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Paul Keres
Number of games in database: 2,065
Years covered: 1929 to 1975
Overall record: +1034 -208 =816 (70.1%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      7 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (193) 
    B20 B50 B36 B62 B43
 Ruy Lopez (184) 
    C86 C78 C97 C83 C87
 French Defense (97) 
    C02 C07 C05 C10 C03
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (88) 
    C86 C97 C87 C88 C93
 Caro-Kann (63) 
    B10 B14 B18 B11 B13
 English (47) 
    A14 A15 A16 A13 A10
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (232) 
    C72 C92 C79 C99 C73
 Nimzo Indian (126) 
    E32 E43 E41 E45 E20
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (108) 
    C92 C99 C97 C96 C84
 Queen's Pawn Game (87) 
    A46 E00 D02 E10 A40
 Queen's Indian (66) 
    E15 E19 E12 E17 E14
 English, 1 c4 e5 (42) 
    A23 A28 A29 A22 A20
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Keres vs Szabo, 1955 1-0
   Euwe vs Keres, 1940 0-1
   Keres vs Geller, 1962 1-0
   Keres vs Verbac, 1933 1-0
   Keres vs W Winter, 1935 1-0
   Keres vs Alekhine, 1937 1-0
   A Karu vs Keres, 1931 0-1
   Keres vs Spassky, 1955 1-0
   Fine vs Keres, 1938 0-1
   Hort vs Keres, 1961 0-1

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   USSR Championship (1947)
   USSR Championship (1950)
   USSR Championship (1951)
   Hastings 1957/58 (1957)
   Budapest (1952)
   Buenos Aires (1939)
   Gothenburg Interzonal (1955)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   USSR Championship (1957)
   Curacao Candidates (1962)
   USSR Championship (1940)
   Zurich Candidates (1953)
   Kemeri (1937)
   Bled (1961)
   USSR Championship (1949)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Keres! by amadeus
   Keres' Whirligigs by chocobonbon
   challenger of 48 Keres by Gottschalk
   The Road to the Top & The Quest for Perfection by Bidibulle
   Veliki majstori saha 20 KERES (1916-1975) by Chessdreamer
   Paul Keres "Valitud Partiid" by Legend
   Keres vs World & Almost Champions Decisive Games by visayanbraindoctor
   Guess-the-Move Chess: 1940-1959 (Part 2) by Anatoly21
   Paul Keres by Legend
   Guess-the-Move Chess: 1940-1959 (Part 1) by Anatoly21
   A few Keres games by Catfriend
   WCC Index [Zurich 1953] by suenteus po 147
   WCC Index [Candidates Tournament 1959] by Resignation Trap
   WCC Index [Curacao 1962] by Hesam7

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Paul Keres
Search Google for Paul Keres

(born Jan-07-1916, died Jun-05-1975, 59 years old) Estonia
[what is this?]
Paul Keres was born in Estonia, where he would reside his entire life. He was very active in correspondence chess throughout his youth, and soon began to make a name for himself at over-the-board play as well with a series of tournament victories culminating with a tie for first at AVRO (1938). He was thrice Soviet Champion, in 1947 [rusbase-1], 1950 [rusbase-2], and 1951 [rusbase-3]. In 1948, Keres participated in the World Championship tournament to determine a successor to Alexander Alekhine. He finished joint third. This turned out to be the only opportunity he would ever have to play for the world title--he finished second five times in the Candidates' tournaments over the next fifteen years, but was never able to win one.

He scored 13½/14 at the 11th Olympiad in 1954 (1) and in 1963 he won at Los Angeles (sharing the first place with Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian). He suffered a fatal heart attack on the way home from a tournament in Vancouver in 1975, at the age of fifty-nine.

Keres was the player who have defeated the largest number of world champions, no less than 9: Capablanca ( Alekhine Euwe Botvinnik Smyslov Tal Petrosian Spassky and Fischer

With his five second-place finishes in Candidates events and his results against world champions, Keres was often known as "Paul, the Second" and "The Uncrowned King".

A list of books about Keres can be found at

References: (1) Wikipedia article: World records in chess , (2) Wikipedia article: Paul Keres

