Mark Evgenievich Taimanov (in Russian: Марк Евгеньевич Тайманов; born 7 February 1926, died 28 November 2016 in Saint
Petersburg, after a month and a half of medical treatment), was a leading Soviet and Russian chess
player, chess theorist, author, journalist and concert pianist.
Brief survey: IM 1950 (at the inauguration of the FIDE titles), GM 1952. USSR champion 1956. Twice a Candidate for the World Championship, and World Senior Champion in 1993 and in 1994.
Taimanov was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Jewish parents. His mother, a piano teacher, introduced him to music. His family moved to Saint Petersburg when he was
six months old. At eleven years, he played a young violinist in the 1937 Soviet film "Beethoven Concerto". He remarried late in life and became the father of twins at the age of 78.
Taimanov was a top concert pianist in the Soviet Union. With his first wife, Lyubov Bruk, he formed a piano duo (Bruk & Taimanow) some of whose recordings were included in the Philips and Steinway series Great Pianists of the 20th Century. Duet Bruk/Taimanov play Rachmaninoff Suite for Two Piano's no. 1 in G minor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONaCj5rS_2A
Discovered at the age of eight, he became soon a Pupil of the Leningrad chess school (Botvinnik, Korchnoi, Spassky, Sosonko, and others).
He played in 23 USSR Chess Championships from 1948 to 1976 (a record equalled only by Efim
Geller), tying for first place twice. In 1952 he lost the play-off match to Mikhail Botvinnik 2½-3½, while four years later, he beat Yuri Averbakh (=2) and Boris Spassky (+2) in a play-off match for the title to become USSR Champion 1956. In addition, Taimanov finished no less than seven times on second or third place (sole or shared), namely in 1949 (3rd-4th), 1954 (2nd-3rd), 1962 (2nd-3rd), december 1965 (3rd),
1966/67 (3rd-5th), december 1967 (3rd-5th), and october 1969 (3rd-5th).
In the period of 1948-1973, Taimanov was also a five times the City Champion of Leningrad (1948, 1950, 1951, 1961 together with Spassky, and again 1973).
In the ‘match of the century’ between the USSR and the Rest of The World at Belgrade in 1970, Mark Taimanov played on board 7, beating his opponent Wolfgang Uhlmann 2.5:1.5 (+2=1-1).
Also four times
consecutively European Team Champion with USSR in 1957, 1961, 1965, 1970, as well as four times winning the individual board gold medal, and winning with the USSR team the gold medal at the Chess Olympiad in 1956 (individual board bronze). Gold with the USSR at the 2nd
World Student Team Chess Championship in Lyon 1955, Taimanov played on board one.
Taimanov was Senior World Champion in 1993 and 1994, winning the 3rd and 4th World Senior Chess Championships
at Bad Wildbad 1993 and Biel 1994 (that event was played during the annual Biel Chess Festival) respectively.
Taimanov participated in the Interzonals in Saltsjobadden in 1952 where he shared the second-third
places with Petrosian behind sensational first Alexander Kotov, thus qualifying for the Candidates tournament at Zurich / Neuhausen in 1953, and in Palma de Mallorca in 1970 (Bobby Fischer won), Taimanov
finished equal fifth-sixth and became a Candidate again but lost the famous 1971 quarter-final match in Vancouver to Bobby Fischer by a brutal 0-6 (Fischer subsequently
won vs. Larsen in his semi-final with the same result, surpassed Petrosian in the final, and beat Spassky).
After this 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". They took away Taimanov's salary, and he was no longer allowed to travel overseas. Later, they "forgave" him, and lifted the
sanctions against him.
