Looking back at the Keres Memorial – ACP Open 2016

by Sagar Shah
1/21/2016 – It’s been ten days since this rapid chess event ended. But the tournament had so many nice moments and games that we decided to have a look at them in a two-part retrospective report. In it you will find some beautiful games of the great Paul Keres, and some very instructive games from the Memorial tournament for you to enjoy. An excellent way to improve your chess.

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A look back at the Keres Memorial – ACP Open 2016

The Keres Memorial – ACP Open, held from the 7th- 10th of January 2016, was won by Igor Kovalenko. We reported this on our newspage. However there were many interesting games and moments which led us to write this final report and also pay a tribute to the great Paul Keres, who would have completed 100 years on 7th January 2016, were he alive.

Paul Keres was an Estonian grandmaster and the strongest player to have never played for the World Championship title. 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.

Keres beat the greatest number of World Champions in his life – nine of them, right from Capablanca upto Fischer. Viktor Korchnoi came very close to him with wins against eight World Champions. In 2013, Magnus Carlsen won the highest title and Korchnoi equaled Keres’ record.

Paul Keres’ house in Tallinn. In fact there is a street in Nomme, a district of Tallinn,
which was named after Keres [picture by Ingrid Friedel]

The commemorative plaque next to the entrance of the house [picture by Ingrid Friedel]

Haven’t we heard many a chess players say this line, “I would play the Sicilian Scheveningen if it were not for the Keres Attack!

The move 6.g4! was first played by Paul Keres against Efim Bogoljubow in 1943. Nowadays most of the top players avoid playing the Scheveningen through the normal move order because of the Keres Attack. They prefer to transpose into the e6-d6 structure either through the Najdorf or the Classical.

Before we look some of the nice games and combinations from the Keres Memorial – ACP Open 2016, here are two snippets from the games of Keres which I liked very much.

Keres-Walther, 1964

Assess the consequences of Nxg4. Take ten minutes on your clock, calculate as deeply
as you can and come to the conclusion whether White is winning or not after Nxg4.

[Event "Tel Aviv ol (Men) qual-A"] [Site "Tel Aviv"] [Date "1964.??.??"] [Round "1"] [White "Keres, Paul"] [Black "Walther, Edgar"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E93"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "1964.11.02"] [EventType "team"] [EventRounds "7"] [EventCountry "ISR"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] [WhiteTeam "Soviet Union"] [BlackTeam "Switzerland"] [WhiteTeamCountry "URS"] [BlackTeamCountry "SUI"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. d5 Nbd7 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3 Nh5 11. h4 g4 12. Nh2 Nxg3 13. fxg3 h5 14. O-O Bh6 15. Bd3 c6 16. Kh1 Nf6 17. Bc2 cxd5 18. cxd5 Ne8 19. Qe2 Ng7 20. Rf2 f5 21. exf5 Nxf5 22. Bxf5 Bxf5 23. Raf1 Bg6 {This was the first time in the Petrosian System of the King's Indian that someone had come up with the plan of playing h4, provoking g4 and then sacrificing the knight for these two kingside pawns.} 24. Nxg4 $1 {Paul Keres accurately evaluates this sacrifice and comes to the conclusion that this is a winning move. Now firstly the knight has to be taken. There is no alternative.} hxg4 25. Qxg4 {The bishop on g6 is hanging and h5 is threatened, hence the king has to move away from g8.} Kh7 26. h5 $1 {Once again the bishop is attacked and the only squares available to it are d3 and c2.} Bd3 (26... Bc2 27. Ne4 $1 {Threatening Qg6+ followed by Qxh6.} Bxe4 28. Qxe4+ Kh8 29. Qg6 Bg7 30. Rxf8+ Bxf8 31. Rf7 $18) 27. Rxf8 {This is the simplest way to win.} (27. Ne4 {is also possible as after} Bxf1 {White wins with} 28. Qg6+ Kh8 29. Qxh6+ Kg8 30. Qg6+ Kh8 31. Rf6 $1 Rxf6 32. Nxf6 $18) 27... Bxf8 28. Rf3 $1 (28. Rf7+ $2 Kh8 29. Ne4 Qc8 {and Black defends himself, the main point being that} 30. Qg6 {is met with} Qc1+ $1 31. Kh2 Qh6 $1 $17) 28... Bc2 (28... e4 $2 29. Rf7+ Kh8 30. Qg6 $18) 29. Ne4 $1 Kh8 (29... Bxe4 30. Qxe4+ Kh8 31. Rf7 Bg7 32. Qg6 Qg8 33. h6 Qh7 34. Qxg7+ Qxg7 35. Rxg7 $18 { is a trivial win.}) 30. Rf7 Qe8 31. Nxd6 {The rest is easy now. Three pieces along with the h-pawn is just too much for the black king to handle.} (31. Qg6 Qxf7 32. Qxf7 Bxe4 {is also lost after} 33. g4 $1 $18 {and the pawns combined with the queen dominate the game.}) 31... Qa4 32. Qg5 Qa6 33. Qxe5+ Kg8 34. Rf6 Qd3 35. Kh2 Qh7 36. Qe6+ (36. Qe6+ Kh8 37. Nf7+ Kg7 38. h6+ $18) 1-0

