Paul Keres Memorial 2000

By FM Jonathan Berry

Keres Memorial History

Vancouver 1975 was the name chosen for the first big class tournament in Canada. We figured that we would label the tournament the same way it would be in chess books. That has led to various chess authors inventing names for the event, such as Canadian Open, to the chagrin of those involved with the 1975 Canadian Open in Calgary.

Vancouver 1975 took place from May 17 to 25, ten rounds in nine days. Heading the five grandmasters was Paul Keres, frequently labeled the best player never to have won the World Championship. He was a contender from 1938 (when the tied for first in the AVRO tournament) to 1965 (when he lost a Candidates' match to Boris Spassky.

Keres had been retained by John Prentice, chess lover and Canada's FIDE representative, to give seminars to Canada's top players. That's what happened in Montreal and Toronto, but Vancouver already had a tournament lined up. Would he like to play? Against doctors' orders, Keres took part in Vancouver 1975. He placidly went through the event without apparent strain, racking up 8.5 points, 1.5 more than Elod Macskasy, John Watson, and GM Gyozo Forintos. Keres even made duplicate copies of his scoresheets, perhaps fearing for the permanence of the new-fangled no-carbon-required copies.

Browne, Walter S -- Keres, Paul

Vancouver 1975 (10) Vancouver, BC CAN
1975.05.25 0-1 C62

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 d6 5.c3 Be7 6.Nbd2 O-O 7.O-O Bd7 8. Re1 Re8 9.Nf1 Bf8 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 Be7 12.Ne3 Ng4 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 14.Nxg4 Bxb5 15.Nh4 Bd7 16.Re3 Kh7 17.Rg3 Ng8 18.Nf3 Bxg4 19.Rxg4 Nf6 20.Rh4 Kg8 21.Rh3 d5 22.Qe2 Qd7 23.Nh4 dxe4 24.dxe4 Rad8 25.Nf5 Qd2 26.Qf3 Re6 27.Rg3 g6 28.Rf1 Qf4 29.Rd1 Ree8 30.Ne7+ Kg7 31.Nd5 Qxf3 32.Rxf3 c6 33.Ne3 Rxd1+ 34.Nxd1 Rd8 35.Ne3 Nxe4 36.h3 Ng5 37.Rg3 f5 38.Nxf5+ gxf5 39.h4 f4 40.Rg4 Kg6 41.hxg5 hxg5 42.g3 Kf5 43.f3 Rd1+ 44.Kg2 0-1

Vancouver 1975, with its 320 entrants, is still the largest tournament ever held in Canada west of Toronto. The prize fund of $16,130 was the largest ever awarded in an open tournament anywhere. Thirty-six players took part in the Open section, but the class sections also provide a list of interesting names: future IM John Donaldson placed 5th in the Class A (1800-1999) section, future IM Eric Tangborn 4th in Class B. Future chess entrepreneurs Rainer Rickford and Mark Dutton took part, as did sports team owner Nelson Skalbania. The most prominent blast from the future missing from the tournament was Yasser Seirawan. I remember that Yasser and a buddy came to Vancouver, but that one of them wanted to enter a class section that I would not allow, and then neither of them played. How exactly did that go, Yaz?

Tragedy struck Keres on his way back to Estonia. In Helsinki, he had a heart attack and died. We now know that the enforced confinement of a long air journey can be a health risk, but the possibility remains that Keres' last chess tournament killed him.

In honour of the fallen giant, Vancouver has hosted the Keres Memorial every year since. The year 2000, being the 25th anniversary of Vancouver 1975, and also the 25th Keres Memorial, seemed an auspicious time to go back to the tournament's roots. Or at least it did to BCCF President and tournament organizer Toni Deline. The idea, or at least its timing and implementation, did not go down well with his BCCF colleagues.

The 2000 Paul Keres Memorial took place at Totem Park, UBC, site of original event (though the precise room where the Open took place has now been turned into a weight room), from May 13th to 22nd, at a rate of one game per day. Yours truly was the arbiter of the Open section (as I had been in 1975), assisted by Lynn Stringer (who had played in 1975).

