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Paul Keres
Paul Keres at Hastings, © December 1964. 
Number of games in database: 2,043
Years covered: 1929 to 1975

Overall record: +1018 -206 =807 (70.0%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 12 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (185) 
    C86 C78 C83 C97 C87
 Sicilian (180) 
    B20 B50 B43 B36 B62
 French Defense (94) 
    C07 C02 C05 C10 C15
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (88) 
    C86 C97 C87 C88 C93
 Caro-Kann (61) 
    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 E20 E45
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (107) 
    C92 C99 C97 C96 C84
 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 A29 A22 A25
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Keres vs Szabo, 1955 1-0
   Euwe vs Keres, 1940 0-1
   Keres vs W Winter, 1935 1-0
   Keres vs Verbac, 1933 1-0
   Keres vs Geller, 1962 1-0
   Keres vs Alekhine, 1937 1-0
   Keres vs Spassky, 1955 1-0
   A Karu vs Keres, 1931 0-1
   Keres vs Kotov, 1950 1-0
   Keres vs Vladimir Petrov, 1940 1-0

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

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   USSR Championship (1947)
   USSR Championship (1951)
   Budapest (1952)
   USSR Championship (1950)
   Hastings 1957/58 (1957)
   Buenos Aires (1939)
   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 (1955)

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

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 2,043  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. I Raud vs Keres  ½-½541929Parnu, Parnu-ViljandiE10 Queen's Pawn Game
2. Keres vs I Raud 0-1401929Parnu, Parnu-ViljandiC54 Giuoco Piano
3. A Karu vs Keres 0-1271931corrD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
4. M Villemson vs Keres 0-1511931Deutsche Schachzeitung 133-A corrA15 English
5. Keres vs Molder 1-0241931Tartu, Est jr chC33 King's Gambit Accepted
6. Keres vs R Pruun 1-0431931ChJB12 Caro-Kann Defense
7. L Norvid vs Keres 0-1251931Tartu, Est jr chC12 French, McCutcheon
8. Keres vs I Raud 1-0291931Tartu, Est jr chB25 Sicilian, Closed
9. R Pruun vs Keres 0-1241931Tartu, Est jr chE60 King's Indian Defense
10. Von Feilitzsch vs Keres 0-1321932corrC22 Center Game
11. Keres vs Beskov 1-0431932corrC50 Giuoco Piano
12. Keres vs E Verbak 1-0171932corrC00 French Defense
13. Keres vs G Menke 1-0621932corrC33 King's Gambit Accepted
14. Keres vs Faltweber 1-0181932corrA06 Reti Opening
15. Keres vs M Villemson ½-½471932Deutsche Schachzeitung 133-A corrD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
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. J Vilkins vs Keres  1-03819322nd Match Vilkins - KeresC12 French, McCutcheon
21. Keres vs J Vilkins ½-½2419321st Match Vilkins - KeresC25 Vienna
22. Keres vs A Peet 1-0191932Moisakula Moisak-ParnuC25 Vienna
23. A Peet vs Keres 0-1291932Moisakula Moisak-ParnuD02 Queen's Pawn Game
24. Keres vs J Siitam 1-0211932Parnu, Est jr chC25 Vienna
25. A Holm vs Keres 0-1431932Parnu, Est jr chC00 French Defense
 page 1 of 82; games 1-25 of 2,043  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
  Sally Simpson: ***


Hi woldsmandriffield,

I'm not sure the claim is that Korchnoi was stronger than Keres.

Two great players with spectacular C.V's. Players of this stature are neither stronger or weaker than each other, they are on the same plateau along with a dozen or so other great players the game has produced.

The debate is who deserves to be called the uncrowned World Champion. For that head to head results and non World Championship games and qualifiers need to be left out.

Korchnoi battled his way into two W.C. title matches something Keres never quite achieved. (1974 could be used here but it was not an official World Title match - see below.)