 page 1 of 83; games 1-25 of 2,065  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Keres vs I Raud 0-140 1929 Parnu, Parnu-ViljandiC54 Giuoco Piano
2. I Raud vs Keres  ½-½54 1929 Parnu, Parnu-ViljandiE10 Queen's Pawn Game
3. Keres vs I Raud 1-029 1931 Tartu, Est jr chB34 Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto
4. Keres vs R Pruun 1-043 1931 Tartu, Est jr chB12 Caro-Kann Defense
5. A Karu vs Keres 0-127 1931 corrD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
6. L Norvid vs Keres 0-125 1931 Tartu, Est jr chC12 French, McCutcheon
7. Keres vs Molder 1-024 1931 Tartu, Est jr chC33 King's Gambit Accepted
8. R Pruun vs Keres 0-124 1931 Tartu, Est jr chE60 King's Indian Defense
9. Keres vs E Verbak  1-017 1932 corrC00 French Defense
10. Keres vs A Remmelgas  ½-½43 1932 Parnu, Est jr chD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
11. A Holm vs Keres 0-143 1932 Parnu, Est jr chC00 French Defense
12. A Remmelgas vs Keres  0-155 1932 Tartu, Est jr chA46 Queen's Pawn Game
13. Keres vs Faltweber 1-018 1932 corrA06 Reti Opening
14. L Peterson vs Keres 0-139 1932 Parnu, Est jr chD02 Queen's Pawn Game
15. Keres vs A Peet 1-019 1932 Moisakula Moisak-ParnuC25 Vienna
16. E Kiiver vs Keres 0-158 1932 Tartu, Est jr chE20 Nimzo-Indian
17. Von Feilitzsch vs Keres 0-132 1932 corr ,/33C22 Center Game
18. Keres vs A Abel 1-061 1932 Parnu, Est jr chB01 Scandinavian
19. A Peet vs Keres  0-129 1932 Moisakula Moisak-ParnuD02 Queen's Pawn Game
20. Keres vs Tuul 1-033 1932 Tartu, Est jr chC33 King's Gambit Accepted
21. R Pruun vs Keres 0-133 1932 Parnu, Est jr chD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
22. Keres vs Beskov 1-043 1932 corrC50 Giuoco Piano
23. Keres vs M Villemson  ½-½47 1932 Deutsche Schz 133/A corrD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
24. Keres vs G Menke 1-062 1932 corresp.C33 King's Gambit Accepted
25. A Jurgens vs Keres 0-153 1932 Parnu, Est jr chD00 Queen's Pawn Game
 page 1 of 83; games 1-25 of 2,065  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Keres wins | Keres loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Shams: <Sally Simpson> Tarrasch over Rubinstein!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Shams.


Nov-25-14  Howard: Sally Simpson, I really think you should add Rubenstein to your list. He was certainly one of the 2-3 best players in the world from 1908-1912---possibly even THE best. His tournament record during that period was second to none.
Nov-25-14  RookFile: I have no idea who wins a pre World War 1 match between Rubinstein and Lasker. Rubinstein's nerves were still good then.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Shams: <Howard> I agree with you, but it's obvious <Sally Simpson> has given the matter some thought and he is a knowledgeable kibitzer, not prone to fanboyism or irrationality from what I've seen.

I regard Keres and Korchnoi as mortal locks and agree with Bronstein's selection as well. Three quarters of our Mt. Rushmore is complete.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Rubinstein was robbed of his chance due to WWI. Not his fault (unless some future historian can prove he started it) no argument from me if others want to nominate Rubinstein.

"...not prone to fanboyism or irrationality from what I've seen."

If you read the profile thingy you see my favourite player is usually Tarrasch. (I chop and change all the time between a select many. No Rubinstein I'm afraid.) Tarrasch's best games by Reinfeld dropped a lot of things into place. Wonderful book.

I posted somewhere else the reason why the English press disliked Tarrasch. I recently read Dvoretsky saying the Russian press also had it in for him because he argued with Chigorin.

Same chapter mentions Kasparov rated highly Tarrasch's 'Die Moderne Schachpartie' very highly. We are still waiting for an English translation.

Great player, great writer about the game and if he had challenged Steinitz instead of Lasker he would have won.

Suppose if I had not been happy to settle into a rut I may have thrown myself into Rubinstein's games as much as I did with Tarrasch. Alekhine, Marshall and Tartakower.

But I only had that one book by Kmoch. An Awful thing written like a text book. No humour, no hook, no compassion and terrible notes (probably not Kmoch's fault, the thing was translated.)

The Dvoretsky chapter I mentioned is in 'Training for the Tournament Player' in the bit where he says you must study the classics.

"Why should I study Alekhine's games when I shall never need to play him?"

Asks one of Dvoretsky's students.

Dvoretsky spends 9 pages explaining why one should.

I think Dvoretsky missed the perfect reply:

"Because your opponents will have."

Nov-26-14  Petrosianic: <Rubinstein was robbed of his chance due to WWI.>

Possibly, although he did pretty poorly at St. Petersburg, 1914, before the war started. Perhaps his chance had already passed before the Guns of August fired.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: I thought the match was to take place in October of that year. His poor showing at St. Petersburg (2 wins, 2 losses and 6 draws) may have been him not wanting to tip his hand or burn himself up but he took no short draws and indeed, given his skill, possibly should have won a couple of the drawn games.

