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Keres vs World & Almost Champions Decisive Games
Compiled by visayanbraindoctor
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The Almost World Champions.

Always the second but should have been first. They who in another time and place could have been Chess World Champions.

Paul Keres, the Patriotic Estonian, Conqueror of 9 World Champions, for nearly 3 decades always on the brink of the Title.

Given his over-all personal history, I rate Keres as the first among the Almost World Champions.

Paul Keres

Keres began his chess career by playing (surprise) correspondence chess. Then he began playing in tournaments, and winning them. Keres' star began to rise in the latter 1930s. He won several strong tournaments, including the proto-Candidates AVRO 1938.

He ended a productive 1930s decade by playing a kind of Challenger's match or Candidates Finals match with Euwe in 1939. The match was held in order to make Alekhine's choice for a Challenger 'easier'. Keres was a leading contender after winning AVRO 1938 and other top class tournaments, and Euwe was the former world champion. Keres narrowly won the match. Had Euwe never played AAA in 1937, and this was the World Championship Match instead, Keres would now be known as the 6th Chess World Champion.

During WW2, Keres proceeded to do something that looks impossible. Estonia got annexed by the Soviet Union; and Keres played in the 1940 Soviet championship and in the double round robin Botvinnik-arranged 1941 tournament. Then Estonia fell to Nazi Germany and Keres just continued playing chess, this time in German sponsored tournaments. He became the only master that played in both Soviet and German tournaments. He was like a link between two totally cut-off pools of top European chess masters. For a man in his hazardous situation, he played quite well.

After the war Keres proceeded to win 3 Soviet Championships.

Then we go to the original Candidates tournaments. These were significantly different from those of recent ones because of their number of players and their length. They were veritable marathons among the world's top players. Keres was the only one to qualify in all of them; and he placed 2nd in four out of five. For a chess player who must have been the focus of distrust and perhaps hostility after his cooperation (willing or not is another topic) with Nazis, in a post WW2 Soviet Union, Keres did quite well. If he were just a tad more lucky, winning a few more drawn games or drawing lost ones, he would have become a Challenger. During this time, I believe that Keres would have beaten in a match the same Botvinik that Smyslov, Tal, and Petrosian had beaten. Keres would now be known as the 7th, 8th, or 9th Chess World Champion.

Keres is a smoking gun, bomb proof evidence of the fallacy of Watson's speculation that pre-WW2 masters would not be able to learn 'modern' chess, and Larsen's assertion that he would crush everyone in the 1930s. The glaring fact is that Keres is a 1930s pre-WW2 master whose career extended up to the 1970s, and he did learn (and contributed) to the newer opening variations (the most famous of which is the Keres attack which he invented in 1943). Tellingly enough Keres beat both Watson and Larsen.

There are many who regard WW2 and the Soviet annexation of Estonia as a personal tragedy that affected his chess and dashed Keres' hopes for the Title. In particular, many chess pundits have opined that Keres was in a dangerous situation in the 1948 World Championship Tournament, suspected of having collaborated with Nazis in WW2. His performance likely would have been better if he were not based in the Soviet Union.

All accounts indicate that he remained loyal to his people and country, amazingly abiding in Estonia throughout all these times; and Estonia eventually honored her faithful son as essentially a national hero. He is the only chess master whose picture appears in a modern banknote, the five kroons (5 krooni) Estonian bill (before Estonia adopted the Euro).

As a testament to his strength, Keres fought most of the world champions more or less to a standstill, is one of the handful of chess masters who has a positive score against Capablanca, and was dominating against Euwe and Tal. He defeated 9 world champions in individual games and played 10, a record surpassed only by Korchnoi, who beat 9 world champions and played 11.

Style-wise, I find Keres closest to Alekhine. Although Keres usually did not obtain the type of weird bizarre positions Alekhine seems to have liked and played for, their games were marked by a strong emphasis on the initiative and attack.