Another claim is that Keres came 2nd in 5 candidates tournaments.

Korchnoi played in 6 candidate finals, (here we now count 1974) he lost 3 (to Spassky, Karpov and Kasparov) he won the other 3. If he had lost all 6 he would have bettered Kere's five 2nd places.

Keres holding the record for beating 9 world champions is an impressive statistic but should it be taken in consideration when talking about qualifying for or playing in World Finals?

But if we do include it.

Korchnoi has also beaten 9 world champions. (he never got to play Alekhine, Capablanca or Euwe - Keres never played Kasparov or Carlsen and never beat Karpov) Korchnoi has, at one time or other beaten the same other six as Keres.

Petrosian, Spassky, Karpov, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal and Fischer,

BTW, if some think the Paul Keres Bio is too short then look at Viktor Korchnoi



Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: From ten years ago, my own views on the matter:

Mar-20-19  fabelhaft: <Korchnoi has also beaten 9 world champions>

He came close to reach 10 last year, since he has beaten Caruana. But there’s still time for Caruana to make it ten for Korchnoi.

Mar-20-19  fabelhaft: If one wouldn’t count Topalov as World Champion, he might have a case too. #1 longer than Anand and Kramnik, higher peak live rating than them, and bigger distance to #2 at his peak. Not bad for a non-World Champion if one would count him as that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Yes if Caruana becomes World Champion then that is another scalp for Korchnoi. (same if Gelfand had won it.)

Meanwhile we have another scalp for Keres beating world chess champions.

Keres vs Menchik, 1939

Vera was Women's world champ at the time.

You do realise that if Korchnoi had beaten Karpov in 1978 we would not be having this discussion and because Keres has beaten Korchnoi in the past the Keres head count would be 10. (or 11 if you count Vera).


Mar-20-19  fabelhaft: <Meanwhile we have another scalp for Keres beating world chess champions.

Keres vs Menchik, 1939

Vera was Women's world champ at the time>

At the same time, if the women World Champions count Korchnoi has wins against Hou Yifan, Chiburdanidze, Stefanova, Xie Jun and Susan Polgar.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Yes indeed fabelhaft, so it looks Korchnoi is well ahead in the who has beat the most World Champions stakes.

But... 2006 Korchnoi won the senior World Championship. He finally got his crown. (therefore cannot be the strongest player not to be world champion, he has disqualified himself.)

Korchnoi's bogeyman who stopped him from winning the actual World Championship, Anatoly Karpov, was too young (55) to enter!


Mar-20-19  JimNorCal: Clever point, SS!
Mar-21-19  RookFile: Was Paul Morphy a world champion? Some don't think so. If he wasn't then surely he was the strongest never to have been world champion. Actually, he may have been the strongest, period.
Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: Sally Simpson: I am confused by your suggestion that PK was a stronger player than VK, yet VK was the strongest player not to be world champion.

The discussion appears to be about ‘closest’ to becoming world champion. Hence details about players tying matches who were thus ‘close’ to succeeding. Or comparisons between how far and how often players progressed in elimination tournaments, such as the candidates.

With respect to the latter, the candidates, PK’s early career predated FIDE control of the world championship. There were simply fewer candidates events for him to qualify from in comparison with VK. There is also the fact that the Second World War precluded a match with Alekhine, which PK was ‘qualified’ to play.

Lastly, VK defected from the USSR in 1976/7 and political interference changed its form. The main weapons were a boycott of non championship events and manipulation of venues to keep prize money low, making it harder for Korchnoi to pay seconds. He was, however, free from any overt pressure in terms of actual results. PK’s situation differed and like other Soviet GMs internal politics continued to matter.

