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Paul Keres
Number of games in database: 2,040
Years covered: 1929 to 1975

Overall record: +1018 -204 =807 (70.1%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 11 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (184) 
    C78 C86 C83 C97 C87
 Sicilian (181) 
    B20 B50 B43 B36 B62
 French Defense (94) 
    C02 C07 C05 C10 C15
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (88) 
    C86 C97 C87 C88 C93
 Caro-Kann (61) 
    B10 B18 B14 B13 B11
 English (45) 
    A14 A15 A16 A13 A10
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (228) 
    C72 C92 C99 C79 C73
 Nimzo Indian (125) 
    E32 E43 E41 E53 E20
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (107) 
    C92 C99 C97 C96 C91
 Queen's Pawn Game (82) 
    A46 E00 D02 E10 A40
 Queen's Indian (65) 
    E15 E19 E12 E17 E14
 English, 1 c4 e5 (41) 
    A23 A28 A22 A29 A21
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
   Keres vs E Arlamowski, 1950 1-0
   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)
   USSR Championship (1957)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Gothenburg Interzonal (1955)
   Curacao Candidates (1962)
   USSR Championship (1940)
   Zurich Candidates (1953)
   Bled (1961)
   Kemeri (1937)
   USSR Championship (1955)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Keres! by amadeus
   Keres' Whirligigs Compiled by chocobonbon by fredthebear
   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
   Chess in the USSR 1945 - 72, Part 2 (Leach) by Chessdreamer
   Quest for Perfection (Keres) by Qindarka
   Chess in the USSR 1945 - 72, Part 1 (Leach) by Chessdreamer
   Road to the Top (Keres) by Qindarka
   Move by Move - Keres (Franco) by Qindarka

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, finishing joint third. This would turn out to be the only opportunity Keres would ever have to play for the world title--he finished second ex aequo or outright four times in the five Candidates' tournaments, from 1950 to 1962 inclusive, but never won.

Keres scored 13½/14 at the 11th Olympiad in Amsterdam 1954 (1) and in 1963, he won at Los Angeles (sharing 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

Last updated: 2017-09-10 14:57:50

 page 1 of 82; games 1-25 of 2,040  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Keres vs I Raud 0-1401929Parnu, Parnu-ViljandiC54 Giuoco Piano
2. I Raud vs Keres  ½-½541929Parnu, Parnu-ViljandiE10 Queen's Pawn Game
3. A Karu vs Keres 0-1271931corrD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
4. Keres vs Molder 1-0241931Tartu, Est jr chC33 King's Gambit Accepted
5. Keres vs R Pruun 1-0431931ChJB12 Caro-Kann Defense
6. L Norvid vs Keres 0-1251931Tartu, Est jr chC12 French, McCutcheon
7. Keres vs I Raud 1-0291931Tartu, Est jr chB25 Sicilian, Closed
8. R Pruun vs Keres 0-1241931Tartu, Est jr chE60 King's Indian Defense
9. Keres vs E Verbak 1-0171932corrC00 French Defense
10. Keres vs Faltweber 1-0181932corrA06 Reti Opening
11. Keres vs G Menke 1-0621932corrC33 King's Gambit Accepted
12. Von Feilitzsch vs Keres 0-1321932corr ,/33C22 Center Game
13. Keres vs M Villemson  ½-½471932Deutsche Schz 133/A corrD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
14. Keres vs J Vilkins ½-½241932corrC25 Vienna
15. Keres vs Beskov 1-0431932corrC50 Giuoco Piano
16. E Kiiver vs Keres 0-1581932Tartu, Est jr chE20 Nimzo-Indian
17. A Remmelgas vs Keres  0-1551932Tartu, Est jr chD02 Queen's Pawn Game
18. Keres vs L Peterson 1-0291932Tartu, Est jr chB01 Scandinavian
19. Keres vs Tuul 1-0331932Tartu, Est jr chC33 King's Gambit Accepted
20. A Peet vs Keres 0-1291932Moisakula Moisak-ParnuD02 Queen's Pawn Game
21. Keres vs A Peet 1-0191932Moisakula Moisak-ParnuC25 Vienna
22. Keres vs J Siitam 1-0211932Parnu, Est jr chC25 Vienna
23. A Holm vs Keres 0-1431932Parnu, Est jr chC00 French Defense
24. Keres vs A Abel 1-0611932Parnu, Est jr chB01 Scandinavian
25. R Pruun vs Keres 0-1331932Parnu, Est jr chD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
 page 1 of 82; games 1-25 of 2,040  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 41 OF 43 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: <visayanbraindoctor> <perfidious> I thank you both.
Premium Chessgames Member
  juan31: <LoveThatJoker: GM Keres: Today you are especially remembered and honoured, Sir!!>

