A ballet created in honour of Estonian chess grandmaster Paul Keres
BY SILVER TAMBUR IN CULTURE · MARCH 5, 2018
A new ballet, created in honour of the chess grandmaster, Paul Keres, once the most famous Estonian in the world, will premiere in September at the Estonian National Opera.
Once upon a time, Paul Keres (1916-1975) was the most distinguished Estonian around the globe – his fame in the chess circles was comparable to the respect Arvo Pärt commands today in the classical music world. Keres was among the world’s top chess players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, he was caught up in the history’s tragic twists and turns – as happened to many Estonians of his time.
Keres narrowly missed the 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 a runner-up in the Candidates’ Tournament on four consecutive occasions – but by this time, the Soviet authorities curbed his chances.
Due to these and other strong results, many chess historians consider Keres one of the greatest players in history, and the strongest player never to become world champion. He was even nicknamed “Paul the Second”, “The Eternal Second” and “The Crown Prince of Chess”. Indeed, along with Viktor Korchnoi and Alexander Beliavsky, Keres defeated nine undisputed world champions – more than anyone else in history.
The Estonian nation held such respect for Keres that after he died of heart attack at the age of 59, over 100,000 people lined up the streets at his state funeral in Tallinn.