Panorama of Player Profiles

wrap-up of selected portraits of a few further chess giants from the 20th century, especially long-time successful tournament players not to become World Chess Champion.

The following portraits you can also find as side stories in the different tournament chronicles. These chess career masterpieces are put together here as an estimation in a charming chess collection for readers who are looking primarily for player biographies, they are laid out in a modern human centered design.

Featuring uncrowned chess giants, but with impressive long-time tournament records (or in the case of Akiba Rubinstein an exceptional annus mirabilis), in the rush of daily liverating hysteria and youth mania sometimes in danger of being overlooked by the chess community; consequently, World Champions are absent here.

Featuring players who achieved a special cult character, who have become national heroes and / or worked with Viktor Korchnoi as a second (assistant). Sometimes a strong current or come-back player is portrayed, too. The site is being casually worked on and up-dated with more biographical information on further monumental players (no particular order).

Note: if a pdf will be updated, then it changes its URL, that's why the player profiles, biographies, should be better linked under the general address:  The Monuments - www.chessdiagonals.ch

Fridrik Olafsson, Iceland

Portrait in: Congratulations - www.chessdiagonals.ch (scroll down)

Eugenio Torre, The Republic of the Philippines

Detailed biography with further links

Zénon Franco, Paraguyan player domiciled in Spain

Detailed biography with further links

Alonso Zapata, Colombia

Detailed biography with further links

Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, Iran

Detailed biography with further links

Anthony Miles, England

Detailed biography with further links

Jonathan Speelman, England

Detailed biography with further links

Akiba Rubinstein, Poland, and his annus mirabilis in 1912

In chess history there are only a few individuals that stand out really among the rest, Akiba Rubinstein, is one of these player.

In 1912, Rubinstein won five chess tournaments in a row in the same year: San Sebastián (ahead of joint Nimzowitsch and Spielmann in a very strong field), Bad Pistyan (Piešťany), Breslau (DSB Congress) shared with Oldřich Duras, Vilnius (All-Russian Masters), and Warsaw (City Championship 1911/12) at the beginning of this incredible consecutive string! A growing demand for there to be a match between Rubinstein and Lasker emerged.

He was scheduled to play a match with Emanuel Lasker for the World Chess Championship in 1914, but it was cancelled because of the lack of fundraising success and the outbreak of World War I.

Akiba Kiwelowicz Rubinstein (born 1880 – died March 1961) was a Polish chess Grandmaster at the beginning of the 20th century. Rubinstein was Jewish and his family planned for him to become a rabbi. However, in 1903, after finishing fifth in a tournament in Kiev, Rubinstein decided to abandon his rabbinical studies and devote himself entirely to chess. Between 1907 and 1914, Rubinstein established himself as one of the top leading players in the world.

But at St. Petersburg 1914, Rubinstein faced a poor result. The top five played a final and are reported to be given virtually the title of “Grandmaster” (not to mix with the FIDE titles). Rubinstein surprisingly did not qualify for that final (with Lasker, Capablanaca, Alekhine, Marshall and Tarrasch).

At the time when it was common for the reigning world champion to handpick his challengers, Rubinstein was never given a chance to play Lasker for the world chess championship because he was unable to raise enough money to meet Lasker's financial demands. Unfortunately due that bad result at St. Petersburg, the beginning of Rubinstein’s deep psychological problems and the rise of the Cuban chess star Capablanca combined with the break out of World War I was the beginning of the end for Rubinstein title aspirations.

After 1932, Rubinstein who was awarded the official grandmaster title at its inauguration in 1950, never competed in chess tournaments again, all though he was invited to do so. Shortly after his retirement from chess, Akiba checked into a psychiatric clinic. The final years of his life he spent in Belgium with his family until his death in 1961.

Historical Ratings from Chessmetrics are placing Rubinstein between mid-1912 and mid-1914 as world number one.

