Taimanov in 1996
|Full name||Mark Evgenievich Taimanov|
|Country||Soviet Union |
|Born||7 February 1926|
Kharkiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
|Died||28 November 2016 (aged 90)|
Saint Petersburg, Russia
|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. Also a prolific chess author, Taimanov became a Grandmaster in 1952, and in 1956 won the USSR Chess Championship. Several chess variations are named after him. A modern Renaissance man, Taimanov was also a world-class concert pianist.
Taimanov was a World Championship Candidate twice, in 1953 and 1971. In 1971, however, he lost his Candidates match by 6–0 to Bobby Fischer, causing embarrassment for the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, throughout his career, he generally excelled in representing the USSR internationally in the chess field.
Taimanov was born in Kharkiv where his parents studied at the time. They moved to Leningrad when he was six months old. His father Eugenie Zakharovich Taimanov was half-Cossack and half-Jewish; his family escaped to Kharkiv from Smolensk during the World War I. He was a student at the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute and later made a career as a head engineer at the Kirov Plant and the Hydraulic Plant, but left it to work as an engineer at the Leningrad Conservatory and various Leningrad theaters after his brother and his wife's relatives were imprisoned in 1937. Taimanov's mother Serafima Ivanovna Ilyina came from an Orthodox Russian family; she studied at the Kharkiv National Kotlyarevsky University of Arts. As a piano teacher she later introduced her son to music. Mark was the eldest of three children. When he was nine, he performed as a young violinist in the Soviet children's film Beethoven Concerto that was released in 1937. During the Great Patriotic War he and his father evacuated to Tashkent shortly before the Siege of Leningrad started; his mother along with his two siblings decided to stay in the city and had to survive the siege up till their evacuation in March 1942.
He was awarded the International Master title in 1950, and the International Grandmaster title in 1952. He played in the Candidates Tournament in Zurich in 1953, where he tied for eighth place. He was regularly in the world's top 20 players for over 25 years.;
He represented Saint Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) in internal Soviet regional team competitions, scoring (+36, =56, -24) in 116 games, across 15 events, between 1948 and 1983. He represented the sports society "Burevestnik" (Students) in internal Soviet club team competitions.
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.
Taimanov lost to Bobby Fischer in the 1971 Candidates quarterfinal by the unprecedented score of 6-0. 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". 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". 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 merely a bureaucratic pretext. The officials later "forgave" Taimanov, and lifted the sanctions against him. Fischer's overwhelming match wins later in 1971, first by 6–0 against Bent Larsen, then by 6.5–2.5 against Tigran Petrosian, may have helped contribute to their change of mind. 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.
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. This was his only Olympiad appearance.
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.
Taimanov was one of the few players to have beaten six world champions (Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov). 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.
Note that several of Taimanov's books are available in Russian, German, and English languages.
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. Taimanov personally knew composer Dmitri Shostakovich, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Sviatoslav Richter.
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