I agree

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Petrosianic: We may be confusing fact with opinion here. How exactly does one demonstrate themselves to be the best in the world if not by winning a World Championship?>

I think you already know my opinion on this. Keres is the other side of the coin toss that favored (for example) Euwe and Kramnik. They got a chance to challenge the World Champion by appointment, and nailed it. Keres never got the chance that they had, but IMO deserved it more than they did. (I say this even if I am a Kramnik fan.)

All the Challengers before WW2 were 'appointed' and after WW2 qualified via the Candidates cycle. Keres had the unlucky distinction of never having been 'appointed' before the war broke out, although he should have, or winning a Candidates; although had he been just a trifle more lucky, he well could have.

As we previously discussed IMO if Keres was lucky enough to win just one Candidates tournament in the 1950s and 1960s, I think he would have been so motivated that he would have beaten Botvinnik.

<Chessmetrics has Botvinnik rated #1 as late as May 1958, but, unfortunately, never rates Keres #1 at any time in his life.>

I am not certain of the reliability of chessmetrics in the life of a player like Keres. My point is that if Keres did not have to play under the shadow of a perceived Nazi collaborator inside the USSR, I now believe that he would have played much more strongly in general after 1943, and his chessmetrics ratings would have accordingly increased. He possibly would not have had USSR (and perhaps Botvinnik) issues. I think he would have grabbed the annual number 1 spot several times.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Olavi: This is based on just the two tournaments they played together, in which Keres scored one and half a point, respectively, more than Botvinnik. It ignores the fact that in other tournaments Keres also had bad failures, e.g. Leningrad/Moscow training (1939) while Botvinnik had none.>

Keres had also won more international tournaments than Botvinnik, correct me if I am wrong, in that time span, and won at least two crucial events that should have garnered him a Challenger spot, AVRO 1938 and the 1940 match with Euwe.

After saying the above, let me also say that I understand what you are getting at. You think that based on over all record, in this time span Botvinnik was better than Keres.

It's a difference in opinion but I think Keres in this time span was better than Botvinnik. Even in 1943, had AAA died and Botvinnik and Keres played a World Championship match (on the condition that Keres were living outside the USSR and the match took place in a neutral country) I would place my bet on Keres to win.

I have been replaying some Keres games played in WW2 outside the USSR recently, and I must say that I am mighty impressed. He was playing inspired chess I believe. With that kind of chess he would have been a tough opponent for Botvinnik.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <keypusher> Please see my replies to <petrosianic> and <olavi> above. I would answer you along the same general lines.

<Aging? Botvinnik was 30 years old in 1941, which is when he began winning every event he competed in, dominating Keres in the process. Fischer got much stronger at age 27. Alekhine got much stronger at 38. Botvinnik got much stronger at 30. It happens.>

I am quite aware of these. That's why I said there are exceptions. It still remains that in general, <the general trend is that if at a younger age, chessplayer A has become better than chessplayer B, then chessplayer A will for the rest of their careers usually be better than the aging chessplayer B.>

There could be concrete explanations for the above masters' performances, and I have my theories on them, but they're out of topic here.