Maybe it was the pressure put on him too well that did it. By all accounts he was a bit of a nervy character. But bad form can come at any time, perhaps it was just as simple as that. His two win came against the two tail enders, Janowski and Gunsberg.

Nov-26-14  Petrosianic: Maybe, but Lasker managed to win the tournament, and he had the same match on the horizon. If both players kept the same form (which is a big "If", of course), Rubinstein would have had no chance in October. It must be one of the worst tournament performances ever by a challenger.
Premium Chessgames Member
  transpose: Nearly 40 years after his death, and there are heated exchanges over when exactly Keres learned to speak Russian. Amazing.
Nov-26-14  Petrosianic: What's amazing is someone trying to participate in the discussion without having anything to say about it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

"It must be one of the worst tournament performances ever by a challenger."

Possibly, but as I type this someone will be finding an even worse one. Or at least looking. Good, it keeps them busy. Idle hands etc...etc...

Nov-26-14  Petrosianic: I hedged my bets by saying "one of the worst", but I'll go out on a limb and bet that it's the worst. Or if there's a worse one, then it was probably very recent.
Nov-26-14  Strelets: <transpose> Estonia was a linguistically complicated place in the 20th century. Until 1917, it was a part of the Russian Empire, distributed between the govern orates of Estonia and Livonia. It is, however, not enough to leave it at this. Russian administrative policy in the Baltic was hands-off; the preexisting Baltic German nobility (descendants of the Teutonic Knights) continued to run the show until the reign of Alexander III (1881-1894), who, inspired by the vehement Russian nationalism of his adviser Konstantin Pobedonostsev, intensified Russification throughout the Empire. Higher education was nevertheless still in German, explaining how Keres gained fluency in that language.

When Estonia was annexed, lost, and subsequently regained by the Soviet Union from 1939-1945, Stalin had a problem: how to find enough reliable cadres to administer the new Estonian SSR. A solution was found-dispatch the Estonian communists in Muscovite exile back to their home country. The problem was that they, now accustomed to using Russian almost exclusively, had developed the accents of their hosts. Returning to Tallinn, Pärnu, Tartu, etc. they found themselves mocked as "Yestonians," (Jeestlased, instead of Eestlased) for having picked up the Russian vowel "ye." Party boss Ivan Kebin ultimately re-Estonianized his name, becoming Johannes Käbin, but the Communist Party of Estonia was more Russian and Yestonian than Estonian through the time of Brezhnev.

Nov-26-14  Olavi: <Petrosianic: I hedged my bets by saying "one of the worst", but I'll go out on a limb and bet that it's the worst. Or if there's a worse one, then it was probably very recent.>

I'd go with Schlechter St Petersburg (1909). Same percentage, much weaker opposition IMO.

Nov-26-14  Petrosianic: Hmmm, 9/18. Chessmetrics gives it a 2634 performance, compared to 2645 for Rubinstein. But do we know for sure that Schlechter was the challenger that early? It looks like he played another tournament between that and the championship match.
Nov-26-14  Olavi: <But do we know for sure that Schlechter was the challenger that early?>

The match was agreed on very early. I'll just mention that for instance in five issues of New in Chess 1995 the matter was discussed in length. But of course e.g. Kasparov wrote so in OMGP, without source.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <transpose: Nearly 40 years after his death, and there are heated exchanges over when exactly Keres learned to speak Russian. Amazing.>

It's not too complicated. In all former colonies, the upper class and intelligentsia were and are always able to speak the language of their former colonial masters for a few more years, decades, or even hundreds of years after the colony has seceded (derogatory term) or gained independence (the term that I would rather use). Estonia and the other Baltic Republics had intelligentsia that were able to speak Geman even hundreds of years after thery were transferred to Sweden and to Russia. That may sound peculiar but as <Strelets> points out, it could happen. Even in my locality, the intelligentsia were fluent Spanish speakers even two or three generations after we got transferred to the USA. Until now, every educated person here knows how to speak English, the language of our latest colonial master.

It's the same everywhere in the world AFAIK. Why would Estonia be any different? That's why Keres must have known how to speak German and Russian, this apart from the fact that he grew up in his formative childhood years in a border area.

<Strelets: the reign of Alexander III (1881-1894), who, inspired by the vehement Russian nationalism of his adviser Konstantin Pobedonostsev, intensified Russification throughout the Empire>

Thank you for giving the details. This Russification program has had huge effects on the cultural attitudes of the ethnic peoples of the old Russian Empire, and consequences that I believe exert influence until today.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Regarding the Almost World Champions, rating the first among them for me has always been a toss-up between Keres and Korchnoi. Unlike the other Almost World Champions, in both of their cases they had real possibilities of capturing the Title for a long long time, almost three decades. At any moment in 30 years, a window may have opened a crack (it did for Korchnoi in 1974, 1978, and 1981, and for Keres in 1948), and they could have gotten in. They were always on the the brink of the Title. I believe were just unlucky.

