Article provided by: Ervin Liebert
We can speak about CC in Estonia since the middle of the 19th century. The country was annexed by the Russian Empire after the Nordic War in 1721, but its social and cultural life remained pretty much influenced by the living style of the local Baltic German upper class, which was more or less connected to Central Europe. And chess was among the hobbies of this upper class. During the years 1838-39, a two game CC match was held between the towns of St Petersburg and Tartu (then Dorpat); and the famous players Karl Jaenisch and Lionel Kieseritzky (1806-1853) represented these particular cities. St Petersburg (Jaenisch) won it 1.5:0.5.
There were more of such CC matches, as for example the one between Kuressaare (Arensburg) and Tartu, played during the years 1853 and 1854, won by the former by 1.5:0.5. The games are available in the well known CC book of Ludwig Bledow “Correpondenz-partien” 1872, Leipzig. Estonia achieved independence in 1918 and only during the 1930s did CC get into full swing. The best success of these years was the victory of Paul Keres in the IFSB Championship with 10 points from 13. Keres was inspired by several older CC players, of whom Martin Villemson (1897-1933) was perhaps the most dedicated. Due to the lack of OTB play, Keres begun his first CC tournament by the Deutsche Schachzeitung in the Group 133/A on 12.10.1931. He was of course also our first national champion, winning the individual championships (1935-36) with 9 points from 12 games. Estonia participated also in the European Team Championships 1935/39, getting the 8th place among 17 teams. During the Soviet Occupation (1940-41 and 1944-91) CC had a pretty large breadth, because it offered one of the few possibilities to communicate with the wider world behind the Iron Curtain. Our first ICCF IM titleholders from these years are Endel Kuuskmaa and Vladimir Roþdestvenski. After regaining its independence in 1991 the Estonian CC Union was founded on March 21,1992. In the autumn of the same year we were affiliated to the ICCF at its congress in Graz. Next year our team began participation in the 12th CC Olympiad Preliminaries. Later on, we lacked only half a point from qualifying for the final. Today Estonia is participating in the preliminaries of the next Olympiad.
On the European level, Estonia has just started participating in the EU Team Championship V Final and EU Team Championship VI Semi-final. Our women are taking part on the ICCF Ladies CC Olympiad VI Preliminaries. The Estonian CC Union organised the II Paul Keres Memorial (1995-98), won by Hugo Päären. The organisation of our own Estonian Championships of course has also continued. Recently the 24th Championship has begun. Paul Keres has won the championships three times, Jüri Schuster and Ado Truupõld twice. Moreover, ten team championships have been organised and the 11th one is near to its end. Our first e-mail championships ended some weeks ago and the second one is about to begin in two leagues. The e-mail play seems to be extremely popular in this country, mostly due to the efforts of Mart Tarmak. The honorary member of our federation – ICCF GM since 1981 – Tõnu Õim is the only man in the World to have two World Champion Titles, winning both the 9th and the 14th Finals. He was also 6th in the 12th Final. Then he was gold medal winner at the ICCF Olympiad XI in the team of the USSR. He has also won the Tournament of the Stars (1984/93), known as the Axelson Memorial.
Even the Estonian ladies have succeeded amazingly well at international level. The Ladies GM Merike Rõtova has won the following places on the ICCF Ladies World Final: third place in the 2nd Final (1972-77); second place in the 3rd Final (1978-84); fifth place in the 4th Final (1985-92). She has also won the gold medal in the 3rd Ladies Olympiad in the team of the USSR. Estonia is also proud of its active ICCF IMs Aarne Hermlin, Elmar Ferdinand Kask, Nikolai Kristoffel, Igor Kullamaa, Jaan Merilo, Harald Merilo, Hugo Päären, Jüri Schuster, Juri Seljodkin and Tõnu Tiits. Kalju Pitksaar got the title posthumously. More interesting facts about CC in Estonia plus several beautiful games illustrating the history of it, are available in Chess Mail 4/1999.