Alexei Shirov wins Keres Memorial in Tallinn

1/10/2011 – Every year the city of Tallinn, the birth place of Paul Keres (January 7, 1916 – June 5, 1975), stages a memorial tournament. 2011 is the 95th anniversary of the city's proudest son, and it was Alexei Shirov from neighboring Latvia who won the three-day 20th Keres Memorial Rapid by a full point. Second was native son Jaan Ehlvest. Report and memorial.

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Paul Keres Memorial Rapid

This three-day event, commemorating the 95th anniversary of the city's proudest son, took place in Tallinn, Estonia, from January 7-9. It started with a seven-round Swiss preliminary, from which two players, Normunds Miezis and Artem Smirnov, qualified for the eight-player final. That was duly won by the rating favourite Alexei Shirov.


The winner Alexei Shirov on the ETV report of the event


The runner-up, who hails from Estonia, speaks the language and needs no subtitles


In today's edition of Chess Today, an Internet-based daily chess newspaper, our colleagues have annotated one of Shirov's games. There is a replay button at the end of the notation for a JavaScript page where you can click on the moves to follow the game.

Shirov,Alexei (2722) - Miezis,Normunds (2546) [B43]
Keres Mem Rapid Tallinn EST (4.1), 09.01.2011 [Mikhail Golubev (www.chesstoday.net)]

Alexei Shirov won this year's Keres Memorial rapid, the event where in 2006 he showed most probably the worst result in his career: 0.5 out of 9! 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Bd3 Nc6








7.Nxc6. Objectively, this capture is more principled than 7.Be3 which transposes to the Taimanov System. 7...dxc6. GM Miezis often plays this line with Black. 8.0-0 e5 9.f4 Nf6








10.Kh1. 10.fxe5?! is wrong because of 10...Ng4 11.Kh1 Nxe5!=/+. 10...Bd6 11.f5 h5 12.Be3!? Qe7. The ChessBase database shows that only Miezis played this particular position with Black, winning four games, and only Shirov managed to defeat him! 13.Qf3 Diagram








13...Ng4N. Deviating from the game between the same opponents, Shirov-Miezis, Khanty-Mansiysk OL 2010 which followed 13...b5 14.a4 Bb7 15.axb5 axb5 16.Rxa8+ Bxa8 17.Bg5 Bb7 18.Rd1 Kf8 19.Ne2 h4 20.Ng1 Qc7 21.Nh3 with better chances for White (1-0, 43). 14.Bb6 Bc5 15.Na4 Bxb6 16.Nxb6 Rb8 17.a4 a5 18.Qg3 Qc5 19.Nc4 b6 20.Nd2








Also this time Miezis did not manage to equalise. Black has serious problems. 20...Kf8. After 20...0-0 21.f6!? looks promising for White. 21.Nf3 Bb7. 21...f6?! 22.Nh4 is quite hopeless for Black strategically. 22.h3








22...Rh6. After 22...Rd8 White could have played 23.Ra3!+/- (Avoiding 23.hxg4 hxg4+ 24.Nh4 Rd6! 25.Qxg4 Rxh4+! 26.Qxh4 Rh6). 23.hxg4 hxg4+








24.Nh4!+- [But not 24.Nh2? Ke7!] According to the tournament's website, the game ended after 24...Bc8 25.Be2. If so, Black still could have continued the fight, albeit in a bad position: 25.Be2 Qe7 26.f6 gxf6 27.Kg1 Qc5+ 28.Rf2 Qxc2+/-. 1-0. [Click to replay]


Paul Keres

Paul Keres (January 7, 1916 – June 5, 1975) is the only player to receive two annual memorial events. One takes place in his home town and Estonian capital of Tallinn, the other in the Pacific Coast city in British Columbia, Vancouver, where the Keres Memorial has been staged since 1975 (a history of the winners of the Vancouver Keres Memorial can be found here, the tournament listing for the 36th annual Keres Memorial in Vancouver, BC 2011 here.

For thirty years – from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s – the Estonian grandmaster and a renowned chess writer was among the world's top players. In fact after his first place in the 1938 AVRO tournament in Holland he was regarded as the natural successor to the reigning world champion Alexander Alekhine.

At the AVRO tournament Paul Keres was the only undefeated player and finished in first place, ahead of four world champions (we count Botvinnik as a future world champion). Keres beat nine world champions during his career, including Tal, Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky and Fischer, some of them several times. He was the most consistently successful player and won more international tournaments than any of his contemporaries. He won the USSR championship three times and played in ten Olympiads, achieving an amazing overall score of 80%.


Fischer vs Keres in round 7 of the Candidates Tournament 1962 in Curacao. The position is after move 22 of a game Fischer won. Keres won a black game in round 21, the other two encounters in Curacao were drawn. Fischer had a lifetime +1 score against Paul Keres.

The reason that Keres never played for the crown (excluding the match-tournament in 1948, which was won convincingly by Botvinnik) is shrouded in mystery . He participated in eight candidates events and came second in four of them. The turmoil of World War II and the annexation of his small country Estonia by the Soviet Union certainly played a role in keeping him from reaching the very top. Keres had participated in German tournaments during the war, and when the Red Army liberated the country, Soviet authorities planned initially to execute him. Botvinnik interceded by talking to Stalin and Keres was spared.

In 1975 Keres scored two great tournament victories, one in his home town of Tallinn, Estonia (ahead of Spassky), the other in Vancouver, Canada (ahead of US champion Walter Browne). The latter was held from the 15th to the 25th of May 1975. Only eleven days after the final game, a win against Browne, during a stopover in Helsinki, he died of a heart attack, stunning the chess world.

In Estonia he received a state funeral, with over 100,000 people in attendance. His image was put on a postage stamp, and the National Bank of Estonia issued a five krooni bank note with a portrait of Paul Keres. This has not been done for any other chess player in the history of the game, as far as we know.


The Estonian five krooni bank note with Paul Keres on its front

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