Paul Keres beat Jose Raul Capablanca 1 to 0, with 5 draws

Alexander Alekhine beat Paul Keres 5 to 1, with 8 draws

Paul Keres beat Max Euwe 11 to 7, with 9 draws

Mikhail Botvinnik beat Paul Keres 8 to 3, with 9 draws

Paul Keres tied Vasily Smyslov 9 to 9, with 22 draws

Paul Keres beat Mikhail Tal 8 to 4, with 18 draws

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian tied Paul Keres 3 to 3, with 30 draws

Boris Spassky beat Paul Keres 5 to 3, with 19 draws

Robert James Fischer beat Paul Keres 4 to 3, with 3 draws

Paul Keres tied Anatoly Karpov 0 to 0, with 2 draws

Bonus:

Below are Keres vs Korchnoi decisive games. Korchnoi is another of history's all time greatest who in another time and place could have been Chess World Champion.

Paul Keres beat Viktor Korchnoi 4 to 1, with 12 draws


Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Capablanca
Keres vs Capablanca, 1938 
(C09) French, Tarrasch, Open Variation, Main line, 38 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Alekhine
Alekhine vs Keres, 1935 
(C79) Ruy Lopez, Steinitz Defense Deferred, 37 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Alekhine
Keres vs Alekhine, 1936 
(E33) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, 75 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Alekhine
Keres vs Alekhine, 1937 
(C71) Ruy Lopez, 23 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Alekhine
Keres vs Alekhine, 1942 
(C34) King's Gambit Accepted, 51 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Alekhine
Alekhine vs Keres, 1942 
(C86) Ruy Lopez, Worrall Attack, 56 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Alekhine
Alekhine vs Keres, 1942  
(E17) Queen's Indian, 33 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1936 
(C02) French, Advance, 31 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1937 
(C83) Ruy Lopez, Open, 41 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1938 
(A09) Reti Opening, 41 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1939 
(C79) Ruy Lopez, Steinitz Defense Deferred, 42 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1940 
(D10) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, 35 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1939 
(C77) Ruy Lopez, 59 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1940 
(E33) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, 55 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1939 
(E32) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, 39 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1940 
(E33) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, 49 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1940 
(D13) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Exchange Variation, 31 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1940 
(D28) Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical, 61 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1940 
(A09) Reti Opening, 23 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1940 
(E19) Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3, 34 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1940 
(C91) Ruy Lopez, Closed, 30 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1948 
(C74) Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense, 25 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Keres vs Euwe, 1948 
(C81) Ruy Lopez, Open, Howell Attack, 34 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1948 
(E32) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, 35 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Euwe
Euwe vs Keres, 1948 
(C75) Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense, 56 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Keres vs Botvinnik, 1941 
(E34) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation, 22 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Keres vs Botvinnik, 1947 
(A95) Dutch, Stonewall, 80 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Botvinnik vs Keres, 1948 
(E28) Nimzo-Indian, Samisch Variation, 23 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Keres vs Botvinnik, 1948 
(C15) French, Winawer, 39 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Botvinnik vs Keres, 1948 
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 60 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Keres vs Botvinnik, 1948 
(A13) English, 58 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Keres vs Botvinnik, 1948 
(C07) French, Tarrasch, 72 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Botvinnik vs Keres, 1952 
(D35) Queen's Gambit Declined, 37 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Keres vs Botvinnik, 1955 
(C03) French, Tarrasch, 27 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Keres vs Botvinnik, 1956 
(B63) Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 34 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Botvinnik
Botvinnik vs Keres, 1966 
(A29) English, Four Knights, Kingside Fianchetto, 27 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1939 
(D55) Queen's Gambit Declined, 33 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1941 
(C79) Ruy Lopez, Steinitz Defense Deferred, 67 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1941 
(C99) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 12...cd, 72 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1941 
(E32) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, 65 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1947 
(A16) English, 27 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1948 
(E02) Catalan, Open, 5.Qa4, 57 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1948 
(A15) English, 27 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1948 
(D51) Queen's Gambit Declined, 41 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1951 
(A12) English with b3, 56 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1952 
(E40) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, 56 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1952 
(D28) Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical, 42 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1953 
(A17) English, 28 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1953 
(D29) Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical, 41 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1953 
(A21) English, 92 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1955 
(C84) Ruy Lopez, Closed, 39 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Smyslov vs Keres, 1959 
(C99) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 12...cd, 59 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1959 
(B82) Sicilian, Scheveningen, 40 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Smyslov
Keres vs Smyslov, 1973 
(C97) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 41 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1954 
(E92) King's Indian, 43 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Keres vs Tal, 1957 
(E10) Queen's Pawn Game, 44 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1959 
(B19) Caro-Kann, Classical, 46 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Keres vs Tal, 1959 
(B42) Sicilian, Kan, 40 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1959 
(E20) Nimzo-Indian, 40 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Keres vs Tal, 1959 
(A16) English, 64 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1959 
(D34) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 79 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1962 
(C96) Ruy Lopez, Closed, 41 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1962 
(C96) Ruy Lopez, Closed, 40 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1967 
(C81) Ruy Lopez, Open, Howell Attack, 30 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1973 
(C72) Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense, 5.O-O, 44 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Tal
Tal vs Keres, 1973 
(C75) Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense, 42 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Petrosian
Keres vs Petrosian, 1949 
(E60) King's Indian Defense, 39 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Petrosian
Keres vs Petrosian, 1950 
(C03) French, Tarrasch, 35 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Petrosian
Petrosian vs Keres, 1952 
(E53) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, 36 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Petrosian
Keres vs Petrosian, 1953 
(E61) King's Indian, 56 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Petrosian
Keres vs Petrosian, 1959 
(B39) Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto, Breyer Variation, 51 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Petrosian
Petrosian vs Keres, 1961 
(E12) Queen's Indian, 50 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Keres vs Spassky, 1955 
(E14) Queen's Indian, 30 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Spassky vs Keres, 1957 
(E31) Nimzo-Indian, Leningrad, Main line, 46 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Keres vs Spassky, 1965 
(E77) King's Indian, 35 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Keres vs Spassky, 1965 
(E43) Nimzo-Indian, Fischer Variation, 25 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Spassky vs Keres, 1965 
(C97) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 44 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Keres vs Spassky, 1965 
(C93) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense, 39 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Spassky vs Keres, 1965 
(E31) Nimzo-Indian, Leningrad, Main line, 50 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Spassky
Spassky vs Keres, 1965 
(E12) Queen's Indian, 33 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Fischer
Keres vs Fischer, 1959 
(B99) Sicilian, Najdorf, 7...Be7 Main line, 53 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Fischer
Keres vs Fischer, 1959 
(A48) King's Indian, 27 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Fischer
Fischer vs Keres, 1959 
(C99) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 12...cd, 81 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Fischer
Fischer vs Keres, 1959 
(B11) Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4, 30 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Fischer
Fischer vs Keres, 1959 
(B11) Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4, 55 moves, 0-1

