead of Paul Keres and David Bronstein.
After this success, he was awarded tby FIDE the GM title, unique case in chess history, since it was neither an IM at the moment !
And this proved not to be a mistake (by FIDE); in fact, the following year Tal won the 25th USSR championship (and zonal ) with 10 victories, 5 draws and 3 losses.
The same year, in the Interzonal in Portoroz, Tal took first place with +8 =11 -2.
This was 2,5 points ahead of the rest of the field !
In 1958, he also had the best individual result at Munich Olympiad, with the impressive score of +12 =3 - 0
In 1959 he won the Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates Tournament, with +16 =8 -4, thus becoming the challenger for the World Chess Championship.
In March 1960, Tal began his match with the world champion Mikhail Botvinnik in Moscow. Tal won that match with a score of +6 =13 -2. He became the youngest world champion at age 23 up to that time. (In 1985 Garry Kasparov beat his record by becoming world chess champion at the age of 22 years, 210 days).
A year later in Moscow Tal lost the rematch with Botvinnik, with a score of +5 =6 -10.
Is to be said, however, that at the time of this rematch, Tal was already suffering for his poor health, which has been his great limit and caused his decline.
Tigran Petrosjan said that: "Amongst all the world chess champions, who has the best health is Tal. No one else would survive neither a year after suffering all the illnesses he suffered".
Because of his poor health, Tal had to suspend two times the rematch, and the following year, he had to withdraw from the Candidates Tournament .
Neverthless he continued to play chess at a very high level (in 1988 he was still able to win the World Blitz Chess Championship), and he has left us a countless number of brilliant masterpieces.
But Mikhail Tal didn't become one of the most popular masters only because of his daring style, but because of his character, too.
He was a gentleman and he possessed a wonderful sense of humour.
Here are two amusing anecdotes, which I found in the site www.funet.fi (the exact URL is given in the LINKS' list at the end of this page.)