Keres Memorial 2000 - Totem Park

To give potential entrants more flexibility, the 2000 Keres offered alternative schedules (a Weekend and an Accelerated schedule), as well as up to four half-point byes. When players could not fit in even then, we made up hybrid schedules. In addition to the regular 4 pm sessions, there were eight morning sessions, making 18 sessions in all, over 11 days.


One element absent from any previous Keres was the possibility of IM and GM norms. In 1975, Elod Macskasy scored 7/10, with wins against GM Browne, Pupols, Jim McCormick, Eugene Martinovsky, and Steve Shanks, draws against GM Keres, GM Bilek, GM Forintos, GM Suttles, and a loss against future-IM John Watson. But in those days, only the GMs had FIDE ratings. If you discount the win over Shanks, and take the current FIDE ratings (by no means their highest) for the other four players, Macskasy met a field with a 2405 average rating, and his 6 points out of 9 exceeded the IM norm by half a point. Norms are tough today, but back then were even tougher!

In the intervening years, the Keres has only once had the 9 rounds needed to provide norm opportunities.

With a star-studded lineup, I didn't feel that I needed to worry about strength-of-opposition at the beginning, but on the principle of strengthening opportunities, accelerated the pairings. This created a matchup against 10-time Oregon State Champion Clark Harmon for Donaldson, and it almost sunk his IM norm chances right there. Donaldson won the game, but Harmon's rating was only 2203.

The first bad news for norms was that IM Lawrence Day had gone to the Toronto airport, expecting to pick up his ticket, but it wasn't there. He described it as airport stalemate.

Next, GM Jaan Ehlvest discovered that something was amiss with his passport and that his departure was delayed for five days, and he therefore missed the tournament, though he did spectate and give a simul. It would have been interesting to stage a match between the three playing GMs, Epishin, Gligoric and Ivkov, and the three spectators Ehlvest, Seirawan and Suttles.

Then FM Aviv Friedman withdrew from the tournament with minus 1, without having played Donaldson. As a result, Donaldson could not make a conventional GM norm because the best field he could meet would have a rating of 2400, but norms don't kick in until the field averages 2401.

Email to a member of the FIDE Rules Commission revealed that using the new performance norm calculations, there is no minimum average required, so Donaldson was back in the game.

Meantime, Georgi Orlov also had a chance for a GM norm. Because of draws with mere mortals, he needed to score 2.5 out of 3 against the GMs. In Round 7 he met Epishin and, pressing hard, saw his advanced pawn gobbled up by Epishin's exposed, er, active king. So that put an end to Georgi's GM ambitions.

Orlov, Georgi -- Epishin, Vladimir

25th Paul Keres Memorial (7) Vancovuer, BC CAN
2000.05.19 0-1 D97

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 d5 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 O-O 7.e4 Na6 8.Be2 c5 9.d5 e6 10.O-O exd5 11.exd5 Re8 12.Bf4 Bf5 13.Rad1 Qb6 14.b3 Rad8 15.Be5 Ne4 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Nh4 Nd6 18.Nxf5+ Nxf5 19.Nb5 Nb8 20.Bg4 a6 21. Bxf5 axb5 22.Qc3+ Qf6 23.Qxf6+ Kxf6 24.Bd3 b4 25.Bb5 Re5 26.Bc4 Nd7 27.f4 Re4 28.d6 Nb6 29.Bd5 Nxd5 30.Rxd5 b6 31.f5 g5 32.Rfd1 Rf4 33.Rf1 Rd4 34. Rd1 Rxd1+ 35.Rxd1 Kxf5 36.Rd5+ Ke6 37.Rxg5 Rxd6 38.Rh5 Rd2 39.Rh6+ f6 40. Rxh7 Rxa2 41.Rb7 Rb2 42.Rxb6+ Kd5 43.h4 Rxb3 44.h5 c4 45.Rxf6 c3 46.Rf5+ Ke4 47.Rc5 Kd4 48.Rc7 Rb1+ 49.Kh2 b3 50.h6 Ra1 51.Rd7+ Ke5 0-1

Donaldson drew with the GMs and with IM colleague Orlov, so he needed to beat everyone else. Wins over Vetemaa and Yoos left him with White against Herder. Spurning a simplified position with good knight versus bad bishop, Donaldson allowed a straightforward temporary exchange sacrifice which allowed Herder to win an important kingside pawn.

