Paul Keres is the only chess player to have appeared on the euro currency, his face adorning the two-euro piece in Estonia, where he remains a national hero. Keres has a powerful claim to be regarded as the strongest player never to have won the World Championship. His scalps included Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Fischer.
This week’s game, with notes based on those by Zenon Franco in Keres: Move by Move (Everyman Chess) is a crushing victory against another grandmaster who also has claims to be seen as the strongest ever non-world champion.
Korchnoi-Keres: Tallinn 1965; Torre Attack
1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bg5 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 e4 b6 6 a3 The idea of this is to be able to play Nc3 without fearing … Bb4, and then castle queenside. 6 … Bb7 7 Nc3 d6 8 Qd2 Nd7 9 0-0-0 g5 (diagram 1) This caused some astonishment at the time, although with the passing of the years this idea no longer comes as a surprise in such positions. It prepares … Bg7, but White must also must be on his guard against the … g4 thrust. 10 Nb5 Kd8 Giving up the right to castle and thus quickly coordinate his pieces, but it is almost forced and is not easy for White to exploit it. 11 h4 g4 12 e5 Seeking to open lines to try to exploit the situation of the black king. 12 … Qg7 13 Ne1 a6 14 Nc3 d5 15 f4 f5 16 exf6 This opens the position for Black’s bishops, but also exposes Black’s weaknesses on e6, e5, etc. 16 … Qxf6 17 h5 c5 18 dxc5 bxc5 19 g3 Bc6 20 Rh4 Rg8 21 Nd3 Rb8 White wants to capture the g4-pawn and Black is preparing his counterplay against the white king. 22 Nf2 c4 23 Nxg4 Qe7 The threat is to win immediately with 24 … Qxa3! 24 Re1 (diagram 2) 24 … Rxb2 A good decision; objectively it is not winning, but White has to defend very well, and that is not a simple task. 25 Kxb2 Qxa3+ 26 Kb1 Bg7 27 Ne5 Closing the long diagonal is not sufficient. It was essential to play 27 Re3! and although this looks bad and Black has several attractive possibilities, there does not appear to be anything decisive: for instance, after 27 … d4 28 Nb5 Qc5 White seems to hold miraculously with 29 Qa5+! Ke7 30 Na7!! Rb8+ 31 Kc1 Qxa7 32 Qa3+ Nc5 33 Re5! Bxe5 34 Nxe5. 27 … Kc7 With his previous move Black also made way for his rook to transfer to the queenside. 28 Nb5+ This closes the b-file, but Black is now only the exchange down and the attack is still raging; now the a-file is opened up. 28 … axb5 29 c3 Bxe5 30 fxe5 Rxg3 31 Rh3 Rg5 32 Rhe3 Nc5 33 Rf3 Be8 Controlling f7. Black has no need to hurry, although here he could have played 33 … Na4, since 34 Rf7+? Kb8 35 Re3 loses to, amongst other things, 35 … d4 36 cxd4 Be4+. 34 Qa2 Qxa2+ 35 Kxa2 Rxh5 36 Ka3 Ne4 37 Rf8 Bd7 38 Kb4 Rxe5 39 Ra1 Rf5 40 Rh8 The endgame after 40 Rxf5 exf5 41 Bg2 h5 would be sheer torture for White, but the move played loses more easily. 40 … Rf2 White resigns There is no defence against 41 … Rb2+: 41 Rb1 Ra2, or 41 Ra7+ Kb6 42 Rxd7 Rb2+ 43 Ka3 Rb3+ 44 Ka2 Nxc3+ and mate next move.
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