From the Archives….
The Hypnotist !?
Mikhail Tal ( 1936-1992 ) earned the nickname ‘The Magician from Riga’ because of the almost super-human feats that he achieved in over the board tournament play.
Especially his sacrifical attacks made him a huge favourite amongst chess fans all over the world, and played a decisive role in his scaling the Mount Olympus of chess in record time and winning the World Title in 1960 at age 23.
Chess historians have argued (and some continue to argue) that Tal’s successes had more to do with his ability to impose his reckless style of play on his opponents than on chess strength.
Tal’s opponents often deliberately strove to stay away from the type of messy and complex position where Tal excelled, but were simply unable to do so. The inventive Tal always found some way to lure them into tactical labyrinths.
This has led to the theory that Tal used some sort of hypnotism during his games to disorient and dominate his opponent’s thinking….
Infact, GM Pal Benko (1928-2019) was so worried about avoiding eye contact with Tal during a qualifying tournament in 1959 that he appeared at the board wearing sun-glasses!
Tal had heard beforehand that this might happen, and so he also wore sun-glasses for the first few moves. Tal later joked that he won the game because he knew at what moment to take the sun-glasses off!
Korchnoi on Tal’s Hypnotism
The great Victor Korchnoi (1931-2016) was no stranger to the world of parapsychology. He had a huge plus score against Tal, something that historians have had difficulty explaining. Korchnoi believed that — for some reason — he was naturally protected from Tal’s hypnotism, as was Boris Spassky.
Korchnoi believed that Tal’s biggest successes were due to his ability to steer the play into the kinds of positons where not only was Tal like a fish in water but also where his opponents were uncomfortable. And that Tal did this thru deliberate hypnotic means.
The video below is from 2011 where Korchnoi is interviewed by French GM Robert Fontaine and contains excerpts where Korchnoi discusses Tal and hypnotism. You can watch the entire interview HERE.
You might also want to read: