Friday, January 22, 2016

Pestaño: 100th birth anniversary of Paul Keres

THE World Chess Federation has declared 2016 as the year of Paul Keres, the great Estonian grandmaster who would have turned 100 last Jan. 7.
Keres died in 1975 at the age of 59 from a heart attack. He was given a state funeral and more than 100,000 were in attendance.
He has long been considered a national hero and was even voted Estonia’s Sportsman of the 20th Century. Though long considered one of the world’s strongest players, Keres never became a world champion.
Born in the city of Narva, Estonia (then a part of the Russian Empire), Keres was introduced to chess by his father and his older brother, Harald, and had a natural affinity for the game of strategy almost from the start. Keres became a three-time Estonian schoolboy champion, in 1930, 1932, and 1933.
Keres narrowly missed a chance at a world championship match on five occasions. He won the 1938 AVRO tournament, which led to negotiations for a title match against champion Alexander Alekhine, but the match never took place due to World War II. After the war, Keres was runner-up in the Candidate’s Tournament on four consecutive occasions.
Due to these and other strong results, many chess historians consider Keres the strongest player never to become world champion. He was nicknamed “Paul the Second”, “The Eternal Second” and “The Crown Prince of Chess.”
He was one of the very few players who had a plus record against Capablanca. He also had plus records against World Champions Euwe and Tal, and equal records against Smyslov, Petrosian and Anatoly Karpov. In his long career, he played no fewer than 10 world champions. He beat every world champion from Capablanca through Bobby Fischer (his two games with Karpov were drawn), making him the only player ever to beat nine undisputed world champions.
He wrote a number of chess books, including a well-regarded, deeply annotated collection of his best games, “Grandmaster of Chess”, “The Art of the Middle Game,” and “Practical Chess Endings.” All three books are still considered among the best of their kind for aspiring masters and experts. He also wrote several tournament books, including an important account of the 1948 World Championship Match Tournament.
He is the only chess player in the world whose portrait has been on a banknote. Also, on the occasion of his 100th birthday the Bank of Estonia issued a 2-Euro-coin showing the image of the Estonian grandmaster. A stamp has also been issued.
Several Estonian cities have streets named after him. There are monuments to Keres in Pärnu and Tallinn, and in 2016, a monument will be built in his birthplace Narva. Many books have been written about his life and games, there are also several plays and movies about Keres.
There is a Paul Keres Memorial Tournament played in his honor and usually takes place in Vancouver, Canada and Tallinn, Estonia.
An annual international chess tournament has been held in Tallinn every other year since 1969. Keres won this tournament in 1971 and 1975. Starting in 1977 after Keres’ death, it has been called the Paul Keres Memorial Tournament. From 1991, the tournament has been held yearly and has changed into a rapid event. From 1999, this tournament also had a women’s section.
In the past twenty years, apart from this rapid tournament, several other memorial tournaments have been played in honour of Keres.
In 1975, Keres won a tournament in Vancouver. It was his last tournament he would ever play in, as on his way back to his native Estonia, he died from a heart attack. There has been an annual memorial tournament in Vancouver ever since.

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