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Paul Keres
Number of games in database: 2,041
Years covered: 1929 to 1975
Overall record: +1020 -206 =807 (70.0%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      8 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (192) 
    B20 B50 B43 B36 B62
 Ruy Lopez (184) 
    C86 C78 C97 C83 C87
 French Defense (94) 
    C07 C02 C05 C10 C15
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (88) 
    C86 C97 C87 C88 C93
 Caro-Kann (62) 
    B10 B14 B18 B11 B13
 English (45) 
    A15 A14 A16 A13 A10
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (228) 
    C72 C92 C99 C79 C77
 Nimzo Indian (125) 
    E32 E43 E41 E53 E20
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (107) 
    C92 C99 C97 C96 C84
 Queen's Pawn Game (82) 
    A46 E00 D02 E10 A40
 Queen's Indian (66) 
    E15 E19 E12 E17 E14
 English, 1 c4 e5 (41) 
    A23 A28 A22 A29 A25
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Keres vs Szabo, 1955 1-0
   Euwe vs Keres, 1940 0-1
   Keres vs Verbac, 1933 1-0
   Keres vs Geller, 1962 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
   Hort vs Keres, 1961 0-1
   Fine vs Keres, 1938 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)
   Budapest (1952)
   Hastings 1957/58 (1957)
   Gothenburg Interzonal (1955)
   USSR Championship (1957)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Curacao Candidates (1962)
   USSR Championship (1940)
   Zurich Candidates (1953)
   Bled (1961)
   Kemeri (1937)
   USSR Championship (1949)
   USSR Championship (1955)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Keres! by amadeus
   Keres' Whirligigs by chocobonbon
   Challenger of 48 Keres_125 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
   Paul Keres by Legend
   K Players by fredthebear
   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
   Chess Openings: Theory and Practice, Section 1 by Infohunter

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 Narva, 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). Keres 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 Keres would ever have to play for the world title--he finished second five times in the Candidates' tournaments over the next fifteen years, but never won.

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

Keres is the player who has defeated the largest number of world champions, no fewer than nine: 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 82; games 1-25 of 2,041  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. A Karu vs Keres 0-127 1931 corrD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
4. Keres vs Molder 1-024 1931 Tartu, Est jr chC33 King's Gambit Accepted
5. Keres vs R Pruun 1-043 1931 Tartu, Est jr chB12 Caro-Kann Defense
6. L Norvid vs Keres 0-125 1931 Tartu, Est jr chC12 French, McCutcheon
7. Keres vs I Raud 1-029 1931 Tartu, Est jr chB34 Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto
8. R Pruun vs Keres 0-124 1931 Tartu, Est jr chE60 King's Indian Defense
9. Keres vs M Villemson  ½-½47 1932 Deutsche Schz 133/A corrD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
10. Von Feilitzsch vs Keres 0-132 1932 corr ,/33C22 Center Game
11. Keres vs J Vilkins ½-½24 1932 corrC25 Vienna
12. Keres vs Beskov 1-043 1932 corrC50 Giuoco Piano
13. Keres vs G Menke 1-062 1932 corresp.C33 King's Gambit Accepted
14. Keres vs E Verbak 1-017 1932 corrC00 French Defense
15. Keres vs Faltweber 1-018 1932 corrA06 Reti Opening
16. E Kiiver vs Keres 0-158 1932 Tartu, Est jr chE20 Nimzo-Indian
17. A Remmelgas vs Keres  0-155 1932 Tartu, Est jr chA46 Queen's Pawn Game
18. Keres vs L Peterson 1-029 1932 Tartu, Est jr chB01 Scandinavian
19. Keres vs Tuul 1-033 1932 Tartu, Est jr chC33 King's Gambit Accepted
20. Keres vs A Peet 1-019 1932 Moisakula Moisak-ParnuC25 Vienna
21. A Peet vs Keres 0-129 1932 Moisakula Moisak-ParnuD02 Queen's Pawn Game
22. A Holm vs Keres 0-143 1932 Parnu, Est jr chC00 French Defense
23. Keres vs J Siitam 1-021 1932 Parnu, Est jr chC25 Vienna
24. Keres vs A Abel 1-061 1932 Parnu, Est jr chB01 Scandinavian
25. R Pruun vs Keres 0-133 1932 Parnu, Est jr chD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
 page 1 of 82; games 1-25 of 2,041  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Keres wins | Keres loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 42 OF 42 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jan-08-16  Olavi: Just a small correction: the order for 1936 is Bad Nauheim, Dresden, Zandvoort, Munich. And for 1937: Margate, Ostende, Prag, Vienna, Kemeri, Parnu, Stockholm, Semmering. Then 1938 Hastings, Noorwijk, AVRO. And 1939 Leningrad/Moscow, Margate, Buenos Aires.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Olavi> Thanks. So Keres' Dresden failure was his second international tournament. Still it's not surprising for a first timer to do at least one massive fail in their first year abroad in their international debut year.

