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LCB, Issue #066 --, When Tactics and Positional Strategy Clash
December 01, 2020

Clash of Tactics and Strategy

Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #066 -- GOTM #36

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Tactics vs Strategy. Which is the more important? Who wins the day when these titans clash? Some of the greatest games of chess have been a clash of styles. Not merely two protagonists going up against each other but two opposing approaches to the game of chess.

Of course the question is to a great extent tongue in cheek. Tactics and strategy are not rebuttals of each other. They complement rather than contradict each other and any chess player is well advised to incorporate both into his or her game.

Let's go to the former Yugoslavia back in 1959 to take in a great game played by two of the biggest names in chess history. The famed tactical wizard, Mikhail Tal, faces the peerless positional strategist, Vasily Smyslov in an absorbing contest. What would win out, Tal's tricks or Smyslov's unerring logic?

Clash of Tactics and Strategy

Mikhail Tal - Smyslov, Vasily [B10]

GotM #36 - Bled, Zagreb, Belgrade, 1969
[Connaughton, Ken]

1.e4 c6

Caro-Kann Defense

2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 e5 4.Ngf3 Nd7 5.d4

White wants to break up the center.

5...dxe4 6.Nxe4 exd4 7.Qxd4

Game position after 7.Qxd4

White leads in development.

7...Ngf6 8.Bg5 Be7 9.0-0-0 0-0 10.Nd6

What is Tal intending here?

10...Qa5 11.Bc4

Develops and covers the a-pawn.

11...b5 12.Bd2

Game position after 12.Bd2

White using tactics now as he seeks to outmaneuver his illustrious opponent.

12...Qa6 13.Nf5

Again defending c4 with an even greater threat.

13...Bd8 14.Qh4!?

Game position after 14.Qh4!?

White sacrifices the Bishop, daring Black to take and then navigate through the oncoming attack.


This time Smyslov thinks he has time to take the Bishop.

15.Qg5 Nh5

(15...g6 16.Nh6+ Kh8 17.Bc3 Kg7 18.Ng4+/- with pressure mounting on f6.)


As always White looks for a tactical way forward.

(If 16.Qxh5 then 16...Qxa2 17.Bb4 Nf6 18.Nh6+ gxh6 19.Qxh6 c5 20.Qg5+ Kh8 21.Bc3 Qa1+ 22.Kd2 Qa6-/+ and Black with the extra piece should win.)

16...Kh8 17.Qxh5 Qxa2

If 17...gxh6 18.Bc3+ f6 19.Qxh6+- and a winning position for White.


Giving his King an escape square.


Black overlooked the weakness of his back rank but White does not.


Game position after 19.Qxf7!!

Black can't take the Queen.


Pushing the King in front of his Rook and ending the pressure on Black's home rank.

20.Kd2 Rxf7 21.Nxf7+ Kg8 22.Rxa1 Kxf7

Game position after 22...Kxf7

White has won the exchange.

23.Ne5+ Ke6 24.Nxc6 Ne4+ 25.Ke3 Bb6+ 26.Bd4

Game position after 26.Bd4

Black is down a pawn and an exchange, his Queenside pawns are isolated and weak, the position can't be held. He resigns.


Tal - Smyslov, Bled, Zagreb, Belgrade, 1959)

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