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Master Class Volume 2 - Mihail Tal

Magic like Mihail Tal - Magical moments with the Fritz trainer

In addition to Bobby Fischer (see my previous review here), at the beginning of my chess career, it was above all the eighth world chess champion Mihail Tal that exerted the greatest fascination on me. I was lucky enough to have relatives in what was then the GDR who sent me chess books from the sports publishing house in East Berlin. I have studied the two volumes “The Path to Success” by Alexander Koblenz and Mihail Tal from 1982 extensively. Sweeping attacks, amazing victims, great combinations, that really got me excited.

Tal began his meteoric rise to the Chess Olympics in the late 1950s. At that time, a strictly scientific style of play dominated the Soviet chess scene, which was mainly shaped by the sixth world chess champion Botvinnik. With his spectacular attack chess, Tal set completely new accents. It was not by chance that he was soon called the “Magician of Riga”. The opinions of Garry Kasparov as well as Artur Jussupow and Mark Dvoretski are also interesting.

One of Tal's most spectacular games that I really liked was Mihail Tal - Hans-Joachim Hecht, Varna 1962:


Tal sacrificed a pawn early on, and after Black's 18th move three of his pieces were attacked. With a queen sacrifice, Tal lit a veritable fireworks display on the board. In the little book "Schach und Turniertaktik" (Beyer Verlag 1983), Hecht described this encounter from his own point of view. The book is only available second-hand, but the article is great in the excellent volume Zaubern wie Schachweltmeister Michail Tal by Karsten Müller and Raymund Stolze.

Of course, I was very curious about the second Fritz Trainer in the Master Class series about Mihail Tal. Of course, I found it very pleasant that, after the first coach with Bobby Fischer, Chessbase has now continued the series with Tal. The other titles can be found in the Chessbase Shop under the Training section at Master Class.

If you choose the “Download” option in the shop, you can download the files within a few minutes and you don't have to wait for them to be sent by post. You don't have to worry that you will no longer have access to your files without a DVD. Because all downloaded downloads including the serial numbers can be found in your own account in the Chessbase Shop under "My Downloads".

After the mandatory activation with the serial number, the Tal Trainer is ready to go and the videos are available. If you are not yet using the Chessbase database software (the latest version is Chessbase 13), you can download the included Chessbase Reader 12 free of charge. This also gives you full access to all functions of the valley trainer.

The entry takes place in the database overview with a double click on the symbol of the valley trainer, which is designed in the same design as the picture on the DVD and thus stands out nicely from the other databases. Jump to the text tab to get to the "cockpit". All content can be easily accessed from this table of contents via links:

As in the Fischer Trainer, the structure is designed in the same way. In four categories (openings, strategy, tactics and finals) there are video clips from the same grandmasters Rogozenco, Marin, Müller and the international champion Reeh.

The first thing I looked at was the additional material. The database with all the Tal games contains a whopping 2,895 games, 351 of which are commented in great detail. You can also find markings with medals:

The games are preceded by 7 text entries with chronologically ordered tournament tables of the tournaments in which Tal participated. In terms of design, the Fischer trainer has set higher standards here. There are far more text introductions and more photo material available. In the Tal Trainer you won't find this abundance of biographical information, which I particularly liked about the Fischer database. Only for the world championship fights against Botvinnik in 1960 and 1961 there are separate pages with photos:

I thought that was a bit of a shame, here - as in the Fischer Trainer - a little more biographical material could have been added and chronological introductions could have been given. Photo material is definitely available, especially on the English Chessbase site you can find some interesting articles (even with a video about the lightning match against Kasparov and about his main competitors Keres and Botvinnik).

The database itself is first class, with all the game material from Tal. With the pre-installed keys to players, tournaments, commentators and teams, you can quickly get an overview of Tal's life's work. The search options are also excellent. The first thing that interested me was how often Tal played against Bobby Fischer. The meeting of the two at the Chess Olympiad in Leipzig is famous:


Mihail Tal and Bobby Fischer at the Chess Olympiad Leipzig 1960

In a highly dramatic fight, which Fischer also recorded in his book "Meine 60 Memorable Games" (Game 23), an agreement was reached on a draw. Tal also commented on this game in his biography "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal" (Part 36). In the Chessbase database you not only get the comments of the two opponents, but also detailed analyzes from other experts such as Robert Huebner, Knaak and Myers.

The statistics, which can be called up very easily in the database, show 11 tournament games, whereby Tal won four times and Fischer twice, with 5 draws.

If, like me, you have books on Tal, the database can make re-enacting a lot easier. You select the game in question in no time and then follow the moves digitally on the screen. Especially if you want to understand varied analyzes, you have the huge advantage - compared to replaying on a conventional chessboard - that you can always return to the starting position with a click of the mouse. If you also use a chess program like Deep Fritz 14, you can use the chess engine as a lapwing to check your position assessments yourself immediately.

In addition to the extensive database, you also get two opening trees as additional material, Tal with white and Tal as black player. This is a very convenient way to get an overview of Tal's opening repertoire.

I consider the training database to be very valuable with an incredible 245 training questions (significantly more than in the Fischer Trainer, where 100 positions had to be solved)! This gives you positions from Tal's games and gives you the opportunity to do magic yourself like a magician. A time is given depending on the level of difficulty. You can test yourself in a multitude of different situations. Not only mating attacks, but also combinations to gain material or endgame tricks are mixed up. By solving the tasks you not only have fun, but also sharpen your eye for tactical motives and solutions.

