Zhanna Tal ( Photo by D.Kienka, “Telegraph” archive )


On November, 9 – 70th anniversary of Tal's birth – the Riga newspaper "Telegraph" published an interview with the eight world champion's daughter Zhanna in which she told about her today's life in Germany and her professional interests. She also shared memories of her father. It transpired that nobody had interviewed Zhanna before. I was touched by her dignity and her astonishing resemblance of her father. Gathering my courage I asked her some questions and now I offer her answers to our readers.


– What is it like to be Tal' daughter? What have you had more – pride in your father or troubles associated with his popularity?

Of course the pride has always been but the troubles were more. I remember when I was in the first class my mom was called out to the director just because one girl of my class complained to the teacher that she had seen seven TV sets in our house one of which had stood in the bathroom! And we were rebuked for the philistinism unacceptable in the Soviet times. True actually we had just one TV set manufactured in the USSR moreover it didn't function well while the girl who sneaked on us had never really been in our house. That was the first demonstrative story. Afterwards when I was in a musical school the "well-wishers" told that I got good marks and was allowed to give concerts just because my daddy was so celebrated. And it didn't cross anyone's mind that I worked 5-6 hours daily and nothing came easy to me. Besides, all the time I was under pressure as if I had to always prove that with such a father I'm by no means inferior to him which was impossible in principle. These things are difficult to digest especially in childhood.



Did it come to pass that your father visited your school as an honourable guest at some events?

Very seldom. In all my school years he was there a couple of times. Once he played a simul another time he was asked to speak. My father never paid visits to the teachers. He granted this opportunity to my mom.

Is it for this you were awarded the golden medal?

No, for this I didn't get anything. I didn't even get a progress record at the prom after graduating from the eighth class – very nice! It was because I passed examinations without attending classes. There was a lot of work in the musical school furthermore that year I had a regularly scheduled solo concert therefore I attended classes during four months of a nine-month academic year. In the last two weeks I sat examinations in mathematics, physics and the educational course of the whole year. As a result I didn't get a progress record at the prom because I hadn't passed the exam in technical drawing in time.

Did you try to enter college in Riga?

No, I didn't. We quit earlier.



The forming of taste often depends on parent's taste. I'd like to ask you about your preferences in literature, art and music. Do they have something in common with your father's taste?

Apart from children's books which perhaps are the same for all people I started the books that were scattered about on the sofa after my father had read them. The first books that come to mind are detectives from Rajnov to Chase. We had many editions in our bookcase including the series "Classics and Contemporaries". When my father came back home after being absent for a couple of months I went to the post office with a friend of mine (because I was unable carry it all myself) and returned loaded with a pile of newspapers. As a result our apartment turned out to be covered with them as if we made repairs.

My father was never interested in art. My favourite painter is Magritte. It became particularly clear after me and my mom had visited his exhibition in Dusseldorf. Later on learning a lot about him I conducted excursions for the visitors which helped me to improve my German. Also I like Turner very much with his paints that blend one into another.

Rachmaninov and Chopin are indisputable favourites in music for both father and me. I always rendered romanticism better so I would add Tchaikovsky, Scriabin and Schuman, I feel their music better.

I'd like to ask you of your colour preferences.

They change greatly. Sometimes I prefer pastel shades, but at times I nave a longing for such bright colours that I surprise myself. Half a year ago I would never choose something like that. For my father the most important thing was not to stand out. God forbid! In general he had this trait – he felt uncomfortable if he was recognized. Those days there was always a problem to dine out, there were queues by restaurants. And he always kicked when someone tried to let him in out of turn. He never entered ahead of those who stood closer to the "sacred door".



What flowers did your father like?

He adored roses and large purple dahlias. He also liked gladioluses.

It is known that Mikhail Nehemievich preferred cognac. And what is your favourite drink?

Frankly, I don't drink at all.

Please say a couple of words about your gastronomic affections.

We always had it that way that father loved meat while I was fond of trimmings. Therefore wherever we went it was very convenient for us – I got two trimmings and he got two portions of meat. He loved delicacy, he always ordered spicy food. 

In the interview in "Telegraph" you told that the TV set in your home was working all the time. What did attract your father most, which movies did you see?

