Paul Keres

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hoogoven Schaaktoernooi Keres, inventory number 922-0145.jpg
Paul Keres, 1969
Association EstoniaEstonia Estonia Soviet Union
Soviet UnionSoviet Union 
Born January 7, 1916
Narva , Russian Empire
Died June 5, 1975
title Grand Master (1950)
Best Elo rating 2615 (July 1971)

Paul Keres (born January 7, 1916 in Narva , † June 5, 1975 in Helsinki ) was an Estonian and Soviet chess master and one of the strongest players of the 20th century . He never achieved the title of world chess champion , but set a record by winning games against nine former, current or future world champions from Capablanca to Fischer .


Early years

Paul Keres, whose family moved to Pärnu as a child , learned chess when he was four or five years old. At first his father and older brother were his opponents, but he soon joined the Pärnu chess club. At the age of twelve he defeated the later honorary grandmaster Vladas Mikėnas in a simultaneous performance. Due to the public effect of the victory against his future friend and second , Keres was invited to the city championship of Pärnu, where he achieved second place in an experienced field of participants the following year. His enormous talent came to the fore early on: in 1930, 1931 and 1932 he became the superior Estonian student master. In 1933 he took part in an Estonian national championship for the first time and shared 3rd and 4th place. In 1935, after winning the national championship, his star also rose internationally: At the 1935 Chess Olympiad in Warsaw he played on the first board for his country and excited both with his excellent result on the first board (12.5 out of 19), as well as another brilliant game. He also met world champion Alekhine and, according to Erich Carl, set a highlight of the Olympics with the win against the Englishman William Winter .

Paul Keres

After the Chess Olympiad he was invited to the most important tournaments of that time. In 1936 he won with Alekhine in Bad Nauheim . At the tournament in Semmering in 1937 he won ahead of Reuben Fine and Capablanca . Keres won the tournaments in Tallinn, Margate, Ostend, Prague and Vienna. In Margate 1937 he defeated Alekhine in 23 moves; it remained his only winning game against the fourth world champion.

After being invited to the AVRO tournament in 1938, Keres played the tournaments in Hastings 1937/38 and Noordwijk 1938, where he reached 2nd place in front of other AVRO participants. Finally, in 1938, he won the AVRO tournament in the Netherlands together with Reuben Fine , whom he had defeated in the first direct encounter, while the second ended in a draw in the final round of the tournament. This tournament, with the participation of world champion Alekhine, should determine the next World Cup challenger. However, because of the Second World War , there was no competition between Keres and Alekhine , especially since Alekhine's negotiations with Keres and separately with Botvinnik also failed.

At the beginning of 1939 Keres took part in an invitation tournament in Russia after representative activities in Estonia, where he only got less than 50 percent of the points. In the spring of 1939 he won the Margate tournament. Keres last played on the top board before the Second World War at the 1939 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, where the Estonian team took third place. Despite the outbreak of war in Europe during the tournament, Keres then returned to Estonia. In 1940 the war finally struck Keres' homeland, and Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union .

In World War II

Keres studied from 1937 to 1941 mathematics and took it as a strong tennis player to participate in the Estonian national championships. After the occupation of Estonia, he took part in the USSR championship in 1940 and finished fourth, at the Absolute Championship of the Soviet Union in 1941, he finished second behind Botvinnik . Keres' winning game against Vladimir Petrov in 1940 caused a sensation.