Albéric O'Kelly de Galway, Belgium

Detailed biography with further links

Mikhail Gurevich, Belgian based (ex USSR; ex Turkey)

Detailed biography with further links

Jeroen Piket, The Netherlands

Detailed biography with further links

Joël Lautier, France

Detailed biography with further links

Arturo Pomar Salamanca, Spain

Detailed biography with further links

Wolfgang Uhlmann, Germany, (East) Germany

Portrait in: Congratulations - www.chessdiagonals.ch (scroll down)

Friedrich "Fritz" Sämisch, (West) Germany

Detailed biography with further links

Klaus Darga, (West) Germany

Detailed biography with further links

Robert Hübner, (West) Germany

Detailed biography with further links

Nils Grandelius, Sweden

Larry Christiansen, USA

Portrait in: U.S. Open *1900 - www.chessdiagonals.ch (scroll down)

Yasser Seirawan, USA, Syrian-born

Detailed biography with further links

Walter Browne, USA, Australian-born

Detailed biography with further links

Robert Byrne, USA, renowned New York Times author

Detailed biography with further links

Arthur Bisguier, USA

Detailed biography with further links

Daniel "Abe" Yanofsky, Canada

Detailed biography with further links

Mark Taimanov, USSR, Russia

Portrait in: Congratulations - www.chessdiagonals.ch (scroll down)

Peter Svidler, Russia

Portrait in: Tournament *series* - www.chessdiagonals.ch (scroll down)

Alexander Grischuk, Russia

Detailed biography with further links

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Russia

Detailed biography with further links

Andrei Volokitin, Ukraine (plus the birth of basque chess)

Detailed biography with further links

Pavel Eljanov, Ukraine

Detailed biography with further links

Oleg Romanishin, USSR, Ukraine

Detailed biography with further links

Paul Keres, Estonia, USSR

Paul Keres is arguably the strongest chess player to never get to a match for the World Champion.

Keres missed a chance at a world chess championship match on multiple occasions narrowly, and has a most impressive tournament record lasting over four decades on international top-level between 1936 and his death in 1975.

He won the 1938 AVRO tournament (on tie-break over Reuben Fine, ahead of Botvinnik, Euwe, Reshevsky, Alekhine, Capablanca, and Flohr) which led to negotiations for a title match against champion Alexander Alekhine, but the match never took place due to World War II.

At the first world elite tournament after World War II, organised in Groningen in 1946, he was not allowed to play by the Soviet authorities. 

In 1948, Keres participated in the World Championship tournament to determine a successor to Alexander Alekhine, finishing joint third. This would turn out to be the only opportunity Keres would ever have to play directly for the world title.

Keres finished runner-up outright or ex aequo four times in the four consecutive Candidates' tournaments, from 1953 (Smyslov won), 1956 (Smyslov won again), 1959 (Tal won) to 1962 (Petrosian won at 18 points, Geller and Keres at 17.5 points, followed by Fischer and Korchnoi).

Btw.: Keres won the "2nd place Candidates' play-off" against Geller 4.5-3.5; World Champion Botvinnik then had not not yet formally decided if he would defend his title in 1963, but finally he did play - and lost to Petrosian.

Missing the Champion Challenger four times in a row as Candidate runner-up, that's why Keres was sometimes nicknamed "Paul the Second", "Eternal Second" or "The Crown Prince of Chess".  

Keres, along with Viktor Korchnoi and Alexander Beliavsky, defeated nine undisputed world chess champions in classical chess — more than anyone else in history.

Keres was thrice Soviet Champion, in 1947 [rusbase-1], 1950 [rusbase-2], and 1951 [rusbase-3], and won the Baltic Chess Championship, mostly held in Pärnu (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), or, rarely, in Vilnius (Lithuania), multiple times. 

Beginning with the Pärnu training tournament 1947, Keres made some significant contributions as a chess organizer in Estonia, later also organising the strong Tallinn international invitation series; this is an often overlooked aspect of his career. 

