Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mikhail Tal and me

Any chess-playing schoolboy in the 1960s or 1970s will usually name Mikhail Tal as one of their chess heroes. I was no different. Mikhail Tal was one of my chess heroes when I first started learning how to play the game in 1969. Like many people, we tried to emulate his style of play but we were never successful. As a result, we were always left admiring him from afar for his verve and nerves of steel.

I finally got to meet my chess hero for the first time in October 1982 when I was part of the Malaysian chess team at the Chess Olympiad in Lucerne, Switzerland. And, of course, witnessed first hand most of his games. The only other time I got to meet Tal was in Kuala Lumpur itself. It was in June 1990 and he was in transit through the international airport at Subang on his way to Manila for the interzonal tournament with other Soviet chess grandmasters. By then, it was well known that he had been seriously ill, moving in and out of hospitals. Still, I was shocked when I saw him. He had lost a lot of weight as a result of his health.

Mikhail Tal, the eighth world chess champion, would have been 75 years old if he were still alive today but sadly, the chess world lost his immeasurable chess talent in June 1992.

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