Mark Taimanov

Mark Taimanov

Taimanov in 1996
Full name Mark Evgenievich Taimanov
Country Soviet Union
Born (1926-02-07)7 February 1926
Kharkiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Died 28 November 2016(2016-11-28) (aged 90)
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Title Grandmaster
Peak rating 2600 (July 1971)

Mark Evgenievich Taimanov (Russian: Марк Евгеньевич Тайманов; 7 February 1926 – 28 November 2016) was one of the leading Soviet and Russian chess players, among the world's top 20 players from 1946 to 1971. Taimanov was also a prolific chess author. Taimanov became a Grandmaster in 1952, and in 1956 won the USSR Chess Championship.[1] He was a World Championship Candidate twice, in 1953 and 1971. In 1971, however, Taimanov lost his Candidates match by 6–0 to Bobby Fischer. Taimanov excelled in team play representing the USSR. Several chess variations are named after him. Taimanov was also a world-class concert pianist.

Early life

Taimanov was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Jewish parents.[2] His mother, a piano teacher, introduced him to music. His family moved to Saint Petersburg when he was six months old.[3] When he was eleven years old, he played a young violinist in the 1937 Soviet film "Beethoven Concerto".[4]

Chess career

He was awarded the International Grandmaster title in 1952, and played in the Candidates Tournament in Zurich in 1953, where he tied for eighth place. From 1950 to 1956, he was among the world's top 10 players, and was regularly in the top 20 for over 25 years.[5] He represented Saint Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) in internal Soviet team play.

Soviet champion

He played in 23 USSR Chess Championships (a record equalled by Efim Geller), tying for first place twice. In 1952 he lost the playoff match to Mikhail Botvinnik, who was World Champion at the time. In 1956, after finishing equal with Yuri Averbakh and Boris Spassky in the tournament proper, he won a match-tournament ahead of them, for the title.[6]

Loss to Fischer

Taimanov is probably best known for his 6–0 loss to Bobby Fischer in the 1971 World Championship Candidates match. About this match, Taimanov later recalled that Fischer "was an incredibly tough defender" and that "the third game proved to be the turning point of the match".[7] However, few players have beaten six world champions (Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov) as Taimanov has. After his loss to Fischer, the Soviet government was embarrassed, and, as Taimanov later put it in a 2002 interview, found it "unthinkable" that he could have lost the match so badly to an American without a "political explanation".[7] Soviet officials took away Taimanov's salary and no longer allowed him to travel overseas. The official reason given for punishing Taimanov was that he had brought a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn into the country, but that explanation was secondary in nature. The officials later "forgave" Taimanov, and lifted the sanctions against him. Fischer's match wins later in 1971, first by 6–0 against Bent Larsen, then by 6.5–2.5 against Tigran Petrosian, may have helped change their minds. Taimanov considered this match "the culminating point" of his chess career and later wrote a book about the match, titled How I Became Fischer's Victim.[7]

International teams

Taimanov represented the USSR in international team play with enormous success. At the 1956 Moscow Olympiad, as first reserve he scored (+6, =5, −0), winning team gold and board bronze medals.[8] Taimanov represented the USSR four times in the European Team Championship. At Vienna 1957, he played board seven, scored (+2, =3, −0), winning team and board gold medals. At Oberhausen 1961, he played board eight, scored (+6, =3, −0), and won team and board gold medals. At Hamburg 1965, he played board seven, scored (+3, =4, −1), and won team and board gold medals. At Kapfenberg 1970, he played board six, scored (+4, =2, −0), and won team and board gold medals.[9] In the inaugural USSR vs World team match, Belgrade 1970, he played board seven, and scored (+2, =1, −1) against Wolfgang Uhlmann.

Chess legacy

Opening variations are named after Taimanov in the Sicilian Defence, Modern Benoni and Nimzo-Indian Defence. He wrote books on two of his named variations, as well as an autobiographical best games collection. Taimanov's favorite chess players were Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Tal and Garry Kasparov.[7]

Major chess writings

Music career

Taimanov was a top concert pianist in the Soviet Union. With his first wife, Lyubov Bruk, he formed a piano duo, some of whose recordings were included in the Philips and Steinway series Great Pianists of the 20th Century.[10] Taimanov personally knew composer Dmitri Shostakovich, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Sviatoslav Richter.[7]

Personal life and death

Taimanov married four times. He remarried late in life, and became the father of twins at the age of 78.[11][12] Fifty-seven years separate his oldest child and his twins.[13]

Taimanov died on 28 November 2016 in Saint Petersburg, at the age of 90, after a month and a half of medical treatment.[1]


  1. 1 2 "Гроссмейстер Марк Тайманов скончался на 91-м году жизни" (in Russian). Interfax. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  2. JINFO (16 August 1985). "Jewish Chess Players". Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  3. "Прославленный гроссмейстер Марк Тайманов: 'И мой сын, и внучка обожают возиться с малышами'" (Russian)., accessed 31 October 2011.
  4. "Mark Taimanov at 85". Chess in Translation. 15 February 2011.
  5. "Mark Taimanov". Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  6., the Mark Taimanov results file
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 "Interview with Mark Taimanov – My life with chess and music". ChessBase. 23 May 2002. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  8., the Mark Taimanov Olympiad results file
  9., the Mark Taimanov European Team results file
  10. "Going strong at 85 – Mark Taimanov's birthday". ChessBase. 16 February 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  11. Марк Тайманов."Победа" от Микояна, шахматы от Фиделя (in Russian). Sport-Express. 21 August 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  12. "Однажды с... / Марк Тайманов" (Russian). Channel One, accessed 31 October 2011.
  13. "ChessBase News | Going strong at 85 – Mark Taimanov's birthday". ChessBase. 16 February 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2013.

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