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Grandmaster Paul Keres, A Near World Champion: 5 Krooni (Estonia, 1994)

Updated: May 8, 2021

This Estonian banknote represents the 1st denomination of the New Estonian Kroon (Series 1994). The New Kroon was introduced 20 June 1992, shortly after the collapse the (26 December 1991) of the Soviet Union (1922-1991). Replacing the Soviet Ruble at a rate of 1 New Kroon per 10 Soviet Rubles.

The previous (old) Kroon was introduced in 1 September 1928, replacing the post-WWI Estonian Mark. The Koon remained the in circulation, until the the Soviet occupation of Estonia. Leading to it's integration by the Soviet Union, on 6 August 1940. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia quickly regained its sovereignty. Leading the Kroon's reintroduction, as the New Kroon, 1992.


The observe features a portrait of chess grandmaster Paul Keres (1916-1975), with a small title below. Alongside Grandmaster Keres is a scene, of a battling "knight" and "pawn". The life-like figures fight amongst a checkered "battleground. Between them is the note's value "5 Krooni",

The large "5" transitions from dark to pale orange. As one moves from bottom to top, it features small decorative embellishments. Below are the signatures of President (Bank Governor) Siim Kallas and Nõukogu Liige (Member of the Board) Raimund Hagelberg. (There are 3 hidden UV number "5s", below the signatures, SEE: Ultraviolet Gallery)

An embedded security tread can be faintly seen running vertically under the note's surface. Aligning with the end of Siim Kallas's signature and the first "O" in "KROONI". The tread is considerably more visible when backlit, it contains micro-text. The micro-text reads "EESTI PANK", the Bank of Estonia in repeated sequence.

To the upper left is the note's issuer "EESTI PANK" (Bank of Estonia). Below it is a false guilloché "rose", followed by the note's black serial number "CJ169968", and a number "5". The left side of the note features a horizontal "wave" pattern. Broken by a underprint of downward flowing vertical "waves". (The observe's right is is UV sensitive, SEE: Ultraviolet Gallery)

This is opposed to the right side, which features a "chainmail" style underprint. To the far right is a watermark area. The upper right corner features the Bank of Estonia logo, with the note's print date (1994) below. This is followed by a orange/vertical serial number "CJ169968". The serial number is tapered, a Thomas De La Rue hallmark. To the lower right corner is a 6-pointed white/pink "flower" registration element/light puzzle.

The note's water mark is 3 lions, arranged in a vertical line. This design is taken from the Estonian Coat of Arms. Which itself is taken from the Danish Coat of Arms, which ruled northern Estonia. Then known as the Duchy of Estonia (1219–1346), until it's incorporation by State of the Teutonic Order. (The watermark area's vertical serial number is UV sensitive, SEE: Ultraviolet Gallery)


The reverse features a detailed illustration of Hermann Castle (left) and Ivangorod Fortress (right), at Narva. The illustration is offset to the upper-right, covering a large portion of the reverse. The sky incorporates a "chailmail" microprint pattern, as seen in the observe's left background (chess battle). At the lower-left corner is the text "VIIS". (The illustration's yellow hues are UV sensitive, SEE: Ultraviolet Gallery)

Below the illustration is a patterned, multi-shade banner. At its left-side is a large decorated number "5", as seen dividing the observe's chess battle. The banner's right-side feature a undecorated number "5", as seen on the observe's lower-left corner. To the right of the left-side "5", is the text "Krooni" on a yellow hue background. (Just as the illustration, this yellow background is UV sensitive, SEE: Ultraviolet Gallery)

To the reverse's far-left is the watermark area. Which unlike the observe is printed, rather then bare. It feature a honeycomb hexagonal pattern, with microprint. The microprint consists of columns of opposing lines. Each honeycomb contains between 7 and 9 lines within. This pattern extends throughout much of the reverse, being an element of the note blank.

To the upper-right corner is the text "EESTI PANK" (Bank of Estonia). The text is overprinted on the before mentioned pattern. Signifying the possibility the note blanks were designed, before bank's name were agreed upon.

At the lower left corner is a 6-pointed white/purple "flower" registration element/light puzzle. It forms the negative for the observe's white/pink registration element. Just as the before mentioned microprint, the registration elements are an original element of the note blank.

A Near World Champion

While despite being among the world's top chess players, from the 1930s-mid 60s. Chess Grandmaster Paul Keres is noted for his 5 narrow defeats, for the title of International Grandmaster. Although he continues to be remembered. As one of the greatest chess players, in history. And the greatest to player to not earn the world champion title.