His role as a chess player during the German occupation of Estonia since 1941 is controversial . Keres took part in tournaments in the German Empire and in the occupied territories (1942 Tallinn, Salzburg, Munich, 1943 Prague (second behind Alekhine), Posen, Salzburg, Reval, Madrid , 1944 Lidköping). In 1943 it was the attraction of a training and entertainment event for the Wehrmacht . However, he did not succeed in building on the pre-war successes. Only in 1943 did he win two tournaments in Salzburg and Madrid. After Estonia was retaken by Soviet troops in 1944, Keres, who repeatedly refused to emigrate, fell out of favor because of his tournament trips in the German Reich. In 1944/45 he won in Riga (Baltic Sea Tournament) and won Estonia's national championship in Tallinn in 1945. When the first important international post-war chess tournament took place in Groningen in 1946 , Keres was not allowed to take part.

post war period

After the war Keres achieved further successes: in 1947 he won the USSR championship in Leningrad with 14 out of 19 points ahead of the Soviet elite and repeated the success at a tournament in Pärnu. This achievement, as well as the advocacy of Botvinnik in higher administrative Soviet positions, diminished the resentment against him.

After he did not achieve his best form at a tournament in the spring of 1948, he was one of three representatives of the Soviet Union at the world championship tournament in The Hague and Moscow in 1948, only sharing third behind Mikhail Botvinnik and the newcomer Vasily Smyslow . In this match tournament he lost to Botvinnik 1: 4. Claims that he was coerced into these defeats have not been substantiated. There were no further successes for Keres at first, so he reached sixth place at the 1949 USSR championships and eighth place in 1950.

Keres as the "eternal second"

Since the world chess championships were now organized by the world chess federation FIDE and no longer by the reigning world champion, there were several tournaments - zone tournament , interzonal tournament and, most recently, candidate tournament - to qualify as the world champion's challenger. He reached fourth place at the Candidates Tournament in 1950 . Between 1953 and 1962 he took second place in four other candidate tournaments, so he was denied a World Championship fight every time. In 1965 he failed in the quarter finals of the candidate competitions with 4: 6 (+2 = 4 −4) to Boris Spasski .

In 1950 he won the memorial tournament of the Jewish master and patron Dawid Przepiórka in Bad Salzbrunn, who was killed in a mass execution in the Kampinos National Park not far from Palmiry in the winter of 1940 . In the same year he won the national championship of the USSR after a bad start of only four points in eight games by a winning streak. He repeated this success in 1951 before world champion Botvinnik.

After Géza Maróczy's death , a memorial tournament was held in Budapest in 1952, in which the five best players in the world took part, which Keres won by half a point. At the Russian national championships, however, he only reached tenth place.

Monument in honor of Paul Keres in Narva

After the unsuccessful attempt at the world championship title at the 1953 Candidates Tournament with second place, Keres achieved a record result of 13.5 points in 14 games at the 1954 Chess Olympiad . Keres won the Christmas tournament in Hastings in 1954/1955 together with Smyslow, as did the tournament in Pärnu in front of the leading Soviet players. However, he only reached seventh place in the 1955 Russian national championship.

Paul Keres - Miroslav Filip Candidates Tournament 1956, round 17
  a b c d e f G H  
8th Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess rdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess qdt45.svg Chess kdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg 8th
7th Chess --t45.svg Chess rlt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess ndt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess pdt45.svg 7th
6th Chess pdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess pdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess pdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg 6th
5 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess pdt45.svg Chess blt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg 5
4th Chess plt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess qlt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg 4th
3 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess plt45.svg 3
2 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess plt45.svg Chess plt45.svg Chess --t45.svg 2
1 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess klt45.svg Chess --t45.svg 1
  a b c d e f G H  
Keres awarded with 38. Kh2? instead of 38.Qf6! the win and later lost after 38.… Rc4 39. Qf6 Nxe5 40. Qxe6 + Nf7 . With a win he would have been level on points with Smyslow, who ultimately won the tournament by one and a half points ahead of Keres.

Template: checkerboard / maintenance / new

The 1956 World Cup qualification was initially successful for Keres until he set a winning position against Miroslav Filip at the end of the Candidates Tournament due to a serious mistake. The resulting second place was not enough, while the first-placed Smyslow defeated Botvinnik at the 1957 World Chess Championship and became world champion himself.