Here is one endgame by Keres which is simply delightful:

Randviir-Keres, Parnu 1947

It is Keres’ (Black’s) turn to move

The nice thing about pawn endings is that you calculate right to the very end and come to conclusion about the result. Here Keres found the only way to win. Can you do the same? Note: It’s quite a long line.

[Event "Parnu"] [Site "Parnu"] [Date "1947.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Randviir, Juri"] [Black "Keres, Paul"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C45"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/7p/p4p2/k1pP1Pp1/6P1/P2K4/8/8 b - - 0 45"] [PlyCount "37"] [EventDate "1947.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "URS"] {We start with this extremely interesting pawn endgame which Paul Keres played to perfection. What do you think is the best move for Black?} 45... Kb5 $1 ( 45... Kb6 {would be an error, as it allows White to take up the c4 square immediately without having to waste any pawn move.} 46. Kc4 $1 a5 47. a4 { And now Black is in a zugzwang and has to make a pawn move.} h6 {This is exactly what Black did not want.} 48. Kb3 Kc7 49. Kc3 Kd7 50. Kd3 Kc7 (50... Kd6 $2 51. Kc4 $18) 51. Kc3 $11 {Both sides will avoid the mined square on c4 and d6 and the game will end in a draw.}) 46. a4+ (46. Ke3 c4 47. Kd4 c3 48. Kxc3 Kc5 $19) 46... Kb6 47. Kc4 a5 $1 {We reach the same position that we were discussing in the previous variation with the sole difference that it is White to play now instead of Black. This saves the important reserve tempo of the h-pawn which can be used at a much better moment.} 48. d6 Kc6 49. d7 Kxd7 50. Kxc5 Ke7 {Black can be sure that White will not go towards the a5 pawn with Kb5 as then h5 gives him an immediate win. The White king needs to remain within the "square of the g-pawn."} 51. Kd5 Kf7 (51... Kd7 52. Kc5 {leads nowhere.}) 52. Ke4 {The white king has to now take care that when Black plays h5 and he replies with gxh5, the black king should not be able to come to h6 and win the pawn. Hence, the move Kh6 has to be met with Kg4 in that instance, and Ke4 is forced here.} (52. Kc5 $2 h5 $1) (52. Kd6 $2 h5 $1 53. gxh5 g4 $19) 52... Kf8 $1 {How can we explain this move? Firstly Black is two squares away from h6 and White also has to make sure that he is two squares away from g4. If that is not the case then ...h5 would just win. For example Kd4 now would lose to ...h5. But there is another problem that White faces. Black's Ke7 should be met with Kd5. But that is impossible as White has to make a move here. If there was an option to pass the move in chess then the position would have been a draw. But as the rules stand you have to make a move and this is what we call Zugzwang!} 53. Ke3 (53. Kf3 Ke7 54. Ke4 Kd6 55. Kd4 h6 $1 $19) ( 53. Kd5 h5 $1 54. gxh5 Kg7 55. Ke4 Kh6 $19) 53... Ke7 54. Ke4 Kd6 55. Kd4 h6 $1 {And there comes the final reserve tempo to put White in a zugzwang. Beautifully played.} 56. Ke4 Kc5 57. Ke3 Kd5 58. Kd3 Ke5 59. Ke3 h5 $1 60. gxh5 Kxf5 61. Kf3 Ke6 (61... g4+ 62. Kg3 Kg5 $19 {is also winning.}) 62. Kg4 Kf7 63. Kf5 Kg7 {A wonderfully subtle endgame that was played superbly by Keres.} 0-1