Mar-23-19  nimh: I too think it is hard to defend the point of view that Keres is the greatest player never to win the title. But his position as the greatest one never to play in a title match is quite secure (Let's count Morphy's match against Anderssen as a title match). Rubinstein simply had not enough longevity.
May-01-19  drnooo: I have posted this before. But here we go again. Keres came very close to being killed by the soviets. He was trying to escape and about to make the boat out with his wife and on the last day didn't make it. Ever after he knew his rung at the top was not welcome. I maintain the stress killed him. That's just I. For certain however living and playing in the west could well have brought him a worlds championship. The record of his near escape is to be found for all to see. As is his 70 percent wins, eclipsing nearly every great player in the history of the game. A much higher one than Korchnois. Ive always suspected he threw his games with Botvinnik. But for those who feel he was under no threat of death, so be it. And his record against Korchnoi is a pure crush.
Premium Chessgames Member
  roberts partner: The failed boat escape attempt wasn't quite like that:

Keres’ attempts to flee to Sweden came at the last minute. He had agreed to wait with others for a boat to arrive at the coast near Haapsalu. The group of other people waiting for the day that never came included such prominent figures as the writer Friedebert Tuglas and members of the pre-war government. But, as Maria Keres recalls:

Our travels did not work out, the big motorboats were simply too afraid to come back already. I was quite content, here was my home. What happened next, I was not able to foresee. We stayed at Tallinn, in the flat where we had so often stayed before: at my school friend's flat on Tehnika Street.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: According to Georges Bertola.

"During one of my meetings with GM Lev Polugayevsky (1934-1995) in the early 90s, he told me the following story about Keres.

"It is true that the behaviour of Keres during the war allowed him to be condemned to death or deportation according to our laws. One of the first to help him was Botvinnik, who interceded at the highest levels of state with Molotov (a signatory of the German-Soviet pact).

A commission met to decide Keres' fate and opinions were very divided. One of the participants asked this question:

'How many Keres do we have in the USSR?'

After a deathly silence, someone dared to make this reply:

'Unfortunately only one, comrade!'

Chess probably saved Keres' life, but there was definitely a price to pay for it."


Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <...the highest levels of state with Molotov (a signatory of the German-Soviet pact) ...>

Vyacheslav Molotov -- best known for the eponymous <Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact>, <Molotov Cocktails>, and <Molotov Bread Baskets>:

Aug-05-19  nimh: The residential building is now completed and the statue of Keres has been reinstalled to a new spot right alongside the sidewalk.

Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: Reflecting further, Botvinnik ought to have walked away in 1963. He knew he would lose to Petrosian and did in fact retire after losing the title match convincingly. My suspicion is that Botvinnik would have stepped down had Keres prevailed at Curacao.

Would Keres have beaten Petrosian in a title match? In games played 1959 onwards the two players had an even score drawing most of their games. I think there is a real chance Keres would have prevailed and that is why, after Keres defeated Geller in the candidate’s playoff, Botvinnik played Petrosian.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: If it was a Botvinnik - Keres 1963 W.C. match and Botvinnik won all the 1948 shenanigan claims and counter claims would have resurfaced.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eggman: Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas passed away just yesterday at the age of 103. Just to put in perspective the man's longevity, consider that he was born the same year as Paul Keres.
Feb-07-20  JimNorCal: nimh's photos are great!
Several years ago I found the statue at its old location. It was a struggle! But I was quite happy to succeed.
Feb-07-20  nimh: The statue at the previous location was indeed easy to miss walking on the street. Trees were around it and the monument itself several meters away from the sidewalk.
Feb-07-20  ewan14: While living in the USSR I do not think Korchnoi's life was in danger. Post war Keres' was.

Since they are both legends their head to head games should count towards GOAT never to have won the world championship

Feb-07-20  ewan14: Unfortunately I do not think Keres would have beaten Petrosian in a title match
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: 45th anniversary of Keres's death; funeral footage (no sound):
Premium Chessgames Member
  technical draw: When I first heard of Keres around 1965 I would pronounce his name as Keers. It took a while to change it to Ké-res. Even now I'm not quite sure that's correct. Please put up the correct pronunciation on this great Grandmaster.
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