1/21/2016 – It’s been ten days since this rapid chess event ended. But the tournament had so many nice moments and games that we decided to have a look at them in a two-part retrospective report. In it you will find some beautiful games of the great Paul Keres, and some very instructive games from the Memorial tournament for you to enjoy. An excellent way to improve your chess.

A look back at the Keres Memorial – ACP Open 2016

The Keres Memorial – ACP Open, held from the 7th- 10th of January 2016, was won by Igor Kovalenko. We reported this on our newspage. However there were many interesting games and moments which led us to write this final report and also pay a tribute to the great Paul Keres, who would have completed 100 years on 7th January 2016, were he alive.

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Paul Keres was an Estonian grandmaster and the strongest player to have never played for the World Championship title. In fact after his first place in the 1938 AVRO tournament in Holland he was regarded as the natural successor to the reigning world champion Alexander Alekhine.

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Keres beat the greatest number of World Champions in his life – nine of them, right from Capablanca upto Fischer. Two grandmasters, Viktor Korchnoi and Alexander Beliavsky, came very close to him with wins against eight World Champions. In 2013, Magnus Carlsen won the highest title and Korchnoi and Beliavsky equaled Keres’ record.

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Paul Keres’ house in Tallinn. In fact there is a street in Nomme, a district of Tallinn,
which was named after Keres [picture by Ingrid Friedel]

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The commemorative plaque next to the entrance of the house [picture by Ingrid Friedel]

Haven’t we heard many a chess players say this line, “I would play the Sicilian Scheveningen if it were not for the Keres Attack!

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The move 6.g4! was first played by Paul Keres against Efim Bogoljubow in 1943. Nowadays most of the top players avoid playing the Scheveningen through the normal move order because of the Keres Attack. They prefer to transpose into the e6-d6 structure either through the Najdorf or the Classical.

Before we look some of the nice games and combinations from the Keres Memorial – ACP Open 2016, here are two snippets from the games of Keres which I liked very much.

Keres-Walther, 1964

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Assess the consequences of Nxg4. Take ten minutes on your clock, calculate as deeply
as you can and come to the conclusion whether White is winning or not after Nxg4.

Here is one endgame by Keres which is simply delightful:

Randviir-Keres, Parnu 1947

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It is Keres’ (Black’s) turn to move

The nice thing about pawn endings is that you calculate right to the very end and come to conclusion about the result. Here Keres found the only way to win. Can you do the same? Note: It’s quite a long line.

The Keres Memorial – ACP Open 2016 was held from the 7th to 10th of January 2016 in the conference hall of the Park Inn by Radisson Merton Conference and Spa Hotel, Talinn. The tournament was mainly organized by ESA Kalev, a sportsclub which Paul Keres always represented, in collaboration with Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) as part of the ACP Tour 2016. It was an eleven round Swiss tournament with a time control of 15 minutes for the entire game, with an increment of ten seconds per move. There were in all prizes worth €15,000, which included special prizes of €5,000 only for ACP Premium members. The tournament attracted a total of 178 players from 21 countries, and 36 of them were grandmasters. Some big names like Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand were seen in action at the event.

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The tournament was won by Igor Kovalenko, half a point ahead of others,
with 9.0/11 [picture by Vladimir Barsky]

No one doubted Kovalenko’s credentials as a brilliant rapid player. But to finish ahead of so many strong players was truly a fantastic achievement. Igor shot into limelight in 2015, when he won one tournament after another and crossed the 2700 Elo barrier by solely playing in open tournaments. In order to realize how strong he is at rapid chess you only need to see his game against Vladimir Kramnik from the World Rapid Championships in 2015. For making some of his moves the Latvian had only seconds on his clock, but that did not stop him from finding the best resources and coming out alive against the Big Vlad

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I am sure the snippet from the game Kovalenko-Kramnik was enough
to make you understand how strong Igor is as a rapid player

Kovalenko began the tournament with two wins but then lost the third game against Vladimir Sveshnikov on time. He fought back and was on 4.5/6. He then went on a rampage, scoring four wins on a trot against strong opponents like Volodin, Motylev, Duda and Svidler, before drawing his final game against Gelfand to win the title. While most of Kovalenko’s games were nicely played, he had his moment of champion’s luck in the penultimate round against Peter Svidler:

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Svidler (above left) lost two games, one against Kovalenko and the other against Kaido Kulaots. He finished with 8.0/11 and the seventh spot. Had he drawn the penultimate round game against Kovalenko, he would have had excellent chances of winning the event.

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David Howell finished second with 8.5/11 and a hefty 35 point Elo increase

At the end of the second day and eight rounds David would have been the happiest man in the tournament. Not only was he solely leading the event with 7.0/8, but he had also played one the finest combinations of the event against Rinat Jumabayev. This combination went viral on the internet and its beauty was adored by many! Howell went on to lose his ninth round to Peter Svidler and drew his tenth against Boris Gelfand, before coming back strongly to win the last round against Emil Sutovsky. Here’s the David Howell special that will make it to many tactical books in the future:

David Howell-Rinat Jumbayev, Round 8

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It’s time to bombard the enemy king with your pieces. How did David do that?

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