Understanding before Moving 156: Chess history in a nutshell (38)

by ChessBase
12/17/2023 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books on chess training and strategy. In the 156th episode of his ChessBase show "Understanding before moving" Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell" and takes a look at the games and the legacy of Paul Keres. | Photo: Pascal Simon

Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2 Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2

In this two-part course the emphasis will be on typical pawn-structures.


Paul Keres (1)

In this episode we will discuss Paul Keres (1916 - 1975). Paul Keres was born in Estonia, which was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. It may sound strange, but from that moment on doors were opened for Keres that would otherwise have remained closed.

Five years earlier, he had made a name for himself at the Warsaw Olympiad while still representing his homeland. This led in part to invitations he had never received before. When Keres became a Soviet player in 1940, he was also able to play in that year's championship. His fourth place finish in that tournament was excellent, but it was made even better because the Soviet authorities were not satisfied with Bondarevsky and Lilienthal sharing first place.

They felt that the championship needed to be extended, so a quadrangular tournament was organised in which - in addition to these two - Botvinnik and Keres were allowed to participate. This quadrangular tournament was won by Botvinnik, with Keres finishing second.  It was partly because of this that he later earned his nickname: 'Keres, the (eternal) second'.

Keres also got this nickname because he missed the chance to qualify for a World Championship match on five occasions. In 1947, Keres made his breakthrough when he won the Soviet Championship outright. He went on to win the title again in 1950 and 1951. His results were so impressive that many consider him to be one of the greatest chess players who never became world champion. Along with Viktor Kortchnoi (and perhaps Alexander Beliavsky or Jan Timman, for that matter), Keres is one of the few to have defeated a reigning world champion on more than one occasion.

The Estonian is also known for his excellent book 'Ausgewählte Partien'. In this book he puts his thoughts on paper in a very instructive and didactic way. It is still a monumental work which, in my opinion, ambitious chess players should study to improve their strategic understanding of the game.

Less well known is that Keres also composed several endgame studies. Keres died unexpectedly at the age of 59 in Helsinki, Finland, of a heart attack on his return from Vancouver, Canada, where he had just won a tournament. He was given a state funeral, attended by more than 100,000 people, including Max Euwe.

In the position shown in the diagram we get an example of Keres' special attacking skills. In this position his queen has entered the black position on e7, but without sufficient support from other pieces it can do little. How did Keres cleverly manage to break through the black defence anyway?

Master Class Vol.10: Mikhail Botvinnik

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