A friendship competition with Wolfgang Unzicker ended 6-2 for Keres in 1956. The 1956 Chess Olympiad was also a success for Keres, who achieved the best individual result on the third board. In the Moscow Alekhine memorial tournament, however, Keres only ended up in seventh place.

The year 1957 began Keres with the shared 2nd place, which he reached tied with David Bronstein at the state championship of the USSR behind the winner Michail Tal . With victories in Mar del Plata, Santiago and the Christmas tournament 1957/58 in Hastings, Keres then continued his success. At the 1959 Candidates Tournament , Keres took the lead, but was overtaken by Tal, who despite a 1: 3 record in favor of Keres had one and a half points ahead of them. Nonetheless, the Keres game was considered by experts to be of higher quality compared to Tal's game. The occasional now as "Eternal Second" titled Keres prepared for the following Candidates Tournament in 1962 .

After the tournament in Stockholm in 1959/60, where he reached third place, he won in Zurich in 1961. In Bled it was still enough for third place, while Keres again took eighth place at the 29th USSR Championship.

At the Candidates Tournament Curaçao 1962 Keres was two rounds before the end together with Tigran Petrosjan again at the top. A defeat against Pál Benkő and a fought draw against US talent Bobby Fischer were only enough for second place, tied with Efim Geller . Before the world championship match between Botvinnik and Petrosyan there was speculation that Botvinnik would forego defending his title. Therefore, a month and a half after Curaçao in 1962, a duel between Keres and Geller was held - the winner of this duel should possibly fight with Petrosyan for the vacant title. With a narrow victory of 4.5: 3.5 points Keres saved the chance of a world championship fight against Petrosyan. But Botvinnik stepped up to defend his world title, which is why no world championship fight with Keres' participation came about. In the 1963 World Chess Championship , Petrosyan captured the title of Botvinnik. Petrosyan later commented that Keres would also have been entitled to the title fight against Botvinnik.

The late years

Keres won, together with the new world champion Petrosjan, the tournament in Los Angeles in 1963 and after a sixth place in the Moscow tournament, further tournaments in the Hoogovens Beverwijk 1964 together with Iivo Nei , again with Petrosjan in Buenos Aires 1964, alone in Hastings 1964/1965 and with Vlastimil Hort in Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad) in 1965. With his victory in the duel against Geller in 1963, Keres had acquired the right to participate in the 1965 candidate competitions. The candidates ' tournament in 1965 was staged as a knockout tournament at the insistence of Bobby Fischer , with Keres losing out 6: 4 against former youth world champion Boris Spasski at the beginning. This was Keres 'last participation in a candidates' tournament.

Then Keres won the tournaments in Stockholm 1966/67 and Bamberg 1968, there with victories against the German grandmasters Wolfgang Unzicker and Lothar Schmid and two points ahead of Schmid and Petrosjan. In Winnipeg 1967 he reached the third place, in Moscow however only the ninth. Tallinn 1969 and Luhačovice (Bad Luhatschowitz) 1969 saw Keres as runner-up; in 1969 in the blast furnace tournament, which had since moved to Wijk aan Zee, he came third.

After a victory in Budapest in 1970, Keres represented the Soviet Union in the first duel between the USSR and the rest of the world . With his 3-1 win over Borislav Ivkov , Keres, the most successful player in his team, contributed to the 20.5: 19.5 victory of the USSR. He then won the European team championship in Kapfenberg with five out of five points as the best player in the competition. His victory in Tallinn in 1971 together with Tal came before the multiple Soviet Union champion Leonid Stein . In Amsterdam and Pärnu 1971 Keres came second each.

Last up and down

After third place in Sarajevo in 1971, fifth place in San Antonio in 1972 and third place in Tallinn in 1973, Keres only finished sixth at the 1973 International German Championship. His last attempt at the world title failed at the interzonal tournament in Petropolis in 1973; also at the Russian championship in October 1973 Keres only reached ninth place with a draw rate of 83 percent. In 1974 Keres did not participate in any major tournaments. It was speculated that the now almost 60-year-old Keres would announce his departure from the chess world. However, he refuted the prophecies of doom with one last great success by winning the tournament in Tallinn in 1975 before ex-world champion Spasski.

