Paul Keres, the Estonian grandmaster and many times world championship contender, was born a hundred years ago this month. His record against world champions was very impressive: he defeated all nine in sequence from Capablanca to Bobby Fischer. Keres was probably the strongest player, pace Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein and Korchnoi, never to have won the world title.
The hallmark of a Keres win was a flowing initiative, often directed towards the opposing king, frequently converted into victory by a shattering sacrifice. Here he is at his best.
Keres-Spassky; Riga 1965
18 d5! Despite the two pawn deficit, Keres has a huge initiative against Spassky’s disorganised and undeveloped position. 18 … Kf7 19 e4 c5 20 Bb2 f4 Black is desperately attempting to keep the position closed but White’s attack is too strong. 21 e5 Nh5 22 Kg1 g6 23 Rg4 Rd8 This is hopeless, but so is 23 … Na6 24 dxe6+ dxe6 25 Rd1. 24 Bd3 Rg8 25 Rf2 Black resigns To add to his woes Black now also has to deal with Bf1 trapping the queen.
Benko-Keres; Los Angeles 1963 (see diagram 2)
18 … Rxe3 This is an excellent sacrifice of the exchange which utterly wrecks White’s structure and leaves him struggling to maintain equality. 19 fxe3 Qe8 20 Qc2 Qxe3+ 21 Kh1 Ne5 22 Rf1 Re8 23 Rf4 f6 24 Qe4 A blunder after which Black is winning. 24 Kg2 left Black only slightly better. 24 … Ng6 25 Qxe3 Rxe3 26 Rxd7 Nxf4 27 gxf4 Rxe2 28 Rxa7 Rf2 29 Rb7 Rxf4 30 Rxb6 Rxc4 31 Rb3 Kf7 32 Kg2 g5 33 Kf3 Ke6 34 Ra3 h5 35 Ke2 Rh4 36 Ra6+ Ke5 37 a4 c4 38 Rc6 Rxh2+ 39 Ke3 Rh3+ 40 Kd2 Rd3+ 41 Kc2 h4 42 Rxc4 Rd8 White resigns
Korchnoi-Keres; Tallinn 1965
24 … Rxb2! Another excellent sacrifice which generates a powerful attack. 25 Kxb2 Qxa3+ 26 Kb1 Bg7 27 Ne5 The only chance was 27 Re3 Qb4+ 28 Kc1 d4 29 Ne5 Bxe5 30 fxe5 dxe3 31 Qxe3 and White has counterchances. 27 … Kc7 28 Nb5+ axb5 29 c3 Bxe5 30 fxe5 Rxg3 31 Rh3 Rg5 32 Rhe3 Nc5 33 Rf3 Be8 34 Qa2 Qxa2+ 35 Kxa2 Rxh5 36 Ka3 Ne4 37 Rf8 Bd7 38 Kb4 Rxe5 39 Ra1 Rf5 40 Rh8 Rf2 White resigns