Donaldson, John -- Herder, Dave

25th Paul Keres Memorial (9) Vancouver, BC CAN
2000.05.21 1/2-1/2 A90

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 d5 5.O-O Bd6 6.c4 c6 7.b3 Qe7 8.a4 a5 9.Ba3 b6 10.Qc1 Bb7 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Nbd2 Nbd7 13.Qb2 O-O 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Rfd1 f4 16.Ne5 fxg3 17.hxg3 Qe7 18.Nd3 Ng4 19.Nf3 Ba6 20.Qd2 h6 21.Bh3 Ndf6 22.Nf4 Ne4 23.Qe1 Rxf4 24.gxf4 Ngxf2 25.Bg2 1/2-1/2

Let's take a break while Herder considers Donaldson's draw offer. For a normal Swiss tournament, I have developed software which prints crosstables and follows progress towards title norms. However, no computer program can pair three overlapping schedules and 18 playing sessions. So I did everything with old-fashioned pairing cards and wall-pairing boards (originated in Montreal decades ago). Incidentally, at Saint John 1988, we used the same equipment to run the 100+ player qualifiers for the World Blitz Chess Championship. The event was a double-round Swiss, and we averaged 29 minutes per round. That's only 9 minutes per round overhead to do the pairings (we didn't need to worry about colours), allow the players to find each other, set up clocks, pieces, report their results. Manual methods can be efficient. Part of our system was to have one director pair down from the top, the other to pair up from the bottom.

Anyway, not using the computer for pairings, my only way to figure out norm chances was to do it by hand. Midway through, I noticed that Kari Heinola, the visiting Finn, was doing well, so I calculated his norm chances, and he was way off the pace required. So I decided not to do any more calculations until somebody started making an inroad against the titled players.

As it turned out, Herder, with a modest FIDE rating of 2263, could have made an IM norm by defeating Donaldson and then defeating Epishin in the last round. You wouldn't want to bet a lot of money on anybody in this tournament beating Epishin, even with White, but he would have had the free chance. A win would also have looked pretty good to win the under-2300 prize, but Herder wasn't thinking of either of those things. He was a bit short of time and accepted the draw offer.

Surprise Juniors

It is possible to run a completely open norm tournament, but the pairings can become difficult. We set a lower limit of 2100 on the lower section, with allowances for juniors--they could have lower ratings than the others, no, we didn't give them a dime per week.

Two juniors proved to be troublesome. Kaleim Nathani at one point had a rating which, with the allowance, would let him play in the Open, but his rating had since gone down. At first I put him in the Under-2000, but when he insisted on playing in the Open, I rethought it and let him in. After all, how was he to know that his rating would go down after he entered. Kaleim looked like the tournament patsy in the first weekend, but he came back in the second weekend to win four games in a row and finished on 50%. Not bad for a player 50 points lower than everybody, and 700 points lower than the top guy.

Mike Stanford was rated over 2000, but not high enough for the Open. Before the tournament, he bugged me frequently by email to let him in, but I stood firm. I offered to let him in if he had a performance rating in a weekend tournament in the right range. Finally he showed up at the door, hoping to play in the Open section. As it turned out, the under-2300 section had to be cancelled, as everybody who was eligible for it, including those below 2100, wanted to play in the Open anyway. After Mike won his first two games against experienced Masters, I fed him to GM Epishin, but he drew the game!