Let's just go to Botvinnik and Keres. It's IMO another exception. Botvinnik suddenly began beating Keres.

You could re-read my posts above. I believe that Keres, after the re-annexation of Estonia, began to have USSR and Botvinnik issues. That's my explanation for the above exception.

<Botvinnik was referring to the fact that he was world champion without, in fact, being demonstrably better than several of his top rivals. His statement is the antithesis of "self-serving egotism.">

I agree with this.

What I agree with <andrewjsacks> is that <In no year after 1950 was Botvinnik demonstrably the best player in the world>.

I hope that clears things up.

<Trigonometry is unecessary. Botvinnik and Keres played each other.>

You are saying that Botvinnik dominated Keres. If you re-read the posts above, one explanation for this is what we were precisely discussing. We were discussing Keres's USSR and Botvinnik issues, and the possible reason for this.

Put it in another way, before 1943 if playing outside the USSR, Keres never had Botvinnik issues. Botvinnik never dominated this hungry for the Title Keres. Why would Botvinnik suddenly dominate him after?

You seem to believe that it's solely because Botvinnik got so much better. I agree, but not on the 'solely' part. I believe that apart from Botvinnik's improvement, Keres' growth and potential improvement was stunted because of the Nazi collaborator issue after Estonia got re-annexed by the USSR.

IMO if Keres had continued playing chess outside the USSR after 1943, he would have improved as much as Botvinnik did, and probably more as he was younger. Keres was only about 27 years old then, and his most recent games showed him playing aggressive attacking chess. I can't explain well why he would not continue improving, same as the older Botvinnik did.

<Anyway, there were qualifiers to play Botvinnik. Smyslov (twice), Tal, and Petrosian won those qualifiers. Keres never did.

Also, don't forget Bronstein, who played Botvinnik as well as any of them.

<Classical games: David Bronstein beat Paul Keres 7 to 4, with 19 draws>>

That's 55% in 30 games. That does not show domination IMO. My point is that Smyslov, Tal, and Petrosian never dominated Keres. The above score, even if it is in favor of Bronstein, shows that neither did Bronstein.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <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.>

Yes this is the crux of the discussion above. Keres never could reach his maximum potential in wartime and post WW2 USSR. The shadow of fear was always just around the corner.

I am pretty sure Keres eventually stabilized. He lived in Estonia, accepted state support for chess, won tournaments and received prize money, and so on. He made a living. Occasionally he still would trot out a brilliancy in his later years, win second in the Candidates, win international tournaments. But I don't think he ever reached the potential that his early games show.

In brief, Keres was both unlucky in the competitive sense (always having someone playing better and missing a Challenger spot by a few unlucky games in a Candidates), and in the context of life in general (never reaching his full potential because of wartime events).

Had he reached his full potential, Keres probably would have not only won more games in order to offset the few unlucky ones so that he would have qualified as Challenger at least once, I believe he probably would have become World Champion as well.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <VBD>

<<Classical games: David Bronstein beat Paul Keres 7 to 4, with 19 draws>>

That's 55% in 30 games. That does not show domination IMO. >

Keres' score against Korchnoi is 59% in 17 games. Yet you repeatedly claim Keres "dominated" Korchnoi.

This sort of thing is why I generally don't bother to engage with you.

Jan-08-16  Howard: One thing is indisputable----Keres, Korchnoi, and Rubinstein were three of the greatest players never to become world champion. You can carve that into stone.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <keypusher> For your information, I am always willing to discuss intelligently with any one here in CG as long as they keep it polite and civilized, and do not waste my time nitpicking, obfuscating, and throwing red herring statements at me.

Your first post above sounds reasonable and intelligent, so I answered it reasonably and thoughtfully. I know you certainly can discuss things reasonably and intelligently if you want to, as I have read some of your past posts.

Your second post looks nitpicking and obfuscating. At any rate I will answer it anyway, and would request that you keep your future tone with me polite and reasonable, in which case I promise to discuss things with you also in a polite, reasonable, and intelligent manner.