The Keres Memorial – ACP Open 2016 was held from the 7th to 10th of January 2016 in the conference hall of the Park Inn by Radisson Merton Conference and Spa Hotel, Talinn. The tournament was mainly organized by ESA Kalev, a sportsclub which Paul Keres always represented, in collaboration with Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) as part of the ACP Tour 2016. It was an eleven round Swiss tournament with a time control of 15 minutes for the entire game, with an increment of ten seconds per move. There were in all prizes worth €15,000, which included special prizes of €5,000 only for ACP Premium members. The tournament attracted a total of 178 players from 21 countries, and 36 of them were grandmasters. Some big names like Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand were seen in action at the event.

The tournament was won by Igor Kovalenko, half a point ahead of others,
with 9.0/11 [picture by Vladimir Barsky]

No one doubted Kovalenko’s credentials as a brilliant rapid player. But to finish ahead of so many strong players was truly a fantastic achievement. Igor shot into limelight in 2015, when he won one tournament after another and crossed the 2700 Elo barrier by solely playing in open tournaments. In order to realize how strong he is at rapid chess you only need to see his game against Vladimir Kramnik from the World Rapid Championships in 2015. For making some of his moves the Latvian had only seconds on his clock, but that did not stop him from finding the best resources and coming out alive against the Big Vlad.

[Event "Wch Rapid"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.11"] [Round "9"] [White "Kovalenko, Igor"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D41"] [WhiteElo "2700"] [BlackElo "2777"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2015.10.10"] [EventType "swiss (rapid)"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "GER"] [Source "Chessbase"] [SourceDate "2015.11.05"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2 O-O 11. Bc4 Nd7 12. O-O b6 13. Rfe1 Bb7 14. Rad1 Rc8 15. Bb3 h6 16. Qf4 Qc7 17. Qh4 Rfd8 18. h3 b5 19. d5 exd5 20. e5 Re8 21. Qh5 a5 22. Rd4 a4 23. Bd1 Re6 24. Rf4 Nc5 25. Be2 Ne4 26. Bxb5 a3 27. Ba4 Rf8 28. Bb3 Qc5 {[#] Black already has the more preferable position with his extremely strong knight on e4. Here Kovalenko was already down to much less time on his clock, but he finds the only way to create counterplay and also defending the f2 pawn in the process.} 29. Nh4 Qc3 {The rook on e1 is attacked and so is the pawn on e5.} 30. Rexe4 $1 {Kovalenko finds the first move to keep the balance.} dxe4 31. Rxf7 $1 {Another powerful shot, but not so difficult to see.} Rxf7 32. Bxe6 Qc1+ 33. Kh2 Qf4+ 34. Kh1 Bc8 $1 {Kramnik tries to play on for a win instead of just repeating.} 35. Bb3 $1 (35. Bxf7+ Qxf7 $15 {is a clearly inferior endgame for White.}) 35... Qxf2 36. Ng6 $1 { Once again finding the accurate move under time pressure. The threat is now to make a direct draw with Ne7+, and also the move e6 is pretty strong.} Kh7 37. Nh4 $1 {The only move once again to maintain the balance.} Qf1+ 38. Kh2 Qf4+ 39. Kh1 Rf8 40. Qg6+ Kh8 41. Qd6 $3 {Seriously?!! How on earth did he find this move with so little time. This accurate move forced Kramnik to give the perpetual as Ng6+ is a huge threat.} Qf1+ 42. Kh2 Qf4+ (42... Re8 $5 43. Qc6 $1 Rd8 44. Qxe4 $11) 43. Kh1 Qf1+ 44. Kh2 Qf4+ {It was simply a joy to watch this game live on the Internet and see the amazing defensive effort put up by Igor Kovalenko against one of the best players in the world.} 1/2-1/2