In Vancouver he also won an open in May 1975, but only a few grandmasters were involved. On the return flight from the tournament, Keres felt uncomfortable with a stopover in Helsinki and was therefore taken to a hospital. A fatal heart attack finally ended his career on June 5, 1975. In his honor, the Soviet Republic of Estonia hosted a state funeral at which more than a hundred thousand people said goodbye to Keres. He was buried in the forest cemetery in Tallinn. A street in Tallinn is named after him. His monument in Pärnu was created by Mare Mikoff in 1996 .

Further successes and awards

Keres played at a total of ten Chess Olympiads : 1935 to 1939 each on board 1 for Estonia and from 1952 to 1964 for the Soviet Union. He won seven gold medals with the team and five gold medals for his individual results. He scored a total of 107 points from 141 games (+85 = 44 -12). In the match between the USSR and the Rest of the World in Belgrade in 1970, Keres played on board 10 and defeated Borislav Ivkov 3: 1 (+2 = 2). Moreover, Keres took with Estonia at the unofficial Chess Olympiad in 1936 in Munich , where he reached the highest individual score on top board and won with the Soviet Union, the European Team Championships in 1957, 1961 and 1970, where he also reached in all three sweeps the highest individual score on his board.

His tournament victories include Pärnu 1960, Zurich 1961, Los Angeles 1963 (shared with Tigran Petrosjan ), Bewerwijk 1964 (shared with Iivo Nei ), Buenos Aires 1964 (shared with Petrosjan), Hastings 1965, Marienbad 1965 (shared with Vlastimil Hort ), Stockholm 1967, Bamberg 1968, Budapest 1970, Tallinn 1971 (shared with Michail Tal ) and 1975.

Memorial plaque for Paul Keres at the house at 29 Vene Street in the old town of Tallinn (Estonia)

After Estonia gained independence from the USSR, his portrait was depicted with two chess pieces on the front of the five-kroner banknote , on the back of which you can see a German castle on the Narva . He was also featured on a 15-kopeck postage stamp from the Soviet Union. In 1991 a bust of Keres was erected in Tallinn on Pärnu-Chaussee. In 2016, Estonia honored Keres' 100th birthday with a 2 euro commemorative coin .

Keres' last Elo rating was 2580, his highest rating was 2615 in July 1971. His best historical rating before the introduction of Elo ratings was 2786. He reached this in March 1947. In total, he was 52 months in the period from 1943 to 1960 in second place in the subsequently calculated world rankings.

Due to his international success, he received the title of Grand Master from FIDE in 1950 .

Keres was considered an authority on chess openings and wrote over forty chess books. The Keres defense ( ECO code D06 : 1. d2 – d4 d7 – d5 2. c2 – c4 Lc8 – f5) was named after him. There is also a Keres attack (ECO B81) in the Sicilian defense and a Keres system (ECO C81) in the open defense of the Spanish game .

Correspondence chess

At the beginning of his career, Keres also played correspondence chess successfully . According to his own statement, he played up to 150 games at the same time and tried out numerous new opening variations. In 1935/36 he won the federal championship of the International Correspondence Chess Federation IFSB . In August 1936 he took part in a conference of the IFSB in Munich. Here he supported the proposal to organize a world championship in correspondence chess.


Paul Keres was an active chess composer from 1933 to 1948 , after which he only composed sporadically. About 200 compositions by him are known, hardly any other grandmaster has composed as many chess problems as he. When evaluating his chess compositions it should be taken into account that he was self-taught and that the majority of his works were created at a young age. First and foremost, he was looking for the paradox that contrasts with the strict logic of the game of chess.