Frankly, he was interested in everything. He ate, he talked on the phone, he read, he played chess and he watched TV at the same time. He watched football, all news editions, all detectives and even all soap operas starting with "Bondmaid Izaura". He went deeply into everything that was broadcasted. Usually he commented on political programs and football. Later on video appeared but he remained indifferent to it. He loved old Italian movies. Among the Russian directors he valued Riazanov the most.

Did you go to the theatre together?

I was in the theatre with my father twice: we watched the ballet "Scarlet Sails" in Moscow and another ballet in Leningrad. It was difficult to make him go out: every time it appeared that it was either hot or cold, moreover it required dressing up and shaving, the things he didn't like.

Did your father make you going for sports?

Heneverdid. But there was no need to do it. I always played football with the boys and then at the age of 11 I started training in figure skating which continued until our departure to Germany.

Who do you remember among the chessplayers? Who did you like more?

Firstly, those who often came to our house – Vitolinsh, Gipslis, Kengis. I saw them every week when father was at home or at the training sessions in Jurmala. Also I remember the Swedish GM Karlsson (perhaps it's associated with his name) Romanishin. And Petrosian – I sympathize him very much.

With whom do you maintain the relations until now?

With Valentin Kirillov, Alik Deuel. With Semen Pisman who lives in New York. Very many so-called father's friends somehow faded away after his death. None of them showed up or let us hear from them since the time we reside in Germany.

When was the last time you talked to your brother?

About five years ago. It was a week before the inauguration of the father's monument in the Verman Garden in 2001. Me and my mother were invited to Riga, later on, three days before to the inauguration the organizers cancelled the invitation alleging they had financial troubles while we couldn't go at our own expense as there were hard times. I tried to reach Gera, I sent them email messages and letters but he didn't answer which looked strange. I don't know what happened there. Anyway I can say that from that time I haven't got in touch with my brother.

Have you read the memoirs of your father's first wife Salli Landau?

No. I read a couple of press-clipping. I have this book but I can't make myself read it. Memoirs are subjective thing. Sometimes people possess a rich fantasy which expresses itself in memoirs. They can't be judged for that.

Probably the fact that the books written by your father are still being published is a good moneyed assistance for you? 

Sorry, what are you talking about?

Well last year two books of the joint authorship of M.Tal and Y.Damsky were published – "To the Altar of Caissa" and "The Components of Success"

Nobody has informed us about that. The journalist who interviewed me in Riga she told me something about a book but I didn't understand what it was all about.

Very strange. You have a legal copyright as well as your mother and brother... I'd like to ask you about your return to Riga announced in your interview in "Telegraph". Is it a firm decision?

Yes it is. But we plan to realize it in the next two years. Because we have to settle some affairs both in Germany and Riga.

Did the Latvian authorities make any proposals for your family? I read somewhere that when they took away your apartment they offered you a one-room flat in the outlying districts.

No. There were no any proposals. The Latvian government has enough problems more important than to think of Mikhail Tal's family. We've never been suggested compensation for our apartment. In any case I don't know anything about it. Maybe they thought about it but forgot to tell us.

Why do you strive to get back to Latvia?

It's my motherland. Those were my best years concerned with my father.

A few words about your life in Germany please. Why don't you manage to adapt?

It's connected with both everyday problems and with the fact that it's very difficult to find a circle of acquaintance. The close friends we communicate with in Riga are not here. The Germans has another mentality. You begin to understand it when you live here. They have different moral values the main of which is "my home is my castle".

And a new circle of acquaintance isn't formed...

Something began to appear in the last two or three years. Of course my mother has got new acquaintances while staying here. But anyway the real friends are those who remained in Riga.


The pomposity of Tal Memorial will be remembered for long. The heads of Russian Chess Federation did their best: superb sponsors, an excellent field, a moving commemoration meeting, a closing ceremony with a presentation of a huge amount of memorable prizes – all this will remain in memory... Among those invited to the tournament are Mikhail Nehemjevich's son George, arbiters of Netherlands, Poland, Israel... The organizers didn't invite Zhanna Tal to attend her father's celebration. Let God be their judge.


Photos taken from Tal family archive

The link to Zhanna Tal's interview with the Riga newspaper "Telegraph"

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