I am sure the snippet from the game Kovalenko-Kramnik was enough to make you understand
how strong Igor is as a rapid player (photo from 2015 World Rapid site)

Kovalenko began the tournament with two wins but then lost the third game against Vladimir Sveshnikov on time. He fought back and was on 4.5/6. He then went on a rampage, scoring four wins on a trot against strong opponents like Volodin, Motylev, Duda and Svidler, before drawing his final game against Gelfand to win the title. While most of Kovalenko’s games were nicely played, he had his moment of champion’s luck in the penultimate round against Peter Svidler:

[Event "25th Keres Memorial - ACP Open"] [Site "Tallinn, Meriton Hotel"] [Date "2016.01.10"] [Round "10.1"] [White "Kovalenko, Igor"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A37"] [WhiteElo "2734"] [BlackElo "2736"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:00:43"] [BlackClock "0:02:56"] 1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 c5 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. a3 e6 7. Rb1 Nge7 8. b4 O-O 9. O-O b6 10. Bb2 cxb4 11. axb4 Nxb4 12. Nd4 Rb8 13. Ndb5 Nec6 14. Ba3 a6 15. Bxb4 Nxb4 16. Rxb4 axb5 17. Nxb5 Qe7 18. Ra4 d5 19. cxd5 exd5 20. d4 Bg4 21. Re1 Rfe8 22. Ra7 Qd8 23. Qd3 Re7 24. Rxe7 Qxe7 25. e3 Be6 26. Qb3 Qd8 27. Rb1 Bf8 28. Nc3 Rc8 29. Nxd5 h5 30. h4 g5 31. hxg5 Qxg5 32. Qb5 h4 33. gxh4 Qxh4 34. Nf4 Rc2 35. Rf1 Bd6 36. Qe8+ Kg7 37. Nxe6+ fxe6 38. Qd7+ Qe7 39. Qxe7+ Bxe7 40. Be4 Rb2 41. Kg2 Bh4 42. Kf3 Kf6 43. Bd3 Rd2 44. Be2 Rb2 45. Rh1 Kg5 46. Rc1 Kf6 47. Rc6 b5 48. Rb6 Ke7 49. Rb7+ Kd6 {[#]We join this game at a crucial moment. It is clear that White is better, but now he finds a move which transforms his position from better to winning.} 50. Bxb5 $1 e5 (50... Rxf2+ $2 51. Kg4 $18 {[%csl Rd7,Rh4][%cal Rb7d7] The bishop on h4 is hanging and also Rd7 is a mate.}) 51. Rd7+ $1 (51. dxe5+ $2 Kxe5 $11 {There is no way to defend the f2 pawn and the game ends in a draw.}) 51... Ke6 52. d5+ $1 Kf5 53. Bd3+ $6 (53. Rf7+ $1 {would have given White excellent chances to win, the point being that} Kg6 {is met with} 54. Be8 $1 (54. Rb7 {is also fine as after} Rxf2+ 55. Ke4 {The e5 pawn will fall and White will win this.}) 54... Rxf2+ 55. Kg4 $1 Bf6 56. Rc7+ Kh6 57. d6 Rd2 58. d7 $18 {[%cal Gg4f5]}) 53... e4+ $1 { Now it is Peter's turn to find the best resource.} 54. Bxe4+ Ke5 {Black is three pawns down, but there is simply no way in which he can prevent a draw now. The f2 pawn is hanging and the central pawns are firmly blockaded on dark squares.} 55. Kg4 Kxe4 56. f3+ (56. Kxh4 Rxf2 57. d6 Ke5 58. Rd8 Re2 59. d7 Kd6 60. Kg4 Ke7 $11) 56... Kxe3 57. Kxh4 {Who knows what would have been the result of the tournament had Svidler taken the pawn on f3.} Kf4 $4 {Trying to be too subtle.} (57... Kxf3 58. Kg5 (58. Re7 Rd2 $11) 58... Ke4 59. Kf6 Rf2+ 60. Ke6 Rh2 61. d6 Rh6+ 62. Ke7 Ke5 $11) 58. Rf7+ $1 Ke5 59. f4+ Kxd5 60. Re7 Kd6 61. Re3 {The black king is cut off and soon we will reach a Lucena position.} 1-0