(Pärnu 1947 was a strong pure national training round robin tournament, all 14 players were from the USSR. Paul Keres won ahead of 2./3. Kotov, Lilienthal, 4.-6. Bronstein, Boleslavsky, Smyslov, 7. Kasparian, 8. Flohr, etc.: http://al20102007.narod.ru/nat_tour/1947/parnu47.html). 

During his chess career, Paul Keres again and again achieved formidable tournament triumphs:

Bad Nauheim 1936 (alongside Alekhine, above Bogljubov, Stahlberg, Vidmar), Margate 1937 (with Fine, best tie-break, ahead of Alekhine), Ostende 1937 (with Fine and surprising Swiss Henry Grob who had the best tie-break), Semmering / Baden bei Wien 1937 (ahead of Fine, Capablanca, Reshevsky, Flohr, Eliskases), Vienna Quadrangular theme tournament 1937 (Keres surpassing three Austrian players), AVRO 1938 (on tie-break over Reuben Fine, ahead of Botvinnik, Euwe, Reshevsky, Alekhine, Capablanca, and Flohr – considered the eight best players at that time), Buenos Aires 1939 (shared with Najdorf, ahead of Stahlberg, Czerniak), Salzburg 1943 (alongside World Champion Alekhine), Przepiorka Memorial in Szczawno-Zdrój 1950 (ahead of Szabo, Barcza, Taimanov, Bondarevsky, Foltys, Geller, Averbakh), the great Maroczy Memorial in Budapest 1952 (as clear first ahead of Geller, World Champion Botvinnik, Smyslov, Stahlberg, Szabo, Petrosian), Hastings 1954-55 (with Smyslov, ahead of Pachman, Szabo, Unzicker, Alexander, Donner), Mar del Plata 1957 (ahead of Najdorf), Santiago de Chile 1957 (ahead of Kotov), Hastings 1957-58, Zürich 1961 (ahead of Petrosian, Gligoric), the first Piatigorsky Cup, at Los Angeles 1963 (shared with Petrosian), Beverwijk Hoogovens 1964 (with Nei, ahead of Portisch, Ivkov, Larsen), Buenos Aires 1964 (ahead of World Champion Petrosian, R. Byrne, Najdorf), Hastings 1964-65Mariánské Lázně 1965 (joint with Hort), Stockholm (100 years Jubilee Swedish Chess Federation) 1966-7 (including Larsen), Bamberg (100 years Jubilee SC Bamberg) 1968 (two full points ahead of reigning World Champion Petrosian and Lothar Schmid), Budapest 1970 (ahead of Szabo, Ivkov, Suetin, Portisch), Tallinn 1971 (together with Tal, ahead of Bronstein and Stein), Tallinn 1975 (ahead of joint Spassky and F. Olafsson, Hort, Bronstein)

Margate 1937 was the first of three world class chess tournaments within two years in which Keres and Fine shared first place, followed by Ostende 1937 (together with Swiss Henry Grob who beat both Fine and Keres), and the legendary AVRO tournament 1938 (Keres first on tie-break, again with Fine, in a field including four former, present or future World Chess Champions, in chronological order: Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, and Botvinnik; plus Reshevsky and Flohr).

He won top-class chess tournaments from the mid-1930s to the mid-1970s, a span of 40 years, in conreto, GM Paul Keres has an International Elite Tournament win span from 1936 to 1975: 

Bad Nauheim, 1936, is notable for young Keres' first international tournament win as he tied for first with Alekhine (both unbeaten, Alekhine had the better tie-break, ten players including previous winner Bogoljubov, Stahlberg, and Vidmar sr.). It signalled the arrival of Paul Keres (born in 1916) on the international chess scene, upon which he would be one of the world's best players for almost forty years.

Tallinn, 1975, is notable for his last international invitation tournament win, Paul Keres triumphed unbeaten as clear first (ahead of 2./3. Spassky, F. Olafsson, 4./5. Hort, Bronstein, 6./7. Taimanov, Gipslis, 16 players), a few months before his death the same year.