Stanford, Mike -- Epishin, Vladimir

25th Paul Keres Memorial (3) Vancouver, BC CAN
2000.05.15 1/2-1/2 B73

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be2 g6 7.O-O Bg7 8.Be3 O-O 9.Qd2 a6 10.a4 Qc7 11.Rad1 Rb8 12.f3 Bd7 13.Nb3 Rfc8 14.f4 Be8 15.g4 Nb4 16.f5 Nd7 17.Nd4 Ne5 18.Bg5 d5 19.exd5 Rd8 20.Bh6 Bh8 21.fxg6 Nxg6 22.Bf3 e6 23.Be4 Bc6 24.Nxc6 Nxc6 25.d6 Qb6+ 26.Be3 Qxb2 27.Qf2 Rf8 28.Ne2 Qb4 29.Bxc6 bxc6 30.Bc5 Qxg4+ 31.Kh1 Qe4+ 32.Kg1 Qg4+ 33.Kh1 Qe4+ 34.Kg1 Qg4+ 1/2-1/2

Epishin preferred perpetual check to the uncertainties of taking the brunt of the attack. Mike met enough FIDE-rated opponents to get a rating at one go, and it should be 2272. He also split the under-2300 and Dark Horse prizes.

Dark Horse prize? That was an invention of Toni Deline. It went to the highest-scoring player in the bottom half of the pairing table of each group. Like class prizes, it is arbitrary, because a player with x-2 rating might be eligible, but rating x might not. However, it does have the advantage of discouraging "professional" players with ratings ending in 99


Lots of interesting games were played in the tournament. Here is one that wasn't:

Epishin, Vladimir -- Berry, Jonathan

Vancouver 1-hour clock simul, 8 boards Vancouver, BC CAN
2000.05.21 1-0 D01


This was one of eight games played simultaneously by Epishin with clocks at an hour per side.
1...Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5
Watch out! Veresov's Attack.
I just made this up.
4.Bxf6 exf6 5.Qd2 c6 6.O-O-O Nd7 7.h3 Be6
The first of many retreats, and always the same idea.
( 7...Bh5 8.f4 f5 could lead to craziness. )
8.e4 Bb4 9.exd5 cxd5
I felt reasonably happy with the open c-file.
10.Bd3 O-O 11.Nge2 Rc8 12.a3 Bd6
The a3-pawn is a target.
13.f4 Nb6
( I had intended 13...f5 but then 14.g4 is strong. )
14.f5 Bd7 15.g4 Re8 16.Kb1 a6 17.h4
Going for the gusto. Another approach is
( 17.Rhe1 )
17...Nc4 18.Bxc4 dxc4 19.Nf4 b5 20.d5 b4
( I had intended to reply 20...a5 and joked to myself that White could play Ne6. However, I soon realized that was no joke, and resolved to clear the wood off the d-file as soon as possible. In retrospect, Ne6 isn't quite that scary. )
21.axb4 Bxb4 22.g5
This struck me as wildly optimistic.
22...Bxf5 23.d6 fxg5
An easy mov e to criticize, as Black gets mated along the open h-file. I wanted to avoid variations with Nd5 and g5xf6.
24.hxg5 Rb8
I was happy. Black has an extra pawn, threats against the king, eighteen minutes on the clock, and his own king is perfectly safe. Isn't it?

BR BQ BR :: BK ::
:: :: :: BP BP BP
BP :: WP :: ::
:: :: :: BB WP
BB BP :: WN ::
:: WN :: ::
WP WP WQ :: ::
:: WK :: WR :: :: WR