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Fischer
Fischer vs Keres, 1962 
(C96) Ruy Lopez, Closed, 41 moves, 1-0

Keres vs World Champs Decisive Games Fischer
Fischer vs Keres, 1962 
(C96) Ruy Lopez, Closed, 73 moves, 0-1

Keres vs Near Champions Decisive Games Korchnoi
Keres vs Korchnoi, 1952 
(A89) Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation with Nc6, 22 moves, 1-0

Keres vs Near Champions Decisive Games Korchnoi
Keres vs Korchnoi, 1959 
(B92) Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation, 39 moves, 1-0

Keres vs Near Champions Decisive Games Korchnoi
Keres vs Korchnoi, 1962 
(B49) Sicilian, Taimanov Variation, 40 moves, 1-0

Keres vs Near Champions Decisive Games Korchnoi
Korchnoi vs Keres, 1965 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 40 moves, 0-1

Keres vs Near Champions Decisive Games Korchnoi
Korchnoi vs Keres, 1975 
(D20) Queen's Gambit Accepted, 54 moves, 1-0

Watson was wrong; gets beaten by preWW2 master
Keres vs J L Watson, 1975 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 33 moves, 1-0

Larsen was wrong; gets beaten by preWW2 master
Keres vs Larsen, 1966 
(A00) Uncommon Opening, 38 moves, 1-0

Payback for disrespecting a preWW2 master
Larsen vs Keres, 1972 
(A13) English, 91 moves, 0-1

Seminal Game: The Keres Attack
Keres vs Bogoljubov, 1943 
(B81) Sicilian, Scheveningen, Keres Attack, 32 moves, 1-0

96 games

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