This last major tournament win in Tallinn 1975 was just a few months before he died of a heart attack in Helsinki, Finland, at the age of 59. His death occurred while returning to his native Estonia from an Open Festival (incl. Browne, J. Watson, Pupols, Forintos, Bilek, or Suttles) in Vancouver, which Keres had won outright, as well as his last game in round ten against Walter Browne.

Final standings, Vancouver Open 1975:
http://www.bcchesshistory.com/vancouver1975.html

Photo from the game Browne vs. Keres, Vancouver Open 1975:
http://files.chesscomfiles.com/images_users/tiny_mce/billwall/Keres.jpg

Browne vs. Keres, Vancouver Open 1975, round 10, to replay:
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1035327

The Paul Keres Memorial Tournaments have been held annually mainly in Vancouver and Tallinn ever since.

Over 100,000 people were in attendance at his state funeral in Tallinn, Estonia, where the leaders of Estonia were on guard of honour, and FIDE President Max Euwe, his old friend and rival, was also present.

Keres is the first person best known for playing chess and whose portrait ever is on a banknote. The five kroons (5 krooni) Estonian banknote bore his portrait (kroons are replaced by the euro since 2011).

A statue honouring him can be found on Tõnismägi in Tallinn, and a number of chess clubs and festivals are named after him.

In the year 2000, Keres was elected the Estonian Sportsman of the Century.

Paul Keres is often underestimated, but his results from 1935 to 1975 are worth a long and close look, and Anand once ranked him as one of the ten greatest chess players ever.

Jaan Ehlvest, USSR, Estonia, later playing for the USA

Detailed biography with further links

Rafael Vaganian, USSR, Armenia

Detailed biography with further links

Luděk Pachman, Czechoslovakia / (West) Germany

Detailed biography with further links

Vlastimil Hort, Czechoslovakia / (West) Germany

Portrait in: Congratulations - www.chessdiagonals.ch (scroll down)

László Szabó, Hungary

László Szabó (*1917 - 1998), born in Budapest, he was tutored by Géza Maróczy, both becoming international grandmaster of chess in 1950, at its title inauguration by FIDE, as first hungarian chess players ever.

Szabó was a three times consecutive Candidate during the 1950s, at Budapest in 1950, at Zürich / Neuhausen in 1953 and equal third at Amsterdam in 1956 (with the four soviet players Spassky, Petrosian, Bronstein, and Geller; behind runner-up Keres and winner Smyslov).

Szabó represented Hungary at 11 Chess Olympiads, playing first board on five occasions and delivering many medal-winning performances, plus the unofficial Chess Olympiad at Munich in 1936, winning Gold both for Hungary as team and individual board prize, and Szabó was eight times national Hungarian Champion between 1935 and 1967/68.

He won top-class tournaments from the mid-1930s into the mid-1970s, a stretch of 40 years, winning Hastings four times and maintaining the longest winning span at Hastings, incredible thirty-five years from 1938/39 to 1973/74.

László Szabó burst onto the international chess scene in 1935, at the age of 18, winning his first Hungarian Championships, an international tournament in Tatatóváros 1935, and subsequently was selected to represent his country at the 1935 Warsaw Olympiad.

His finest results are the mentioned four Hastings Congresses 1938/39, 1947/48, 1949/50 (all three outright), 1973/74 (shared, best on tie-break), and amongst others Vienna (Schlechter Memorial) 1947 outright, Budapest 1948 (clear first with 1.5 points ahead of Gligoric), Venice 1949 (clear first ahead of the european elite players Rossolimo, Prins, Gligoric, Golombek, Barcza, Foltys, Paoli, Kottnauer, Tartakower, etc.), Santa Fé 1960 (joint with Taimanov, ahead of Gligoric, Korchnoi, and Rossolimo), Zagreb 1964 outright, Budapest 1965 (with Taimanov and Polgaevsky). And more was to come:

László Szabó's fourth Hastings tournament victory at age of 55+, was by no mean a nine-day wonder, he also won in the mid-1970s days at Sarajevo, Bosna in 1972 (ahead of Tigran Petrosian!, followed by Paul Keres, Vlastimil Hort, and Vlastimil Jansa as joint third), at Hilversum, 2nd AVRO in 1973 (shared with Efim Geller, ahead of Ljubojevic, Andersson, Sax, Ivkov, Polugaevsky, and Timman), at Dortmund in 1974 (declared winner on tie-break valuation above Ciocâltea), at Helsinki in 1975 (joint winner with Hort and Westerinen), at Kapfenberg in 1976 (ahead of Stean); and Szabó was sole Sub-Champion at Beverwijk (Hoogovens) in 1966.