In 1939 if Leningrad/Moscow was his first international tournament, then his later successes indicate that Keres had probably recovered with whatever was bothering him early in the year. He seemed to have finished 1939 with strong performances in Margate, Buenos Aires (both the Olympiad and the round robin tournament), and the Euwe match.

Premium Chessgames Member
  nimh: On the 7th of January a new Keres monument was erected in his honor in Narva, his birth town.

The article is entirely in Estonian but you can click on the gallery to see all the photos.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <nimh: On the 7th of January a new Keres monument was erected in his honor in Narva, his birth town.>

Nice photos.

<perfidious: Never read B's (Bohatyrchuk) memoirs, but that sounds like a perilous business, from only the details I knew-which were less than what you have provided.

It was one thing to be in Paul Keres' shoes, and even Keres escaped danger by a mere hair's breadth after playing in events under German auspices. For a player of somewhat lesser stature to have engaged in what the Soviets would have considered outright collaboration would have meant a certain date with the executioner.>

There is an ongoing discussion in Vladimir Petrov page about the fate of that ill-lucked master.

It would seem that had Keres been less of a celebrity, he well could have gone to the same gulags as his Baltic colleague. Not toeing your government's official line during times of war is downright dangerous.

There is no doubt that Keres knew what befell Petov. Such news tend to spread fast among the local chess community. The more I think through it, the more I think there was simply no way he could have played as inspired and motivated inside wartime and post war USSR as he did playing outside the USSR.

The USSR has been gone for more than two decades but until today, it's apparent that the present-day Russian Federation still carries a lot of perceived 'bad baggage' from that era in the minds of many people in the now independent former Soviet Republics, especially in the Baltics.

<perfidious: One fine way for the aspiring player to learn how to get all their pieces in on the party is by playing through some of the early attacking masterpieces of Keres and Kasparov.>

Your post in the Keres vs V Petrov, 1940 page.

Although both Keres and Tal were attacking players, I tend to find Tal's attacks more impetuous, and sometimes not quite sound. For me, Tal resembles a much stronger version of say a Bogolyubov or a Larsen. I tend to regard this chess stylistic lineage of Bogolyubov-Tal-Larsen, although also an attacking style, as different from the Alekhine-Keres-Kasparov style.

If one goes through Keres' brilliancies, the similarities with that of Kasparov's (and Alekhine's) are remarkable. They tend to base their attacks on sound positional grounds and chess principles, and once it starts, place primary importance on tempo over material, while not totally abandoning the tactic of grabbing material near the end of the attack in case the attack does not result in a mate, and often find the tactics that somehow sustain the attack.

IMO Keres is the closest to a true temporal link between Alekhine and Kasparov in the stylistic lineages of chess history.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: The following is an interesting article by Australia's top player for many years, GM Ian Rogers celebrating the centenary of Keres' birth:

"As WWII concluded, with Estonia returning to Soviet control, Keres, his family and other prominent Estonians were caught trying to emigrate to Sweden.

Many among the group were sent to Siberia but Keres and his family were spared, though what concessions Keres had to make to save his skin may never be known.

Keres was punished at first – stripped of his Soviet Grandmaster title and banned from tournaments. However then, according to Genna Sosonko in his essay on Keres in Russian Silhouettes, an appeal to Vyacheslav Molotov – the man who signed the 1939 deal with Hitler which gifted Estonia to the USSR – appears to have saved Keres’ career.

It has long been speculated in Estonia that Keres was required to throw his games to eventual winner Mikhail Botvinnik in the 1948 World Championship tournament, though no documentary evidence to support this has ever been produced and neither player ever ‘confessed’.

There is no doubt that Keres was never completely trusted by the Soviet authorities, as shown by the cancellation of his Australian tour in the late 1960s."

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Jonathan Sarfati> I am actually basing my speculations above on the least amount of info that I have to assume is true. There are only two which I can be certain of 100%.

