The Games of Paul Keres

The following notes are based on a lecture by NM Scott Massey delivered at the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday, October 26, 2006. Scott presented on the life and games of Keres, with special attention to how he was denied the title shot that most people agree he deserved. Ultimately, though, his games tell the story of what a great player he was.

Reuben Fine - Paul Keres [C86]

AVRO/Amsterdam (7) 1938


"This is probably the most important game of his career. Played at AVRO as a double round robin, the winner of the event would be the official challenger for the World Championship. After six rounds, Reuben Fine had 5.5/6 and was playing tremendously well. Keres was 4/6 and needed a win to stop Fine." The win in this game gave Keres the decisive tie breaker, but the coming War and the Soviet support for Botvinnik would prevent him from capitalizing on his tournament victory to seek the World Championship.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Qe2!?

Not the sandard line and likely a special preparation on Fine's part.

6. Re1

6... b5 7. Bb3 d6

In his notes, Keres suggests that Fine may have hoped to see the gambit continuation 7... O-O 8. c3 d5!? which one might expect from a player who had to win as Black. But Keres's strategy was to achive a middlegame "rich in fighting possibilities" rather than trying to gain surprise out of the opening.

8. a4 Bg4!

Before this game, the book move was 8... Rb8 9. axb5 axb5 10. c3 O-O 11. d4

9. c3

To stop Nd4.

9. axb5 Nd4!

9... O-O! 10. axb5 axb5 11. Rxa8 Qxa8 12. Qxb5

White has just won a pawn: who is better now? Black has open files and excellent pieces. He can also ruin White's kingside with 12... Bxf3. Steve Stoyko pointed out that you do not have to take the Knight now -- you can wait in this specific case and thus increase your options. So, for instance, Black can play 12...Rb8 and the Queen cannot return to defend the Knight due to the Bishop hanging at b3.

12... Na7!

12... Bxf3 13. gxf3

12... Nxe4?? 13. Bd5

12... Na5 13. Bc2 Nxe4? (13... Rb8) 14. Bxe4 Qxe4 15. Qxa5 Bxf3 16. gxf3 Qg6+ 17. Kh1 Qxb1 18. Qxc7 Qd3

13. Qe2 Qxe4 14. Qxe4 Nxe4 15. d4 Bxf3 16. gxf3 Ng5 17. Kg2!?

17. Bxg5 Bxg5 and Black's Bishop is too strong.

17... Rb8

17... Nc6? 18. d5 Na5 19. Bc2 with the threat of h4 winning a piece.

18. Bc4 exd4 19. cxd4 Ne6! 20. d5 Nc5 21. Nc3 Nc8 22. Re1

22. Ne4 Rb4 23. Nxc5 Rxc4

22... Kf8 23. Re2 f5

Not the strongest move.

23... Rb4! 24. Bb5 (24. Ba2 Nd3) 24... Na7 25. Bc6 Nxc6 26. dxc6 Rc4 and Black will win the c-pawn.

24. Nb5 Nb6 25. b3 Nxd5! 26. Nd4 Nb4

26... Nf6?? 27. Rxe7 Kxe7 28. Nc6+ Ke8 29. Nxb8

27. Bd2

27. Nxf5 Bf6 28. Bf4 Ncd3 Keres

27... d5

27... Bf6 28. Nxf5 Ncd3

28. Bxb4

28. Rxe7 Kxe7 (28... dxc4!) 29. Bxb4 Rxb4 30. Nc6+ Kd6 31. Nxb4 dxc4 32. bxc4 Nd7 "and it is won for Black without much trouble" says Keres, due to his better pawns and more active King.

28... Rxb4 29. Nc6 dxc4 30. Nxb4 cxb3

"This concludes the first part of Black's combination. The two passed pawns on the Queen's wing now give him excellent winning chances" writes Keres.

31. Nd5

31. Rb2! Kf7! (31... Bf6 32. Rb1 b2 33. Nd5!) 32. Kf1 Ke6 33. Ke2 Bf6 34. Rb1 b2 Keres

31... Nd3 32. Rd2 b2 33. Rd1 c5

33... Nc1! 34. Nc3 Bb4 35. Nb1 c5

34. Rb1 c4 35. Kf1 Bc5! 36. Ke2 Bxf2 37. Ne3 c3 38. Nc2

38. Kxd3 Bxe3 39. Kxc3 Bc1

38... Ne1 39. Na3?!

The next few moves were affected by the need to make time control in extreme time pressure for both players.

39. Nb4

39... Bc5?!

