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Friday, August 10, 2018

Knight Moves Galore By Keres

     In the late 1930s when the below game was played Erich Eliskases (February 15, 1913 – February 2, 1997) was considered a potential contender for the World Championship. Eliskases was born in Innsbruck, Austria and during his career represented Austria, Germany and Argentina in Olympiads. He was stuck in South America after the Buenos Aires Olympiad because of the outbreak of the Second World War and eventually became a naturalized Argentine citizen.
     Like his opponent in this game, Eliskases got his start in postal chess which he began playing in 1928 and he was remarkably successful. His first major OTB success came in 1932 when he defeated Rudolf Spielmann in a match by a score of +3 -2 =5. Spielmann claimed his defeat was the result of his underestimating his young opponent. Two additional matches followed: in 1936 Eliskases won by a score of +2 -1 =7 and in 1937, he won again, scoring +2 -0 =8. Thus, with a score of +7 -3 =20 there was no doubt as to who the best Austrian player was.
     In the thirties, he played in many strong tournaments and at Semmering/Baden 1937, he had the personal satisfaction of not only having defeated the final winner, the then 21-year-old Paul Keres, but also having outplayed former world champion Jose Capablanca in the Cuban's own field of excellence, the endgame. 
     About 1938 and 1939, he apparently realized that his style was too cautious and he successfully tried a more aggressive approach, achieving his biggest success at Noordwijk in 1938 by taking first prize, ahead of Paul Keres and Max Euwe. Then followed an incredible run of successes, winning six strong tournaments: 

1938: German Championship and Krefeld 
1939: Bad Oeynhausen, Bad Elster, Bad Harzburg and Vienna 
         He also defeated Bogoljubow in a match +6 -3 =11 

     Eliskases served as Alekhine's second and Alekhine himself favored a match between the two of them, but it never materialized. His tournament success, mostly in South American events, continued after World War II. 
     The 20-year-old Estonian star Paul Keres dazzled the 1930s chess world with a series of spectacular games and he and burst onto the international scene at the 1935 Olympiad. In the next two years he developed into a super-tournament winner and strong contender for the World Championship title. At the double round Semmering/Baden tournament in 1937, Keres was the surprise winner, losing but two games; to Reshevsky and Eliskases. Fine was undefeated but scored only two wins (Ragozin and Petrov). 

1) Paul Keres 9.0-5.0 
2) Reuben Fine 8.0-6.0 
3-4) Jose Capablanca and Samuel Reshevsky 7.5-6.5 
5) Salo Flohr 7.0-7.0 
6-7) Erich Eliskases and Vyacheslav Ragozin 6.0-8.0 
8) Vladimirs Petrov 5.0-9.0 

     One interesting feature of below game is that Keres moved the same Knight eight times in the first 15 moves! Purdy commented that it must be a world record for the winner in a serious game. Anyone could move a Knight eigth times and lose! In The World's Greatest Chess Games, Reuben Fine had high praise for Keres' opening play. So, because of Purdy's mention of it in a game in which he played several N moves in the opening and Fine's praise, I thought I was going to see something really, really brilliant. I wasn't disappointed. The game was a slugfest. Keres was playing to complicate the position as much as possible right from the beginning and he succeeded. That notwithstanding, Eliskases' defense was excellent, a fact that nobody seems to have mentioned. Is that because Keres was one of the greatest players in history and had a long career while Eliskases pretty much faded into oblivion? 
     It wasn't until his 26th move that Eliskases finally slipped off the tightrope he had been walking, but that's often the fate of the defender when he's been defending for a long time. A great game by both players! 

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