Sergey Bystrov, International Master
In the far 1952 Leningradian George Samoilovich Fedorov got a letter from Paul Petrovich Keres being in the zenith of his glory. It follows from the text of the letter that P.Keres "learnt with great interest that my work "The Theory of Chess Openings" was edited in relief print..." At the same time the second part was being planned in the list of the Publishing House "Education" in which all books for All-Russian Society for the Blind (VOS) were prepared for issue... A little of history. It is known that Paul Keres, outstanding Estonian chessplayer, was born in 1916 in Narva. During several decades he was one of the strongest in the world. And after his positive victory (1-2 places together with R.Fine, USA) at the famous AVRO-tournament in Holland in 1938 they spoke of P.Keres as a possible contender for a match with world champion, A.Alekhine. Two times afterwards the fate sent him a promising smile at the Candidates event: in Yugoslavia (1959) and at Curacao (1962) when Estonian Grandmaster had again a chance to storm the chess throne, but at the last moment he was forced to be content with the second place, yielding the place at first to M.Tal, at the second time to T.Petrosian. P.Keres'es creative work is one of the most brilliant pages in the chess history of the past century. The depth and beauty of conceptions, original and active character of his creative process, rare talent, - all this coupled with his personal charm made his name exceptionally popular with many thousands of chess lovers...
A great chess enthusiast and Leningrad - known referee G.Fedorov (30.06.1906-24.08.1988), whom the letter was addressed, was an outstanding personality as well.
A man with very weak sight, nevertheless, he was fighting in the years of war, had government awards, headed for a long time, or was trainer - instructor of the VOS (40-70-ies), one of the best referees in the country, took part in judging the Soviet Championships, was familiar with many great Masters and Grandmasters of pre- and after war years... This list can be continued. In a word, the contact which took place between G.Fedorov and P.Keres was not casual. It is known for sure that G.Fedorov contributed to publication of books for the blind people. In that far time chess were in good graces of the Soviet authorities. Nevertheless; one should have great credit that books for blind chessplayers might be published regularly, and especially those which they needed for their chess improvement. Little whoever of us was thinking about how such a book looks like. For comparison, one "Course of Openings" by V.Panov and Ja.Estrin edited in relief print looks like in volume as 11 customary copies, and the famous "300 selected games of A. Alekhine" do quite as all 15!
Let us return, however, to Keres' letter. Pay attention to the date of 30 January 1952. Till the issue of the second volume "The Theory of Openings" really a month or two were left. It was signed "ready for printing" on the first of December 1952... Nevertheless, P.Keres found time and wish to inform of this a man, though well-known, but occupying not so important status in relation to him. It says one time more about his exceptional modesty and culture. Let us remember that shortly before this Paul has win the final of the Soviet Championship, a victory in G.Marotzi Memorial in Budapest (both times ahead of Botvinnik). Then there takes place the tenth All-World Olympiad in Helsinky, P.Keres was at the head of the Soviet team! Who could not catch "a star illness" after such (I have enumerated far not all his achievements) successes! They relate such a happening as a funny story by word of mouth, which probably took place.
After one of his numerous wins at the International tournament in Prague (1937) P.Keres was asked for a speech as it was usually accepted at the closing of important tournaments. He kept silent without deciding what could be said. Some well-wisher advised him not to take first places, then he should not make a speech. I allow myself to suppose that Paul Keres could to some extent feel shy, or as they are saying now "become complexed" because of his insufficient knowledge of language. Let us look at the letter again, it is written by a copy-book hand, and only in its end an attentive reader will see several mistakes characteristic of a man for whom the Russian was not a native tongue. Who knows, may be, insufficient knowledge of the Russian for public speeches, and a forced participation in the tournaments which took place on the territory of fascist Germany in the years of World War II, served perhaps one of the reasons why Keres did not become still a champion of the world!? It is possible that M.Botvinnik's personal guaranty, or V.Molotov's interference should permit P.Keres to avoid persecution of the authorities for "faults" during the war years. And this has formed already another complex: feeling of guilt and responsibility?! There is trustworthy information that P.Keres directed V.Molotov a letter with the request to allow his participating in tournaments.* As always in such cases, there are more questions, than answers!
And still one blank (white spot), in the history of chess became less. The second part of splendid guide "The Theory of Open Game Openings" (six books) was edited in relief print only in 1963. More than one generation of chessplayers have already studied by P.Keres' books, including the blind ones as well. There has been left the fond Memory of G.S.Fedorov as an outstanding organizer, referee, and advocate of chess.
* More in detail about if see "Chess Herold" No.8/9, pp. 23-25, 1993.