39... Bh4! 40. Rxe1 Bxe1 41. Kxe1 c2 Keres

40. Kxe1?

White would have serious drawing chances after instead 40. Rxe1 Bxa3 41. Kd3 Bb4 42. Kc2 Kf7 43. Re5 Kf6 44. Rb5 Bd6 45. Rb6=

40... Bxa3 41. Kd1 Bd6 42. Kc2

42. h3 Bf4 43. Kc2 Bc1

42... Bxh2 43. Rh1 Be5 44. Rxh7 Kf7 45. Rh1 g5 46. Re1 Kf6 47. Rg1 Kg6 48. Re1 Bf6 49. Rg1 g4! 50. fxg4










50... f4! 51. g5 Bd4 52. Rd1 Be3 53. Kxc3 Bc1 54. Rd6+ Kxg5 55. Rb6 f3 56. Kd3 Kf4 57. Rb8 Kg3 0-1


Max Euwe - Paul Keres [E19]

Match/Netherlands (9) 1939


The following game might be "Keres's Immortal," it so much resembles the wonderful game Rotlewi-Rubinstein, Lodz 1907.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3

Euwe avoids the Nimzo-Indian, against which he had lost an earlier game of the match: 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 Nc6 7. e3 Re8 8. Bd3 e5 9. d5 e4! 10. dxc6 exd3 11. Qxd3 dxc6 12. Qxd8 Bxc3+ 13. Qd2?! (White avoids the structural weakness of doubled pawns at the cost of giving Black a strong initiative and rapid development. Best was 13. bxc3 Rxd8 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Ne2=) 13... Bxd2+ 14. Kxd2 Ne4+ 15. Ke2 Be6 16. Rc1 g5 17. Bg3 Rad8 18. Nf3 c5!? 19. Rhd1 (19. Bxc7 Rd7 20. Ba5 b6 21. Be1 Red8) 19... Rxd1 20. Kxd1 g4 21. Ng1 Rd8+ 22. Ke1 Rd2 23. f3 Rxg2 24. fxe4 Rxg1+ 25. Kd2 Rxc1 26. Kxc1 Bxc4 Black has a winning material advantage which he converts easily. 27. b3 Bd3 28. Bxc7 h5 29. Kd2 Bb1 30. Kc3 h4 31. a4 Bxe4 32. Kc4 b6 33. a5 bxa5 34. Kxc5 Bc2 35. Kb5 Bxb3 36. Kxa5 Kg7 37. Ka6 Kg6 38. e4 g3 39. hxg3 h3 40. g4 Kg5 0-1 Euwe,M-Keres,P/Netherlands 1939 (40)

3... b6 4. g3 Bb7

The Queen's Indian strategy generally revolves around control of e4.

5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Nc3 Ne4 8. Qc2 Nxc3 9. Qxc3

9. Ng5? Nxe2+! (9... Bxg5?! 10. Bxb7 Nc6 11. Bxg5 Qxg5 12. Qxc3 (12. Bxa8? Nxd4!) 12... Rab8 13. Bxc6 dxc6=) 10. Qxe2 Bxg2 11. Qh5 Bxg5 12. Bxg5 f6 13. Kxg2 fxg5

9... d6

Keres thought much better were either 9... Be4

or 9... f5

10. Qc2 f5 11. Ne1

Insisting on playing e4.

Keres thought best was 11. d5! e5 12. e4 fxe4 13. Qxe4 Nd7 14. Qc2

11... Qc8 12. e4 Nd7 13. d5?

13. exf5! exf5 (13... Bxg2 14. Nxg2 Rxf5!? 15. d5!) 14. d5

13... fxe4 14. Qxe4 Nc5

now the game revolves around e6.

15. Qe2 Bf6 16. Bh3?!

16. dxe6 Bxg2 17. Nxg2 Nxe6 18. Be3 Keres

16... Re8! 17. Be3 Qd8 18. Bxc5 exd5! 19. Be6+?

19. Be3 d4 20. Bg2 Bxg2 (20... Qc8!? 21. Bd5+ Kh8 22. Nc2 dxe3 23. Nxe3 c6) 21. Nxg2 dxe3 22. Nxe3 Bd4 23. Rae1 Bxe3 24. fxe3 Re4 Keres

19... Kh8 20. Rd1

20. Ba3 Qe7

20... dxc5 21. Ng2 d4

21... Bd4!

22. f4?

22. Rfe1 Bc8 23. Qg4 Bxe6 24. Rxe6 Rxe6 25. Qxe6 Qe8 26. Qxe8+ Rxe8 27. Kf1 Keres, but the Knight is so much better than the Bishop that Black might not be able to convert.

22... d3! 23. Rxd3 Qxd3

23... Bd4+!? may also be sufficient, but the Queen sacrifice gives the game great charm.

24. Qxd3 Bd4+ 25. Rf2

25. Kh1 Rxe6 26. h4? Rae8 (26... Re3!)

25... Rxe6 26. Kf1 Rae8

These Rooks are deadly in combination with the Bishops, simply dominating every open line.