This abundance of additional material alone makes the Fritz Trainer über Tal extremely attractive for every chess fan of all skill levels.

The main part are the videos of the experts mentioned at the beginning. All areas of Tal's work are dealt with. Of course, when you think of a player like Mihail Tal, you think of tactics first. That's why I loved the extensive video material - with over 4 hours of playing time! - First of all, the rubric on this topic attracted.

The IM Oliver Reeh had the not so easy task of making a selection for this. He succeeded in doing this very well. In 20 video clips he presents the viewer with tactical tasks to solve. First he goes into the peculiarities of the starting position. Then he asks what you would draw yourself. The video pauses and you have time to think and enter a move on the board. When you have found the right move, praise a deer (“seen excellent”, “excellent”), which is very motivating. If you are wrong with your move, Reeh often gives further tips on what to keep in mind and what to achieve. You can then start another attempt by clicking on "again". If this does not work, the yellow solution button helps, after which the video continues and the correct solution is displayed. Instructive, as Reeh also uses the graphical possibilities of the Chessbase software, and clarifies connections, for example with the combination of Tal against Brinck Claussen.

I was most impressed by the video clip 14, where Tal and White forced the world champion Tigran Petrosyan, who is known for his safety game, to give up in just 23 moves. From my point of view, Reeh shows the most beautiful punchline in the 16th clip during the game Spassky - Tal, in a side variant that was not played. Tal himself does not mention this possibility in his game comments. It is absolutely amazing how a mating net is made with only two pieces, and White - although he has one more queen - cannot find a way to defend himself. It is very nice that Reeh has carried out his own research here and has conveyed such hidden wonderful possibilities.

Endgame expert GM Dr. Karsten Müller shows how resourceful Tal was in the finals. He produced 12 videos for it. He divides the material into three chapters, "Magical Moments", "Tower Endgames" and "Famous Valley Endgames". Even against first-class opponents like Garry Kasparow, Tal demonstrated his magical abilities in the final phase of the game. I was particularly fascinated by the endgame with four queens in clip 4, and the combinatorial punch in clip 3, which, however, didn't come onto the board because Tal's opponent had given up beforehand. In the rook endings too, Müller avoids "boring" technical designs and shows surprising twists and turns and exciting moments. As Müller states, today you can use computer analysis and endgame databases to prove how good Tal's moves and his excellent intuition were. The famous finals are all about examples from the World Cup fights against Botvinnik, where there were also some magical moments that are explained in detail by Müller.

GM Mihail Marin shows what Tal had to do with strategy. In his introductory video, Marin explains that Tal is first and foremost considered to be a tactical player and that he is not necessarily famous for strategic achievements. As an example, he also shows a rather anti-strategic game system by Tal in the third game of the 1960 World Cup, with White against Botvinnik. Here he played after 1.e4 c6 2.¤c3 d5 3.¤f3 ¥ g4 4.h3 ¥ xf3 5.gxf3 ?! and got into a positionally lost position, but was able to fight for a draw in the end. In another four videos, however, Marin shows that Tal has also achieved extraordinary things in the area of ​​strategy. The most instructive is the second video, in which the 11th game of the same competition is explained in detail. Marin's personal memories of Tal in the fourth clip are also interesting, as he took part in a tournament with him in 1992 in Seville.

In three videos, GM Dorian Rogozenco goes into Tal's opening treatment. As a white player, Tal had a broad repertoire, but preferred 1. e4 as it suited his tactical attacking game very well. As an example, the extremely sharp attacking game of the young Tal against Tolush is shown in the first clip. In the Sicilian peasant robbery variant, Tal sacrificed his bishop on move 15. The ensuing entanglements are completely confusing and probably typical for Tal.

I was also inspired by Tal's victims. In one of my first open tournaments I managed a spectacular knight sacrifice on f5 in a Sicilian opening. Unfortunately, it was not a brilliant game, after several mistakes it was only enough for a draw in the end.

In his second video, Rogozenco sheds light on the opening of the World Cup matches against Botvinnik. And in the third part he shows examples of openings in which Tal has introduced innovations.


With the Tal Trainer, Chessbase is continuing the “Master Class” series very strongly. With the videos of the well-known experts you get a very instructive insight into the thinking and the immense imagination of the magician from Riga. In the tactics videos and in the database with the training questions, you can also try to conjure up like Tal and relive the magical moments again. The main database contains all of Tals' games, many of which contain extensive commentary and analysis. A little more effort could have been spent on the biographical preparation (as in the Fischer Trainer). Although I have already collected a lot of material about Tal, I consider the Fritz Trainer über Tal to be uniquely instructive and valuable, so I can warmly recommend it to every chess fan of all levels.

Sample video

Master Class Volume 2 - Mihail Tal

• Video playing time: 4 hours 22 min (German)
• Interactive tactics test with video feedback
• All valley games, tables, background knowledge, short biography
• "Tal-Powerbook": The opening repertoire of the world champion as a variant tree
• Tactical training with 245 tasks from Tal games
• With ChessBase 12 Reader


Available by download or by post. Free delivery within Germany.

Fritztrainer in ChessBase Shopto order.