Taimanov leads an active chess life and has played in the tournament circuit for more than 50 years and 80 countries, having won or being equal first amongst others in Liverpool
(1st International Student Tournament) 1952 (with Bronstein in the individual tournament held parallel to a small-sized team event where the USSR did not take part), Dresden 1959 (with Geller, ahead of Ivkov and Uhlmann,
then Padevsky), Santa Fe 1960 (with Szabo, ahead of Gligoric, followed by Korchnoi), Leningrad (Baltic Nations)
1960, Dortmund 1961 (a Prequel of the Dortmund series today, Taimanov won ahead of Smyslov and Udovcic, followed
by Bilek, then Larsen, Trifunovic, Teschner, Pietzsch), Chigorin Memorial at Rostov-on-Don 1961 (ahead of Nezhmetdinov
and Tarasov, followed by Polugaevsky), Marianske-Lazne (Marienbad) 1962, Luxembourg 1963, Budapest2
1965 (with Polugaevsky, Szabo, ahead of Krogius, then Janosevic), Copenhagen (100th Anniversary of the
Copenhagen Chess Club) 1965 (with Gligoric, Suetin, ahead of Larsen, followed by Hort, then Dückstein), Helsinki 1966, Reykjavik (3rd) 1968 (joint, at its beginning editions, Reykjavik was a closed invitation
tournament, later switching the format and becoming the famous Open of today), Asztalos Memorial at Zalaegerszeg (12th)
1969 (clear first , in those days, a very traditional series, played at various venues), Wijk aan Zee (Hoogovens) 1970
(first of two participations, Mark Taimanov winning this prestigious event outright, impressive 1.5 points ahead of Hort, followed by Ivkov, Kavalek, Kurajica, Donner, Benkö, Filip, etc.), Skopje (Solidarnost,
4th) 1970 (with Vasiukov, ahead of Gheorghiu, Marovic, Balashov, Matulovic, Forintos, Gligoric, Matanovic, Browne, Reshevsky,
etc.), Bucharest 1973, Albena 1974, Decin (Primat, 5th) 1975, Bucharest 1979, St. Petersburg
(White Nights) GM 1998 (with Yudasin, and others).
In addition, Taimanov finished at the strong and rarely played Alekhine Memorial, Moscow 1956, only half a point behind the joint winners Botvinnik, then reigning World Champion, and Smyslov, then Vice World Champion and Challenger, as third together with Gligoric, ahead of Bronstein, Najdorf, Keres, Pachman,
Unzicker, Stahlberg, Szabo, Padevsky, Uhlmann, Ciocaltea, Sliwa, and Golombek (16 players). In 1967, Taimanov was runner-up at the traditional Capablanca Memorial in Havana behind Larsen but above Smyslov, Polugaevsky, Gligoric, Filip, Donner, and others.
Few players have beaten six undisputed world chess champions in classical games (namely Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov) as Mark Taimanov has.
In 1970, he was ranked fourth in the annual Chess Oscar Award (only behind Fischer, Spassky, and Larsen).
Best world ranking:
5th in January 1957 with 2742 (prior to FIDE in historical ELO by SONAS);
=10th with Smyslov
and Stein in January 1971 FIDE list with 2620 ELO (also best FIDE rating).
Mark Taimanov was a regular top fifty player of the world (today regarded as super grandmaster) from the late 1940s to the early 1980s,
and a frequent top ten player in the 1950s.
About his playing style, GM Grigory Levenfish said: "Taimanov was characterised with deep understanding of positions, aggressiveness of his ideas and projects
and precise calculations."
Mark Taimanov has authored important opening works on the Dutch and Nimzo-Indian Defences, and on the Reti Opening. As an opening theoretician, he left a legacy of openings
that bear his name, including a variation in the Benoni, the King's Indian, and most notably the Sicilian, Taimanov Variation (B46) (1.e4 c5 2.f3 e6 3.d4
cxd4 4. xd4 c6 5. c3 a6). For deeper insights, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taimanov_Variation.
Taimanov wrote about 20 books, amongst others
Zarubezhnye vstrechi (1958), devoted to his traveling, Die Nimzowitsch-Indische Verteidigung (1961), Nimzowitsch-Indisch bis Katalanisch (1979), Slawisch bis Reti-Eröffnungen (1979) and Karpov-Kasparov (1985).