1. Keres played in Nazi sponsored tournaments.

2. Hostility to Nazi collaborators was at a high in wartime and post war USSR.

Given the bias of many (if not most) Baltic people against anything Soviet or even Russian, I am not that certain about any info that comes from Baltic anti Soviet sources, without verification from independent sources.

Nevertheless even just given the two data above, I believe it's possible to conclude that <Keres never could reach his maximum potential in wartime and post WW2 USSR. The shadow of fear was always just around the corner.>

The third info that I have is chessic in nature. The first Keres games that I have replayed as a beginner were from the 1950s and 1960s. I had the impression that Keres was an almost archetypal Soviet master with a universal but mainly positional style not adverse to long endgame battles. I was quite surprised when I looked at his early games. They resemble those of Alekhine's and Kasparov's more than anyone's.

Keres retained his talent for tactics and attack even until his dying days, as his later brilliancies testify to, but the difference is that IMO he did not particularly go for such games anymore later in his career; although AAA and GKK still did. Chessplayers do mellow down as they age, but Keres was such an astounding attacking talent that I find it difficult to explain why he would play a little less aggressively after WW2. It's like having a weapon that you know you can wield and is highly effective, but that you refuse to use all the time. (AAA and GKK in contrast wielded it all the time until the end of their careers.)

The simplest explanation is that an outside factor influenced Keres. He just stopped playing inspired chess inside the USSR, and it probably was the fear factor.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Regarding Korchnoi's apparent inability to beat Keres until just before the end for the old attacking master, I decided to take a closer look at this game:

Korchnoi vs Keres, 1965

An excerpt from my notes in the game page:

<What is a legitimate pawn grab for Korchnoi is a pawn sac for Keres for tempo.>

The contrast in styles is quite marked in this particular game. I can't imagine Keres playing White and Korchnoi playing Black. If I were given this game to analyze, told it was between these two Almost World Champions, but not told their names, I would immediately guess that Korchnoi was White and Keres was Black.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: On Keres' birth anniversary, this question must be playing in the minds of his fans. If Keres had transferred residence to a non USSR country in the 1950s, would he have experienced a Korchnoi type peak phenomenon? Korchnoi in the 1970s experienced a higher plateau/peak compared to when he was playing in the USSR in spite of the fact that he was already in his 40s. IMO Korchnoi would undoubtedly have grabbed the World Title had Karpov, one of ches history's anomalies, never arrived on the scene.

The answer I believe is YES.

Consider that Keres in 1956 was 40 years old. This is an age wherein most chess players are expected to decline. (IMO if they are healthy probably because of lack of motivation common in middle aged individuals.) Yet he was still good enough to win 2nd in three subsequent Candidates Tournaments.

If Keres had followed the path of the future Korchnoi, I believe he would have been so motivated playing outside the shadow of fear that he would have won at least one of those Candidates and beaten Botvinnik in a WC match.

The latter day Korchnoi, playing outside the USSR, shows more concretely what heights Keres could have achieved. IMO Keres was an even more talented player than Korchnoi, and under the appropriate circumstances would have attained all that Korchnoi later on attained, and more.

Jan-12-16  Petrosianic: You're basing your entire theory on the fact that Korchnoi did it, and none of it on Keres' actual chessplaying. Of course it sounds good, and certainly kind on his birthday to glibly award him an honorary world championship title, but that doesn't really make it true.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: It's possible Keres would have profited from coming to the West, but the Soviet Union was the center of chess information.

Say he left in 1950. No Soviet Championship win in 1951, fewer games against Korchnoi, Taimanov, Geller, Spassky, Tal.

For a personality like Keres, who relished exchanging ideas, and seeking new ideas, it would be a big loss.

Could he have become like Korchnoi (and Fischer),able to raise his game, in spite of less information and competition in the West?

Maybe, but it is not clear he would have wanted to.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Spassky held Keres in the highest regard and felt he was superior to Botvinnik.

from the Kingpin Interview

<Boris Vassilievich, whom could you single out as a personality among chess players?

Undoubtedly, Paul Keres. He was the greatest treasure of the chess world. Being a man of great modesty and tact, he possessed the highest chess and general culture. His tragic destiny reminds of the end of Alekhine’s life. And if we remember that for some time there was chess rivalry between Alekhine and Botvinnik, I’d rather resort to some literary comparison. Keres was the Gulliver among the Lilliputians, he was a real giant. Botvinnik, I believe, was the leader of the Lilliputians. And that is the crux of the matter. As simple as that.

You always expressed sympathy towards Keres openly, even in the most ‘silent’ times.