Euwe was lucky enough to have been given a Title shot in 1935. Same can be said of Kramnik in 2000. (Notwithstanding, it was not luck that drove them to prepare and fight it out tooth and nail in their WC matches once given the opportunity.) They nailed it.

Smyslov and Tal were given opportunities (they won their chance fairly in a Candidates tournament). They nailed it.

Keres and Korchnoi were the other unnailed end of the lucky dice roll.

I regard these two with the same awe and respect accrued to the ones that actually won a Title match.

Between the two, I favor Keres slightly more, for the reasons given above.

Nov-26-14  Petrosianic: <I believe were just unlucky.>

Unlucky in the sense of unlucky in their games, or unlucky in the fact that somebody a little better was always around?

For example, I consider Fischer to be a little unlucky in coming right before Karpov and Kasparov. With the dominance he showed, compared to the primus inter pares champions that had reigned since the war, Fischer could reasonably expect to be considered far and away the best player in history for decades to come. Instead, two players that were in the same ballpark followed right on his heels. That's bad luck.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Petrosianic: <I believe were just unlucky.>

Unlucky in the sense of unlucky in their games, or unlucky in the fact that somebody a little better was always around?>

A little bit of both in case of Keres. More of the latter for Kochnoi.

In the mid to late 1960s, Petrosian and Spassky were still a bit better than Korchnoi. By the time Korchnoi played better than them, Karpov had arrived on the scene.

For Keres, a little more luck in his games, and he could have been the Challenger instead of Smyslov, or Tal, or Petrosian. By that time, Botvinnik I believe was on a steady decline, notwithstanding intermittent strong performances. IMO Keres had a more than even chance of beating in a World Championship match the same Botvinnik that Smyslov, Tal, and Petrosian beat. At this time these three players were not significantly better than Keres. In particular, as you previously said, and I agree with it, Keres probably would have beaten Tal and I would give him even chances with Smyslov and Petrosian in match play.

Keres was unlucky also in the same general context as Korchnoi. There was always someone active whose peak rose above his during the 3 decades of his long high plateau. At the start of his career, I don't think he would have much chances against Alekhine, unless the latter treated him as over confidently as he did Euwe. I admire Keres obviously but I would have to say that AAA was better than him in their kind of attacking game genre. Although he occasionally came out ahead of AAA, the general rule was that if they played in the same tournament, AAA tied or placed ahead of Keres and either drew or beat him in their games.

During the late 1940s, Botvinnik was playing more strongly than Keres. IMO Botvinik would have beaten him too. However, although it might sound peculiar, I don't think that Botvinnik was significantly better than Keres in the 1930s and early 1940s. (The only tournament wherein Botvinnik placed significantly ahead of Keres was the 1941 Soviet tournament, and I have doubts about the motivation of the other players here, considering the tournament was organized at the behest of Botvinnik in order to legitimize his challenge to AAA. This was one tournament where external pressure on the other players may have been exerted. Perhaps in the 1948 WC Tournament as well but I believe this was more unlikely. In AVRO 1938 and in the 1940 Soviet Championship Keres placed ahead of Botvinnik, in spite of the shock that he must have felt at Estonia just getting annexed by the SU.) Then Botvinnik peaked in the late 1940s, and he was clearly above Keres. Afterward, in the 1950s, Botvinnik began his steady decline. I am almost sure Keres would have beaten him in a match in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Again unluckily, this was the era when Smyslov, Tal, and Petrosian attained their high peaks.

Dec-15-14  Lovuschka: The wife (widow) of Paul Keres, Maria Konstantsia Rives, has died recently. (24.iv.1917-31.x.2014)

They had three children together, according to the website. At an inquiry to the officials in Tallinn, I was responded with the information she died there.


Yes, we can confirm that Maria Keres (born on 24.04.1917) died 31.10.2014 in Tallinn. Best Regards,

Darja Jemeljanova
AS Andmevara>

Dec-16-14  domradave: I have Fine's Basic Chess Endings and Keres' Practical Chess Endings and much prefer Keres. It is simpler and there are less variations. So I will go through Keres first and Fine second.
Dec-16-14  SimonWebbsTiger: whilst Fine's endgame was a standard book in its time, it is showing its age. Mistakes in analysis, discoveries in endgame theory in the past half Century, the advent of tablebase/computer analysis of simple positions.

In many respects "Fundamental Chess Endings" by Karsten Mueller and Frank Lamprecht has surpassed it as the one volume encyclopedia cum textbook.

But certainly a good approach to work though Keres and then move on to something more technical. As Paul mentions there are numerous details which were left out and which can be found in more specialist books.

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