KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: My Life Long Chess Hero–Paul Keres

The Estonian chess players are proud of their heritage. When I accepted to play board 50 in the USA versus the USSR, my opponent was the very gracious Mrs. Merke Rytowa, the famous woman correspondence player from Estonia who stated that she was Estonian, not Russian.  We played two exciting games, each ending in a draw although I had 3 pawns, Rook and King versus her 2 pawns, Rook and King. It was a classic book draw position so we split the point.  This is not what I remember about our battles but rather the many notes, beautiful stamps and picture postcards she sent and I cannot say the same from me because US stamps were not all that great nor the picture postcards even though we toured the western states and picked up the most colorful and memorable I could find.  She soon told me she was a mother of two–a boy and girl ages 13 and 10, and made the point that she was an Estonian!  Even more wonderful was her relationship with Paul Keres who was often a guest in the Rytowa home.  I had written that Paul Keres was my hero from my earliest days in chess, finding his correspondence game skill absolutely brilliant and in my own style.  Soon my mailbox contained a couple of packages of  the Tallinn Memorial honoring Paul Keres who had died after returning from success in Canada. (She wrote perfect English that would put a lot of us in America to shame!)  She was skilled in both otb as a representative of Soviet chess in Estonia and as well as an international correspondence champion.  A friend of mine from among my 4-soviet masters I met in a tournament wrote this advice,  “Beware! She is famous in Soviet chess circles and extremely talented.”

My library contains tons of great games hidden in magazines and books.  Through the years I got to see and  admire the chess of Capablanca, Alekhine, Lasker, Reshevsky, Rubinstein, Botvinnik, Spassky, Larsen, Geller, Boleslavsky, Stein, Tal, and many other top Grandmasters that adorned the era that Schach Echo and others produced. The likes of Karpov, Kasparov, Fischer and Korchnoi came in the next era of great champions and it is impossible to compare skills with accuracy.  However, the greatest player in many opinions was the chess of Paul Keres.  His games sparkled with wonderful tactics as well as in his later life, a profound understanding of the very best of positional play. It was the shared opinion of both my oldest brother Ray and myself.  Paul Keres never attained the title of World Chess Champion but was often an eye wink away.  From my perspective, his warmth and behavior as a gentleman and his command of his explanatory annotations that enriched many a brilliant game, made chess come alive.  That is the measurement of a true genius and champion!!  He was beloved by many and his games will live into eternity.

I present here a sample of Paul Keres’ style and great skill in battling another world-class attacking player by the name of Mikhail Tal.

White: Tal     vs.    Black:  Keres    Opening:  King’s Indian Defense   Team Match between Estonia and Latvia, Tallin,  1954.

1. d4  Nf6  2. c4  g6  3. Nc3  Bg7  4. e4  d6  5. Nf3  O-O  6. Be2  e5  7. Be3.  The more common 7. O-O Nc6  8.d5  Ne7  9. Ne1  Nd7  10. Nd3  f5  11. f3 f4  was a surprise sprung by Taimanov in a game against Botvinnik. It has gained considerable followers over the years. The basic idea is to meet a K-side action by introducing a Q-side action by White. It has never been quite clear who stands the better chances. Tal tries another tact to blunt the effect of a King-side demonstration by abstaining from castling and more aggression enhanced by the Bishop sortie pressuring the a-7 to g1 diagonal.

7. … Nc6.  Another way is Lisitsyn-Taimanov, XXI USSR Championship of 1954, 7. …exd4  8. Nxd4  Re8  9. f3  c6 >d5 coming.

8. d5  Ne7  9. h3  Nd7  10. Nd2  Was this a sudden change in strategy because if he had intended to play this, then the move h3 is out-of-place and he could have then protected the Bishop on e3 by f3. Perhaps 10. g4 with a K-wing pawn rollup would be interesting as White could then prepare to castle on the Q-side. Today the theory suggests 9. Nd2 is best for White.

10. … f5  11. f3  fxe4  12. Ndxe4  Tal suddenly realizes that 12. fxe4  lets Black strike the center with 12. …Nxd5! with the mate threat …Qh4+.

12. … Nf5  13. Bg5  Nf6  14. Bd3  Qe8.  Better would be to obtain a mobile pawn center with 14. …c5! 15. dxc6  bxc6.

15. Ne2  Nxe4  16. Bxe4  Bf6  My computer nor I like the feel for this Bishop challenge but it is hard to see the future, best appears to be …c5 as Keres recommends.

17. Bxf6  Rxf6  18. Qd2 c5  forcing the pawn exchange as Keres was thinking …Nd4.

19. dxc6  bxc6  20. g4 Moving this pawn now is a blunder.

20. … Ne7  21. O-O  Ba6  22. b3  d5!! This shows Keres at his best as he drives Tal to battle in a defensive mode.

23. Qg5  Qf7  24. Bd3  dxc4! Forcing Tal to give up his defensive Bishop piece.

25. Bxc4  Bxc4  bxc4  Rf8!  27. Qxe5  Re6 28. Qh2  Re3  29. Ng3! Clever defense but Keres decides to simply keep the f-pawn in limbo and goes for the c-pawn.

29. … Qxc4  30. Ne4!! Hoping now for 30. …Rexf3  31. Rxf3 Rxf3  32. Qe5 with counterplay.  Keres continues to ignore the f3 pawn.

30. … Qd4! 31. Rad1! Rd3+  32. Nf2  Rfxf3  33. Rxd3  Rxd3  34. Qb8+ Kg7  35. Qc7  Qe3  36. Qb7 Kh6 37. Qb8  Rd2  38. Qb3  Nd5 39. g5+Kh5 ! 40. Qb7  Qg3+ 41. Kh1  Rxf2 42. Qxh7+ Kxg5 43. h4+

Regrettably 43. Rg1 Rh2 checkmate.

43. …Kf6  44. Qh8+ Kf7  45. Qh7+ Ke6  46. Re1+ Kd6  0-1.

This complex game shows the advice I gave earlier to “never give up the ship!” There is little doubt that players with less tenacious fortitude will enable you to achieve chances for success to either win or save a lost game.

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