Fabulous. No matter how Black captures, he is subject to an attack, either along the h-file or the a2-g8 diagonal.
25...hxg6 26.Qh2 f6 27.d7 Rf8
27...Re5 might be OK, but Black cannot go elsewhere because of a discovered attack by the knight followed by Qh2xb8
28.Na4! Qc7
( I rejected 28...Qa5 because of 29.Rd5 Qxa4 30.Rxf5 but I did not have time to calculate deeply. In the calm of home analysis, Black's king escapes. )
29.Rd5 Be4 30.Rd4!
Around here, Epishin had finished his other games, and sat down in a chair. It was one-on-one, with the GM having 32 minutes left, me 4 minutes.
30...Bxh1 31.Qxh1 Qa5?
After this move, Black has difficulties.
( The better part of valour was 31...Qe5 32.Rxc4 Qf5 33. Rd4 g5 )
32.Nxg6 Qxa4
Loses quickly, but it was already too late to put up an adequate defence:
( 32...Rfd8 33.Qc6 Kh7 34.Qe4 f5 35.Qe6 Bd2 36.Ne7 Bh6 37. Nc6 Qxa4 38.Qxf5+ Kh8 39.Nxb8 )
( The light squares. I forgot about them. What I had in mind was: 33.Qh8+ Kf7 34.Nxf8 Bxf8 35.d8=Q Rxb2+ 36.Kxb2 Ba3+ and it turns out that Black has a draw. )
33...Rf7 34.Rh4
As Epishin's simul opponents were remarking to each other: "He sees everything!"

Yugoslav Classics

Grandmasters Gligoric (age 77) and Ivkov (age 66), although jetlagged after the long journey from Belgrade, were in control and between them suffered only one defeat, Gligoric's to Epishin. Ivkov defended fiercely against Orlov and found his reward in the full point when Orlov lost his way in time trouble. Gligoric had several long games, the most awe-inspiring of which was a victory of knights over bishops against Harmon.

The great masters had a well-behaved cheering section of at least a dozen spectators.

The Winner

Vladimir Epishin, a Russian GM now living in Germany, started slowly with 2.5 points out of 4, to put him a point off the pace set by Ivkov. However, six straight victories left him a point up on the field. He was extremely nervous, pacing back and forth between moves, especially at the beginning of the tournament. But when he won, he made it look easy.

Prize Winners and Full Standings

Open Section

8.5-1.5 GM Vladimir Epishin GER - $1,500 first
7.5-2.5 GM Borislav Ivkov YUG, GM Svetozar Gligoric YUG, IM John Donaldson USA - $450 2nd-4th
6.5-3.5 IM Georgi Orlov USA - $200 fifth
6-4 Juri Vetemaa EST
5.5-4.5 Roman Jiganchine BC, Mike Stanford BC - $158.33 Dark Horse and Under-2300
5.5-4.5 Dave Herder BC, Juan Jimenez CRC, Jaime Vaglio CRC, Clark Harmon USA - $158.33 Under-2300
5.5-4.5 Dragoljub Milicevic BC
5-5 Kaliem Nathani BC, Russell Remedios BC, David Hladek BC, Howard Wu BC, Eugene Gibney AB, Michael Mazock USA, Sergei Sokourinski BC, Luc Poitras BC, Dale Haukenfrers BC, Kari Heinola FIN, Goran Ivankovic YUG
4.5-5.5 Ian Martinovsky BC, Michael Franett USA, Viktors Pupols USA, Nigel Fullbrook BC
4-6 Jason Williamson BC, Alfred Pechisker BC, Dale Haessel AB, Jonathan Berry* (6) BC, Gary Basanta (8) BC
3.5-6.5 Elliott Neff USA, Stephen Wright BC, Jack Yoos (8) BC
3-7 Philip Harris BC, Tony Berrocoso BC, John Niksic BC
1.5 Toni Deline* (4) BC, Aviv Friedman (5) USA
1 Zoltan Baunok (7) AB

* Berry and Deline acted occasionally as "house players" when there was an odd number and were not formally in the tournament.

Otherwise, the number in parentheses, e.g., (7) indicates number of rounds completed by a player who withdrew.

Countries are 3-letter codes, CRC is Costa Rica. Two-letter codes indicate province of Canadian players: BC is British Columbia, AB is Alberta.

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