27. f5

27. Rd2 Be4 28. Qb3 Bf5 and Bh3

27... Re5 28. f6 gxf6 29. Rd2 Bc8!

If not one way then the other... The Bishops find open lines!

29... Be4?! 30. Qb3 Rf5+ (30... Bf5!) 31. Nf4

30. Nf4 Re3 31. Qb1 Rf3+ 32. Kg2

Diagram #

32... Rxf4!! 33. gxf4 Rg8+ 34. Kf3 Bg4+ 0-1


Paul Keres - Laszlo Szabo [A11]

Hastings (8) 1954


Keres played a very tactical and attacking style of chess. But unlike Tal, whose attacks were often speculative and unsound, he pursued attacks with careful logic. There is a coherent logic to his attacks and they are perfectly sound.

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. b3 Bg7 4. Bb2 O-O 5. g3 d6 6. d4 c5 7. Bg2 Ne4 8. O-O Nc6 9. Nbd2 Nxd2 10. Qxd2 Bg4 11. d5 Bxb2 12. Qxb2 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 Na5?

"Knights on the rim are grim."

13... Ne5

14. h4!

The logical way that Keres pursues his kingside attack make this a hallmark of his style.

14... b5 15. cxb5! Qb6 16. a4 a6 17. h5! axb5 18. hxg6 hxg6

18... fxg6 19. Bg4!

19. Kg2 f6 20. Rh1 Kg7 21. axb5 Qxb5 22. Qd2 g5 23. Qe3 Qd7










24. Bg4 Qc7

24... Qxg4 25. Qxe7+ Rf7 26. Rh7+ Kxh7 27. Qxf7+ Kh6 28. Rh1+ Qh4 29. gxh4

25. Bf5 Kf7

25... Rh8 26. Rxh8 Rxh8 (26... Kxh8 27. Rh1+ Kg7 28. Rh7+ Kf8 29. Qe6) 27. Rxa5! Qxa5 28. Qxe7+ Kh6 29. Qxf6+ Kh5 30. Qxh8#

26. Rh7+ Ke8 27. Rah1 Qb7 28. Rh8 1-0


Paul Keres - Efim Geller [D41]

Moscow 1962


This is the last game that appears in the wonderful little book, Grandmaster of Chess: The Complete Games of Paul Keres, by Paul Keres and translated by Harry Golombek (ARCO 1972). This book had appeared previously as a three-volume set, but somehow the little ARCO book seems much more wonderful--perfectly bound, nicely sized for handling, and just incredibly packed with great games and insight for such a small volume.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e3 Nc6 7. Bc4 Nxc3

Though this does reinforce White's central advantage, the classic IQP positions that follow 7... cxd4 8. exd4 Be7 are not easy for Black either, e.g.: 9. O-O O-O 10. Re1 b6? (10... a6) 11. Nxd5 exd5 12. Bb5 Bd7?! 13. Qa4 Nb8 14. Bf4 and Black was doomed to a passive defense in Botvinnik-Alekhine, AVRO 1938.

8. bxc3 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. e4 b6 11. Bb2!?

11. Bf4

11... Bb7 12. Qe2 Na5 13. Bd3 Rc8 14. Rad1 cxd4?!

This activates the dormant Bishop at b2.

14... Qc7 15. d5!? Keres 15... c4!?

15. cxd4 Bb4 16. d5!

16. Qe3 Bc3? 17. Ba3!

16... exd5

a) 16... Qe7?! 17. Nd4!

b) 16... Bc3 17. Ba3 Re8 18. Bb5?! Keres( 18. dxe6! Rxe6 19. Bc4) 18... exd5 19. Bxe8 Qxe8

17. exd5 Qe7 18. Ne5 f6 19. Qh5!

19. Bxh7+?! Kxh7 20. Qh5+ Kg8 21. Ng6 Qd7 Keres

19... g6 20. Nxg6 hxg6 21. Bxg6 Qg7

Keres writes: "Black's defence is exceedingly difficult. White has already two pawns for the sacrificed piece and in addition practically all of his pieces stand ready to atack the weakened enemy King. Even on general grounds it seems that Black can scarcely hope to emerge from his hopeless position safe and sound."

21... Ba6 22. Bf5! (22. d6!)

22. Rd3!

22. Bf5!? Rf7 23. Be6

22... Bd6 23. f4! Qh8

There is simply no satisfactory defense with Rg3 coming.

24. Qg4! Bc5+ 25. Kh1 Rc7?! 26. Bh7+ Kf7 27. Qe6+ Kg7 28. Rg3+ Kxh7 29. Qh3# 1-0

keres pgn

Games in PGN