Mikhail Tal (b. 1936 -- d. 1993) was an aggressive, attacking chess player. He was world champion only between 1960 and 1961, defeating and then losing to Mikhail Botvinnik. Until Garry Kasparov claimed the world title years later, Tal was the youngest person to become world champion. His personality may have defined what I think of as the stereotypical chess geek: a chain smoker with tons of nervous energy who was obsessed with chess and loved speed chess. Tal loved to attack relentlessly and would often sacrifice in order to maintain initiative. Many of his sacrifices were so stunning, and questionable, that he earned the nickname "the Wizard of Riga." (thanks ymatsu.)

Mikhail Tal was born in Riga, Latvia. He kept playing chess until his death, even winning the World Blitz Championship in 1988. A few days before his death in 1993 he defeated Garry Kasparov in a quick game. In fact, in his lifetime he only lost once to Kasparov and once to Anatoly Karpov.

In 1976 Tal authored a classic book called The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal. Quotations attributed to Tal include:

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