ENTERTAINMENT

New book tells the story of the love story between Sally Landau and her chess professional husband Tal


CHESS

Checkmate!

by Sally Landau (Elk and Ruby £ 17.99, 223 pages)

Nobody said it was easy to be married to a genius. Especially one with horrific medical problems. But that was Sally Landau's choice.

In 1959, at the age of 19, she married Mikhail & # 39; Misha & # 39; Valley. A year later, at 23, he was to be the youngest person to be crowned world chess champion.

In the Jewish community of the Latvian city of Riga, they must have been compared to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Landau with golden red hair and eye-catching eyes was an actress and singer.

Tal was Paganini's chessboard, Mephistophelean in his championship. As his chess trainer, Gennadi Sosonko recalled: “A look out of his burning eyes that penetrated the board and his opponent. . . the incredible pressure of his ideas – these could not withstand the weak emotionally. & # 39;

King and Queen: Misha with Sally. Nobody said it was easy to be married to a genius. Especially one with horrific medical problems. But that was Sally Landau's choice

His desire for conquest went beyond the chessboard and especially to other actresses besides Sally. Eventually this ended her marriage in 1971, although she admits that she had returned the favor on her own affairs. This included a connection with an insanely possessive member of the Central Committee of the Latvian Communist Party (referred to here only as a "minister"), who let her thugs persecute her everywhere.

According to Sally's convincing report, Tal saw all of this only as an extension of his chessboard battles: “He made no difference between life and chess. . . The people around him were chess pieces that could be sacrificed and that should lead him to victory because nothing else was possible. & # 39;

Therefore, every human "chess piece" that suddenly showed its independence really surprised Misha. When I told him that he had cheated and exchanged me, he just smiled and said, 'Saska! You are my most important and wonderful piece. It is wrong to exchange such pieces! & # 39;

When he saw the nature of Sally's relationship with & # 39; the Minister & # 39; discovered a friend said to Tal's answer that she felt like he had just done something wrong without understanding how he was doing it. He won't forgive himself for this mistake. & # 39;

Although she had emigrated from the Soviet Union to remarry in her new home in Antwerp, and married Tal herself twice, they remained in close contact.

He made no distinction between life and chess. . . The people around him were chess pieces that could be sacrificed and that should lead him to victory because nothing else was possible.

Sally's second husband, Joe, made friends with Tal, whom he adored. But the former chess world champion maintained his ruthless competitive spirit.

When Tal flew to Paris to face 33 opponents at the same time, Joe asked to be added as the 34th. Misha agreed … and Joe became one of his victims. Landau rebuked her former husband: "Couldn't you have Joe drawn?" Tal replied with a laugh: & # 39; It was revenge for my defeat. After all, he won you from me. & # 39;

The only enemy Tal couldn't defeat was his catastrophic health.

He was a frail child, and his right hand – holding the approximately 100 cigarettes he smoked every day – had only three unusually large numbers that resembled a lobster claw.

At an early age, he was plagued by excruciating pain from kidney dysfunction. Landau insists that his colossal alcohol consumption – he started drinking brandy as soon as he woke up – was more a reaction to the constant agony of his kidneys than a factor that contributed to it.

Checkmate! by Sally Landau (Elk and Ruby £ 17.99, 223 pages)

Checkmate! by Sally Landau (Elk and Ruby £ 17.99, 223 pages)

But he had always been an intellectual miracle, reading from the age of three and multiplying by five three-digit numbers. Then, at six, he discovered chess, the natural home for his crazy gifts. As former world champion Garry Kasparov wrote in surprise: "He is the only player I can remember who did not calculate long variations. He simply" saw "them."

The last time they played against each other was in 1992. Tal left the hospital to take part in a Moscow tournament and inflicted his only loss on Kasparov. He died a month later at 55.

It contradicts the belief that, despite his enormous alcohol and pain medication consumption, this man's shell could beat even younger grandmasters in their prime.

Of course they worshiped him because they understood his unique genius best. Like Landau in her more romantic way: “Sometimes I think Misha flew in from another planet – just to play chess and then fly home. I am proud to have lived with such a person, proud of his love. I miss him very much. & # 39;

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