Keres lived through a number of governments and occupations, during his lifetime. He was born in the port of Narva, Russian Empire (now Estonia). Learning chess from his father and older brother, Harald Keres (1912-2010). Who later became a prominent physicist, founding the Estonia school of relative gravitation.

Due to lack of chess literature, Paul and Harald learned chess notation, from their daily newspaper's chess puzzles. In addition, to handwriting records of past chess matches for reference. Paul was known for his aggressive, yet precise attacking style. Earning him the title of "Estonian Schoolboy Champion, in 1930, 1932, and 1933.

While in secondary school, Paul began playing correspondence chess. A skill which he was quite renowned for. Earning him the Internationaler Fernschachbund (IFSB) championship, in 1935. Paul studied mathematics, at the University of Tartu (1937-1941). Where he competed in several inter-university matches.

These early professional matches included Keres' famous 1938 AVRO tournament against Reuben Fine (1914-1994). Initially both Keres and Fine tied for 1st place. Although Keres defeated Fine in a 1 1/2 to 1/2 tiebreaker.

The tournament's champion was expected to challenge (then) World Champion Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946). Although due to the outbreak of WWII (1939-1945), the World Champion was postponed. Followed by the Soviet occupation and annexation of Estonia, in 1940.

This opened a new chapter in Keres' chess career. He competed in his first Soviet tournament at Moscow, in 1940. Placing 4th (+9-4=6) and thus in a favorable position against defending champion Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-1995).

Despite the German Invasion of the Soviet Union (1941). Both Keres and Botvinnik competed in 4 tournaments, organized by Ehrhardt Post (1881-1947). Post served as managing director of the German Grossdeutscher Schachbund (the Greater Germany Chess Federation).

Placing them both under suspicion of collaboration. By the Soviet government, at the war's end. Leading to Keres' exclusion from the famous 1945 USA vs. USSR radio chess match and the 1946 Groningen chess tournament.

Keres made his return to international chess, in 1946. Competing in a Soviet radio match against Great Britain. Due to the death of World Champion Alexander Alekhine, the same year. The World Chess Championship of 1948, was organized. With both Keres and Botvinnik participating.

In which, Keres suspiciously underperformed. Losing the first 4 matches and wining the 5th. After a winner was already declared. Its been theorized that Keres was ordered to lose, to promote Botvinnik as champion. Botvinnik reportedly noticed the plot, during the tournament. Angering the presiding Soviet officials, with his protest.

Keres finished 2nd 4 consecutive FIDE Candidates' tournaments (1953, 1956, 1959, and 1963), earning him the title "Paul II". This era in Keres's career is defined by the FIDE Candidates' tournaments he participated. They are Budapest 1950 (4th), Zürich 1953 (tied 2nd), Amsterdam 1956 (2nd), Yugoslavia (2nd), Curaçao 1963 (2nd), and Riga 1965.

Riga 1965 was Keres's only career match loss. Leading to Boris Spassky (1937-20xx), becoming winner of the tournament. Curaçao 1963 was a highly suspected tournament, with allegations of Soviet collusion. With the intent of disadvantaging Keres's, in favor of promoting the career of Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984). Which held the World Champion position from 1963 to 1969.

Despite having a history of near misses and controversial set-backs. Paul Keres remained a highly competitive player until decline in health. His last major win was a tournament in his native Estonia (Tallinn), placing ahead Boris Spassky and Icelandic Grandmaster Friðrik Ólafsson (1935-20xx). Paul Keres died of a heart attack, on 5 June 1975 (Helsinki, Finland). While returning from his final successful tournament in Vancouver, Canada.

Ultraviolet Gallery

Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 140 x 70 mm or 5.51 x 2.76 in, slightly smaller than a US Dollar.

  • All non-currency photos are public domain images, provided by Wikimedia.

  • This note exists in 1991/1992 and 1994 variants, which may seem almost indistinguishable.

  • The 1994 variant (depicted) features a more vibrant ink, than the previous 1991/1992 notes.

  • This note can be exchanged indefinitely at the Bank of Estonia Museum, for 0.32 Euro.

  • Ivangorod Fortress and Hermann Castle are currently popular museums/tourist attractions.

  • Over 100,000 participates attended Paul Keres' state funeral, which included Estonia's leaders.

  • A statue of Keres playing chess was created in Narva, to commemorate his 100th birthday.

  • Every year the Paul Keres Memorial Tournament, alternates from Tallinn and Vancouver.

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