Svidler (above left) lost two games, one against Kovalenko and the other against Kaido Kulaots. He finished with 8.0/11 and the seventh spot. Had he drawn the penultimate round game against Kovalenko, he would have had excellent chances of winning the event.

David Howell finished second with 8.5/11 and a hefty 35 point Elo increase

At the end of the second day and eight rounds David would have been the happiest man in the tournament. Not only was he solely leading the event with 7.0/8, but he had also played one the finest combinations of the event against Rinat Jumabayev. This combination went viral on the internet and its beauty was adored by many! Howell went on to lose his ninth round to Peter Svidler and drew his tenth against Boris Gelfand, before coming back strongly to win the last round against Emil Sutovsky. Here’s the David Howell special that will make it to many tactical books in the future:

David Howell-Rinat Jumbayev, Round 8

It’s time to bombard the enemy king with your pieces. How did David do that?

[Event "Paul Keres Memorial 2015"] [Site "Tallinn EST"] [Date "2016.01.09"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Howell, David W L"] [Black "Jumabayev, Rinat"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A33"] [WhiteElo "2685"] [BlackElo "2607"] [Annotator "Johannes Fischer"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2016.01.08"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. g3 Qb6 7. Ndb5 Ne5 8. Bg2 {White ignores the threat against his c-pawn and prefers to develop instead.} a6 (8... Nxc4 9. Qa4 a6 10. Qxc4 axb5 11. Qxb5 $11) 9. Na3 Bxa3 10. bxa3 Nxc4 11. O-O O-O 12. Bg5 d5 13. Rc1 {White wants to open the position with e4 and does not bother to lose time by protecting the a-pawn.} Nxa3 14. e4 d4 15. e5 Nd7 16. Ne4 Nxe5 {Taking one pawn too many.} 17. Nf6+ $3 {Leading to a forced win. Very nicely calculated by Howell.} gxf6 ({Rejecting the knight does not help:} 17... Kh8 18. Qh5 h6 19. Bxh6 gxf6 20. Bxf8+ Kg8 21. Qh6 { and White mates next move.}) 18. Bxf6 Ng6 19. Qh5 {The threat is Qh6.} e5 20. Rc6 $1 {This fine interference move crowns White's attacking play.} Qd8 (20... Qxc6 21. Bxc6 {with mate to follow.}) (20... bxc6 21. Qh6 {[%csl Rg7][%cal Rh6g7] and mate on the next move.}) 21. Qh6 Qxf6 22. Rxf6 Bg4 23. Bd5 Be2 24. Rxg6+ hxg6 25. Qxg6+ Kh8 26. Qh6+ Kg8 27. Be4 1-0

– Part two, including an interview with ACP President Emil Sutovsky, will follow soon –

Official websitepictures, unless otherwise noted, by Marek Kolk



Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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keithbc6472 keithbc6472 1/24/2016 01:09
he lost his mini match vs botvinnik and thereby caused a controversy as botvinnik was the 'chosen one'
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/21/2016 03:07
Kere fought for the World Chess Championship title in 1948...
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