I already posted quite clearly before that Korchnoi managed to win his single game against Keres only in 1975, the last game they ever played just a few months before Keres died of a heart attack. For more than 20 years it was just 4 zeros and 11 draws for Korchnoi. If that's not domination, I don't know what is.

By the same token I believe that Lasker dominated Alekhine. AAA could not win any game against Lasker for 20 years, while losing three, and only won one when Lasker was 66 years old.

In the same manner, Alekhine IMO certainly dominated Keres. Throughout their careers, AAA was generally beating and placing ahead of Keres, even at the era when Keres was playing his most vigorous and most magnificent chess, and did not have to worry about being sent off to a Siberian gulag if he upstaged Alekhine.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Olavi> I decided to run through Keres' early international tournament record. Apparently he first began playing in international vents in 1936, as a 20 year old.

For 1936:

Dresden 1936: A fail. (9th out of 10. Not surprising as this seems to have been his first international top master tournament. Botvinnik himself had a fail in 1934 Hastings in his international debut.

Dresden (1936)

Zandvoort 1936: Placed tied third. Relative success.

Zandvoort (1936)

Bad Nauheim 1936: First, tied with Alekhine. Success.

Bad Nauheim (1936)

Munich Olympiad 1936: Gold Medal First Board. Success.

He also had a relative fail, tying the German-Estonian master Paul Felix Schmidt, who was probably the second strongest master in Estonia after Keres himself, when he was expected to win. He apparently also won local events in Tallinn and Parnu.

Still pretty impressive for a 20 year old on his first international debut.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: For 1937:

Kemeri 1937: 4th, tied with Alekhine. Relative success.

Kemeri (1937)

Parnu 1937: 2nd, tied with Stahlberg and Flohr. Relative success.

Parnu (1937)

Semmering/Baden 1937: 1st. Ahead of Fine, Reshevsky, Capablanca, Flohr. Success.

Semmering/Baden (1937)

Margate 1937: 1st, tied with Fine. Ahead of Alekhine. Success.

Margate (1937)

Hastings 1937: 2nd, tied with Alexander. Behind Reshevsky, but ahead of Fine and Flohr. Relative success.

Hastings (1937/38)

Keres also participated in minor tournaments in Ostende and Prague, and by his fine scores in the data base may have won them as well.

He also participated in the Stockholm Olympiad. According to this article Keres did not win the gold, but his score in the data base showed that he did well, beating Reshevsky, Alexander, and Pirc, and drawing with Lilienthal and Flohr.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: For 1938:

Noordwijk (1938)


Hastings (1937/38)

2nd tied

AVRO (1938)

1st tied

I just realized that Keres won AVRO 1938, one of history's proto Candidates tournament, at the age of 22!

This is about the same age when Tal, Karpov, Kasparov, Carlsen made their successful run at the Candidates.

If Keres were born later and made this run in the 1950s or 1960s (without USSR issues) I believe he probably would have become World Champion too.

Keres also had a relative fail in 1938, his drawn match with Stahlberg.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: For 1939:

Margate (1939)

1st, ahead of Capablanca

Buenos Aires (1939)

1st tied (with Najdorf)

Leningrad/Moscow training (1939)

Fail. For the first time in years, Keres scored a negative. Keres explains why in the tournament page.

Keres playing board 1 led tiny Estonia to third place in Buenos Aires Chess Olympiad 1939. I am not certain of this but I think he turned out the 3rd best performance on Board 1 after Alekhine and Capablanca. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

In 1939/1940, Keres also went one on one with former World Champion Euwe in Holland, Euwe's home country, and won +6 -5 =3.

This was a proto Candidates Final match, organized to help Alekhine choose a Challenger. The two leading candidates were probably perceived to be Keres (the AVRO winner) and Euwe (the former World Champion).

Keres never got appointed as Challenger anyway, unlucky guy that he was, due to wartime circumstances.

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.

Jan-09-16  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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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.
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