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     Volume 4 Issue 69 | October 28, 2005 |

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Time Out

The Great Estonian

If Akiba Rubenstein is considered the strongest player never to have won the world championship, it would perhaps not please the fans of Paul Keres, the Estonian grandmaster. Rubenstein was unlucky because the First World War stood between him and the world title. And Keres was a victim of the Second World War. But the similarities between the two great players end there.

Rubenstein was more or less a victim of circumstances, but many believe that Keres was prevented by the Soviet chess authorities from winning the title for basically two reasons. First, he was an Estonian which constituted a disadvantage in the former Soviet Union. Second, the Soviet authorities were not happy that he had some sort of connection with wartime Germany (he played in a small tournament there). So he was not the 'official choice' for winning the world title. And allegation is there that Keres was forced to lose all the games that he played against Botvinnik in the 1948 world championship tournament among the super masters. If that were true, then it was one of the worst crimes in chess history. Keres himself was a candidate for the title and it must have been extremely painful for him to lose the games to his main rival. Many years later, Victor Korchnoi also complained that the Soviet authorities were biased and they wanted Karpov to become the challenger in 1974.

In fact Soviet chess had always an aura of mystery about it. The Soviet players dominated the chess world for nearly 70 years (except for a brief period when Bobby Fischer held the world championship). But very few of them played in tournaments outside the Soviet Union. The chess players enjoyed a highly respectable position within their country, but the Soviet authorities were rather reluctant to allow them to play in tournaments abroad. But when the monolith finally collapsed in 1991, many players decided to move to the western countries. It was a swing in the opposite direction!

Paul Keres didn't win the world title, but his playing ability was duly acknowledged by experts all over the world. Here is a game played by the great Estonian.

White-Paul Keres
Black-Karel Opocensky [E60]
Parnu, 1937
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c5 4.d5 b5 5.cxb5 d6 6.Bg2 Bg7 7.Nc3 00 8.Nf3 a6 9.bxa6 Nxa6 10.00 Qb6 11.Nd2 Nc7 12.b3 Ba6 13.Bb2 Rfb8 14.Qc2 Qb4 15.Rab1 Nb5 16.Nxb5 Bxb5 17.a3 Qg4 18.Rfe1 Qh5 19.h3 Bd7 20.g4 Qg5 21.Nf3 Qxd5 22.Ne5 Qe6 23.Nxd7 Qxd7 24.Bxa8 Rxa8 25.Qd3 d5 26.Red1 d4 27.Rbc1 Rc8 28.b4 h5 29.Rxc5 e5 30.Rxe5 Nxg4 31.Re4 Ne5 32.Rxd4 Qe8 33.Qe3 Kh7 34.Rd5 1-0

Position after 22.Ne5!


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