He was also clear second in the Interzonal at Saltsjöbaden (Stockholm, Sweden) in 1948 with 20 participants, László Szabó held the lead during rounds 7-17, and co-leading after the penultimate round, but in the last round he unexpectedly lost to Erik Lundin who nevertheless placed clear last of the Interzonal, whereas eventual winner David Bronstein defeated Savielly Tartakower, thus Bronstein won the tournament, unbeaten one point ahead of Szabó. The only game Erik Lundin (IM 1950 and Honorary GM 1983) won at all in Saltsjöbaden's Interzonal in 1948, stopped Szabó from co-winning with Bronstein. Of course both players advanced to the following Candidate’s tournament at Budapest in 1950, finally decided in a play-off match between Boleslavsky and Bronstein, the latter winning again and becoming Challenger of Champion Mikhail Botvinnik in 1951, this World Chess Championship was tied 12:12, the reigning king retaining the title (no play-off).

Remember, Szabó was already active at highest level before WW II, his first win at Hastings in 1938/39 was achieved ahead of Max Euwe, Salo Landau and Vasja Pirc, his last win at Hastings in 1973/74, as shared first with the best tie-break score (co-winners were Mikhail Tal, Jan Timman and Gennadi Kuzmin; this guy was reigning runner-up at the super strong USSR Championship in 1973, together with – alphabetically – Karpov, Korchnoi, Petrosian, and Polugaevsky).

Szabó was the leading player in Hungary for a quarter of a century (eventually being succeeded by Lajos Portisch in the early to mid 1960s), always a lively player at chess events, his style full of underappreciated brilliance though his performance sometimes erratic, Szabó was a longtime player in the range of the top twenty to top ten in the world, and at the peak of his powers best-ranked by chessmetrics (historical ELO) on position 6 in the 1940s.

His family donated Szabó's entire chess library and his papers to the Cleveland Public Library John G. White Chess and Checkers Collection. The John G. White Collection of Chess and Checkers is the largest chess library in the world.

(Source: Wikipedia and DIE SCHACHWOCHE)
I watched Szabó at the international Max Blau Memorial at Bern in 1987 (Campora and Geller won, ahead of swiss student Giancarlo Franzoni, making his final IM norm, followed by Cebalo, Unzicker, young (then) IM Danny King, today esteemed presenter, and septuagenarian Szabó on seventh place, twelve players in a cozy little generation mix.

Picture of László Szabó: http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840520 (with identical text).

Lajos Portisch, Hungary

Detailed biography with further links

József Pintér, Hungary

Detailed biography with further links

Dragoljub Velimirović, Serbia (former Yugoslavia)

Detailed biography with further links

Alexander Beliavsky, Slovenia (formerly USSR, Ukraine)

Vasilios Kotronias, Greece

Detailed biography with further links

Iván Morovic Fernández, Chile

Detailed biography with further links

Julio Bolbochán, Argentina, later living in Venezuela

Detailed biography with further links

Esteban Canal, Peruvian player domiciled in Italy

Detailed biography with further links

Stefano Tatai, Italy

Detailed biography with further links

Wesley So, Filipino American

Detailed biography with further links

Henry Grob, Switzerland

Detailed biography with further links

Viktor Gavrikov, Lithuania (formerly Switzerland, USSR)

Portrait in: Winners at Biel - www.chessdiagonals.ch (scroll down)

Vadim Milov, current No. 1 player of Switzerland

Detailed biography with further links