April Fools' Day: Fact or Fiction - Answer 2
The first few bits are true: I did play him in a simul in Los Angeles, and he was (and probably still is) my favorite player, but I didn't draw. Nor, alas, did I win; no, I received a good old-fashioned whuppin'.
At that time, I would sometimes play 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 a6 with the Black pieces, and I had succeeded in beating crazy-man IM Kamran Shirazi with that in a tournament game some time before. So I figured that if Shirazi couldn't get anything against it in a tournament game, then why should Tal do any better in a simul? Of course he's much stronger than Shirazi, but he also has less time to think.
Whatever the merits of that line of reasoning, my opening choice was a less-than-inspired one. Unfortunately, I don't have the game any longer, but here's an example of Tal's brutal efficiency against a similar setup. (And since I knew about this game, I should have taken it as a salutary warning that the Modern wasn't a brilliant choice against the Wizard of Riga.)
Tal,Mihail - Tringov,Georgi P [B06]
Amsterdam Interzonal Amsterdam (23), 1964
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Nf3 c6 5.Bg5 Qb6 [5...Nf6 is the normal, safe(r) move, transposing to the Pirc.] 6.Qd2 Of course, though 6.Rb1 wasn't so much bad as a move a Tal just doesn't play. 6...Qxb2 7.Rb1 Qa3 8.Bc4 Qa5 A bit cavalier about developing, perhaps, but there's a good idea behind the move. Black wants to play e5, grabbing some space in the center, but with the queen on a3 it loses to 9.dxe5 dxe5?? 10.Qd8# 9.0-0 e6 But then why this, especially in light of his reconsideration just two moves later? I suppose Black got cold feet, or suddenly thought that a ...d5 plan made more sense, but now Black has neither space nor development. 10.Rfe1 Preventing ...d5, on account of the e-file pin. 10...a6 11.Bf4!
White's advantage is significant here, but even so, if Black stayed passive with 11...Qc7 or 11...Qd8, White would still need to do the work to get at Black's position. Instead, GM Tringov decides it's time to do something active; shockingly, White's extra space and five-piece advantage in development pays off. 11...e5? [11...Qc7 12.e5 d5 13.Bxd5 cxd5 14.Nxd5 exd5 15.e6 with an attack is a line given in the Chess Stars series on Tal. Let's continue the line: 15...Bh6! 16.exf7+ Kxf7 17.Bxh6 Nxh6 18.Qxh6 Nc6 19.Ng5+ Kf6 20.Re3 with a decisive advantage for White. For example, 20...Bf5 21.g4 Bxg4 22.Qh4 when the threats of 23.Qxg4 and 23.Ne6+ allow White to regain the piece (at bare minimum) with an ongoing attack.; 11...Qd8 12.d5 b5 13.dxe6 fxe6 14.Bb3 e5 15.Bg5 Nf6 16.Rbd1+-] 12.dxe5 dxe5
13.Qd6! Tal is in his element here: the Black king is stuck in the center, and the threats of Red1 and Ng5 (among other things) is lethal. 13...Qxc3 [If 13...exf4 White has only one good move, but it's a doozy: 14.Nd5! winning the queen, as 14...cxd5 15.exd5+ Be6 16.dxe6 f5 17.Rxb7 leads to mate by Rxb8+, Qd7+ and Qf7#.] 14.Red1 Nd7 [14...Bf6 lets Black thrash around, but without any real hopes of saving the game. Here's the proof: 15.Bxe5 (15.Nxe5 is even stronger but less human. 15...Be7 16.Bxf7+ Kf8 17.Qc7 Nd7 18.Bb3 g5 19.Rxd7 Bxd7 20.Nxd7+ Ke8 21.Be5 Qd2 22.Nb6 Rd8 23.Rf1+-) 15...Qxc4 16.Bxf6 Nd7 17.Bxh8+-] 15.Bxf7+!
Another sacrifice, and now all is clear: Black is mated in at most four more moves. 15...Kxf7 [15...Kd8 16.Ng5 Qc4 17.Rd5 Qxd5 18.exd5 exf4 19.Ne6#] 16.Ng5+ Ke8 17.Qe6+ [17.Qe6+ Kd8 18.Nf7+ Kc7 19.Qd6#] 1-0