In studies one can compare him with Richard Réti and Pál Benkő . It is true that the grandmasters Luděk Pachman , Jan Timman and John Nunn engaged in studies later , but to a much lesser extent. In the book Schachmaty za 1947–1949 gg , published in 1951, there were also 26 theoretical endgame positions for the ladies' endgame .

Paul Keres

Schachmaty w SSSR, 1946

special price
  a b c d e f G H  
8th Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg 8th
7th Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg 7th
6th Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg 6th
5 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess klt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg 5
4th Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess pdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg 4th
3 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess pdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess kdt45.svg 3
2 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess rlt45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess plt45.svg 2
1 Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess --t45.svg Chess rdt45.svg Chess --t45.svg 1
  a b c d e f G H  
White to move holds a draw

Template: checkerboard / maintenance / new


1. Ke5 – f5 Rg1 – f1 +
2. Kf5 – g5 Rf1 – f3
3. Re2 – e1 g4 – g3
4. h2xg3 Kh3xg3
5. Re1 – e2! Kg3 – h3
6. Re2 – b2 Rf3 – f2
7. Rb2 – b3 Rf2 – f3
8. Rb3 – b2 Kh3 – g3
9. Rb2 – e2! and draw .

The white rook can move to a2, b2 or c2 in the sixth move; as in Richard Réti's study, this is not a destructive dual, but a minor dual that is justified in its construction. The winning attempts not specified by Keres 3.… Kg2 4. Kxg4 Kf2 5. Ta1 e2 6. h4 Ra3 7. Rb1 e1D 8. Rxe1 Kxe1 and 4.… Kg2 5. g4 Kf2 6. Ta1 e2 7. Ta2 Kf1 8. Ta1 + Kg2 (8.… e1D 9. Rxe1 Kxe1 10. Kh6 Rh3 + 11. Kg6! Kf2 12. g5 is also a draw) 9. Kh6! Rf1 10. Ra2 Kf3 11. Rxe2! Kxe2 12. g4 only lead to a draw.



Keres had been married to a fellow student at the University of Tartu since 1941 and had two children over the next two years. In Tartu he saw the Battle of Tartu in 1941 during World War II . The consequences of these acts of war ensured that Keres wrote for various newspapers and chess magazines in order to be able to support his family due to the lack of professional alternatives as a chess author .



  • Helmut Wieteck: An artist on the chessboard - on the 5th anniversary of Paul Keres' death . Schach-Echo 1980, issue 11, title page.

Web links

Commons : Paul Keres  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ André Schulz : 100 Years of Paul Keres In: January 7, 2016, accessed November 17, 2019.
  2. ^ At that time Russia, but after the separate peace of Brest-Litovsk in 1918 Estonia.
  3. Play online at
  4. Play online at
  5. ^ The international tournament Prague 1943 on TeleSchach (cross table and games)
  6. Article Keres Plays With the Wehrmacht by Tomasz Lissowski.
  7. Erich Carl: Paul Keres , p. 20.
  8. Erich Carl: Paul Keres , p. 23.
  9. Erich Carl: Paul Keres , pp. 22-23.
  10. Erich Carl: Paul Keres , pp. 23-24.
  11. Olimpbase
  12. Paul Keres' results at unofficial Chess Olympiads on (English)
  13. Paul Keres' results at European Team Championships on (English)
  14. Five-crown banknote ( Memento from January 3, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  15. ^ Chemnitz school model: mathematicians on banknotes . Retrieved January 30, 2009.
  16. Paul Keres' historical Elo rating at (English)
  17. ^ Willy Iclicki: FIDE Golden book 1924-2002 . Euroadria, Slovenia, 2002, p. 74.
  18. ^ A b Paul Keres IV: The War Years . Edited by, December 20, 2016, accessed on May 6, 2018.
  19. ^ Robert D. McFadden: Paul Keres dead; key chess player. In: New York Times, June 6, 1975, accessed May 1, 2018 .