In 1965 I was giving a lecture in Novosibirsk and I was asked why Keres had not become World Champion. This is what I answered: ‘Just imagine a young man who is only 24, who is already a strong grandmaster and who loves his Estonia, his small country which within a short period of time changes hands – passing to Stalin, a bit later to Hitler and again to Stalin. What does he feel when all this is happening?’ After the lecture some comsomol leaders asked me why I was so anti-Soviet. ‘Did I tell you a lie?’ I reiterated. But it was too late; my KGB file had already been opened.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Spassky's <But it was too late; my KGB file had already been opened> is telling; had he not been a contender for the title at the time, one may speculate as to his fate for such clearly 'anti-Soviet' statements.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <tamar> Nice quote. I did not know that Spassky was a fan of Keres. Come to think of it, Keres was 21 years older than Spassky, and the young Spassky may have idolized him. When Spassky sets his mind to attack, his style bears some resemblance to that of Keres'.

Actually I doubt if Keres would ever have left the USSR by himself, but not necessarily because the best players in the world were there. After the war, he had family, relatives, and friends in Estonia and the USSR. No telling what indirect threat or pressure was placed on him to remain 'loyal'. He may have also been too much of a patriot to totally leave Estonia. Had he defected, he knew well enough that he would never see Estonia again for the rest of his life.

There are stories that Alekhine wanted to return to Russia, but obviously could not for political reasons. AAA I think left relatives behind in Russia, such as his brother (who got executed) and sister. AFAIK AAA never saw them again. If Keres ever engaged in personal conversations with Alekhine (or perhaps another 'defector' like Bogolyubov), he could have known about this problem first hand. 'Defectors' could never return.

On the other hand, what if Estonia somehow managed to successfully secede from the USSR, to become an independent country once again? If this happened in the the 1950s, then the scenario I described above would have more chances of happening. Keres would have become joyfully inspired. An inspired well motivated Keres could well have become the proto Korchnoi of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <perfidious: Spassky's <But it was too late; my KGB file had already been opened> is telling; had he not been a contender for the title at the time, one may speculate as to his fate for such clearly 'anti-Soviet' statements.>

Yes the fear factor. And it must have been much much worse for Keres.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: In CHESS November 1984 Spassky is reported to have said that because of the hostility shown towards him after finishing above Karpov in Linares in 1983...

Game Collection: Linares 1983

...he finally left Russia for France.

The linked report states that Spassky came to the tournament suffering from flu and passed it onto all the other competitors.

Now that is what I call preparation.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Sally....The linked report states that Spassky came to the tournament suffering from flu and passed it onto all the other competitors.>

Who said Boris not good communist? He share and share alike. That is way things are done in workers' paradise.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Sally Simpson>

<Now that is what I call preparation.>

That's nothing. Spassky had left for France seven years before. In 1983 he just made it legal.

Jan-13-16  Petrosianic: Odd tournament. Spassky beat the bottom 3 and drew the rest, Karpov beat the bottom 2 and drew the rest. For Karpov in 1983, it's the kind of tournament where you'd expect him to go +5-0=5.
Jan-13-16  Olavi: This is off topic, but I would like to draw attention to Larsen's result in that Linares tournament. Plaskett scored +5 -8 =0 in London GLC 1986, and I think Velimirovic played one Jugoslav Ch in the early 70s where he had one draw out of 19 games.
Jan-14-16  Howard: Actually, it was in 1984 (not 1983) when Spassky made it "legal". He played at a tournament in Yugoslavia back in roughly May, 1984, and it was stated that this was the last event he'd play in under the Soviet flag.

He turns 79 this month, by the way.

Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: As far as I can recall B.Spasky didn't have any problems leaving the (former) USSR and settling in France.

In regards to an alleged KGB file, how about Bobby's files in the States? And all the other CIA and FBI files way back then and today.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ron: <In regards to an alleged KGB file, how about Bobby's files in the States? And all the other CIA and FBI files way back then and today.>

I don't think there would be much of CIA or FBI file re Bobby before 1990. Heck, Henry Kissinger encouraged Bobby to play for the 1972 Championship.

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Kissinger has outlived them all. He's the last major living figure of the Nixon era, early 70s.
Oct-19-16  gars: <jussu>: do you really think that Josef Stálin and the KGB could really be called "some secondary factors"? If so, my congratulations for your unbounded optimism!
Oct-19-16  Petrosianic: <Bio> <With his five second-place finishes in Candidates events...>

Nope, only four: 1953, 1956, 1959, and 1962.

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