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Three Deserving to be Chess World Champions

Updated on November 20, 2011

Before the foundation of the Federation Internationale des Eches, FIDE or the World Chess Federation, the chess champion picked his opponent. Sometimes the challenger would not be the best chess player, but the individual who could raise the most money. There were several skilled players that may have been chess champion if given the opportunity. Three of these are Akiba Rubinstien, Reuben Fine and Paul Keres. 

Akiba Rubinstien

Akiba Rubinstien, a Pole 1882 – 1961, was a strong player during the early 1900s. He won several tournaments and considered a contender to play Emanuel Lasker for the world chess championship. Rubinstien wasn’t able to raise the money that Lasker demanded for a championship match.

He was a complete player; good in the opening, middle and ending game of chess. He was one of the first players to play the opening for the end game it produced. Opponents considered him the best endgame player of his time. He almost starved to death during WWI and became schizophrenic. After the war Rubinstien had good results in some tournaments and played some brilliant games. These were fewer and more erratic than when he was in his prime. His best games are beautiful, and worth studying and appreciating by the modern player.

Reuben Fine

In the 1930s and 1940s the American, Reuben Fine, 1914 – 1993, was one of the strongest chess players in the world. He authored chess books that are popular today. Ideas Behind the Chess Openings, The Middle Game in Chess, and Basic Chess Endings are theory books that are still used today. Basic Chess Endings was one of the first to look at chess endings in a detailed and organized manner, and is still important today and consulted for endgame guidance.

In 1938 FIDE scheduled a double round robin tournament for the winner to play Alexander Alekine for the world championship. Fine was equal winner with the Estonian, Paul Keres. FIDE postponed the championship match during WWII and Alekine died in 1946. Fine and Keres finished ahead of former world champions Max Euwe, Jose Capablanca and current world champion Alekine and future champion Mikhail Botvinnik. The tournament was played in Holland and sponsored by the AVRO radio station.

FIDE invited Fine to play in the 1953 Zurich, Switzerland tournament to name a new world champion, but declined to play. The official reason he gave was that he was working on his doctorate in psychology. He told friends he didn’t want to spend a lot of time to prepare for a tournament that might not take place. He also said the Russians would draw with each other to insure that a Russian would win.

Paul Keres

Paul Keres’s early style was aggressive attacking games, but he developed into a good strategic and positional player later. He was well liked, and friends said, a nice man. Something not always found in a chess player of his caliber. Some felt he lacked the killer instinct required to win the championship. However, he won several tournaments, and chess Olympics.

He tied with Fine for first place in the 1938 AVRO tournament to pick a challenger for Alekine. After the war, he played in the 1948 Zurich Tournament. It wasn’t his best result and tied for third. Some feel this was the strongest tournament of the twentieth century, and the book is considered one of the best game collections. Some feel during Soviet era chess, Russians were encouraged to draw games with each other, and play to defeat others. This allowed Russians a better chance to finish at the top of the tournaments. Some feel Keres was a victim of this strategy to allow a proper Russian to win.

Keres published several book collections of his games, and theory on play. They are well annotated, insightful and worthy of study.

These three players produced brilliant and entertaining games among the best ever played. As such, these games are worthy of replaying and studying for the gems of insight and bits of knowledge that might be taken from them.

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