KARLIS BETINS (1867-1943)
From “Sachs Latvija lidz 1940. Gadam”, “Chess in Latvia to 1940".
Translation by K Grivainis
Karlis was born 27 Oct 1867 on the family farm named “Betini” in the Berzmuiza Municipality. He was raised within a chessplaying circle, his both brothers being top players at the time.
The youngest Roberts Betins (1875-) won the Baltic Chess Champions Title in the first Baltic Chess Congress tournament in 1899, but he did not participate in tournaments later. He also composed some interesting Endings with a special “catch”.
The eldest, Janis (born 1856), became known within the European circles as one of the best composers of chess endings. The art was not too widespread in those days, and the only well known names were Kling and Horvitz. Around 1890 Janis started to break new ground in paying greater attention to the principles of economy, but in particular he took his problems to a greater depth. His problems, although quantitatively he did not produce too many, were acclaimed for their captivating development and depth, and were partly responsible for the subsequent growth of this branch of chess.
Many Rigans followed Janis enterprising talents. Dr. Phil. J. Zevers became a well known Endings composer and he published his work in a book. These Endings were lighter in style, but appealing. Then came the unforgettable H. Matisons, whose creative Endings earned top prizes in many European tourneys (most of them being included in the book mentioned in the title). In addition, the brothers Platovs and brothers Kubelis were acclaimed for their composing art. It is certain that the Rigans of those days were in forefront in developing the art of endgame compositions and from there it spread to the rest of the chess world.
Karlis Betins was introduced to chess at about 13, and he also started composing. Soon he was mastering the art and in about 1890 a “mate in 3" ending of his won a prize in a “Munch. N.Nachr.” tournament. A delegation from the “First Riga Chess Club” (1. Rigas Sacha Biedriba) invited him to join. Here he was in touch with many of the best players of the time, and this gave Betins an excellent overall chess education. In the Club’s 10 year jubilee tournament 1900/1 he was ready and he came first. Second place went to P Bols, third/fourth P Kerkoviuss and St. Mikutovics, fifth T Germanis, and then V. Zamuels and E. Vagenheims. Karlis also kept progressing in his compositions, winning prizes regularly in the European tournaments.
Around this time he discovered his best field: correspondence chess. He lost some games to start with (vs. Romaskevics, Chardins, Sifers), but later he never lost another game!! In matches he beat players like Chigorin, Shifers, Nimcovics, Iljin-Zenevski, etc. In team matches Betins became the leader of the teams.
In the 2nd Baltic Championship in Tartu 1901 he won. He had become a top openings analyst and his published analysis were particularly utilised by H. Matisons, (e.g. vs L Steiner in the Olympiad in Hague; and A Aljekhin in the Olympiad in Prague). And soon he started devoting all his available time to the one opening: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5. As a result, FIDE renamed this opening to become “The Latvian Gambit”.