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The third international chess tournament to be held at Margate in the 1930s was another all-play-all featuring ten players including three heavyweights: the then world champion, Alexander Alekhine, the American GM Reuben Fine and the rising star from Estonia, GM Paul Keres. The tournament also featured several English players who had played in the earlier tournaments but were largely thought to be making up the numbers. Alekhine did not appear to consider Keres a threat. After an early loss he said: “The next seven rounds will show if I can give an extra point to Fine.” However, in round seven his oversight became all too apparent (see game below). Keres had emerged as a player of note as a 19-year old in the 1935 Chess Olympiad and in the next few years he became a strong player of international repute with a number of supertournament victories, notably the 1938 AVRO tournament, considered one of the strongest ever played. Today he is popularly regarded as the best player never to win the world chess championship.

At Margate Keres played Fine in the last round and and their draw resulted in them tying for first place with 7½/9 (both +6 -0 =3). Alekhine, who lost three games finished third on 6½. Keres blamed himself for not winning outright, saying afterwards, “I felt that I still lacked the necessary endgame technique.” Others did not agree and in his book ‘Paul Keres II: the Road to Mastery’, Joosep Grents quotes a contemporary commentator: “The extraordinary combinational ability of Keres left a deep impression on all the participants. If one takes into consideration that he is merely 21 years old, then one can certainly foresee his future fame. The only factor that speaks against him is his modesty. No player with aspirations of becoming a World Champion has ever been known for this characteristic.” 

White: Paul Keres       Black: Alexander Alekhine

Margate International Chess Tournament 1937


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