International Master (1971); Grandmaster (1973); Yugoslav Champion (1970, 1975 and 1997).
Nicknamed “The Boss”, (1), and sometimes called the “Yugoslav Tal”, Dragoljub Velimirović (Serbian Cyrillic: Драгољуб Велимировић) was a well-liked, innovative and feared attacking tactician. While never a serious threat for the world title, he nevertheless contested three Interzonals and was ranked within the top 100 of the world’s players for approximately 20 years from before 1969 through 1989, when he was at his most active. (2)
He was born in Valjevo, in the part of the former Yugoslavia that is now Serbia. He moved to Belgrade in 1960, where he lived until his death. He learned chess when he was seven from his mother Jovanka Velimirović, who was Yugoslavia's first Women's Champion. (3)
<Junior> Junior Champion of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1958, he was 3rd in the 1959 Yugoslav Youth Championship, half a point behind co-leaders Bruno Parma and Ivan Nemet; and then followed up by winning the Yugoslav Youth Championship in 1960 or 1961. (4), (5)
<National and Regional> Velimirović first played in the Yugoslav Championship in 1962 at the age of 20 when he placed =3rd with 8.5/13, a point behind the (eventual) 12-time winner Svetozar Gligoric, a half point behind the runner-up Aleksandar Matanovic and alongside Mato Damjanovic. (6) His next attempt was in the 21-round round-robin event held in Zenica in 1963, where he placed 12th with 10/21. (6) In 1965, he was =4th with 10.5/19 behind the winner Gligoric and the joint runners-up Borislav Ivkov and Bruno Parma. (7) He played in over 20 subsequent Yugoslav championships, the last one being 2003, with his best results being wins in 1970 (jointly with Milan Vukic) and 1975, 2nd in 1981 behind Bozidar Ivanovic, 2nd behind Predrag Nikolic in 1984 and =1st in 1997 when Yugoslavia had become a federal republic. (8) He was also the Balkans Champion in 1972. (9)
<World> Velimirović commenced his participation in the World Championship cycle when he entered (but failed to progress past) the Yugoslav national qualifier for the 1963 Zonals and ended in 1999 when he qualified via the Panormo Zonal in 1998 to play in FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (1999) in Las Vegas. (10) Unfortunately, he was not issued a visa by US authorities to allow him to compete in Las Vegas due to political tensions with Yugoslavia at that time. His best results within the World Championship cycles in which he participated were to qualify for and participate in the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal (1979), (11) the Moscow Interzonal in 1982 (12) and the Szirák Interzonal in 1987. (13)
Classical Tournament Record
<1970s> Velimirović scored 9.5/15 at Vinkovci 1970 placing 5th, a point behind the winner Bent Larsen, and half point behind joint runners up Gligoric, Vlastimil Hort and David Bronstein, but ahead of Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Mark Taimanov and Laszlo Szabo. (14) This result and others such as his 2nd placement at the category 9 Skopje tournament in 1971, behind Lev Polugaevsky and alongside Albin Planinc earned him his International Master title, (15) well after he was within the group that constituted the world’s top 100 players. He earned his Grandmaster title when he won the Vrnjacka Spa event at Vrnjacka Banja in 1973, (16). In 1974: he was 3rd at Reykjavik (17). In 1976, he was =4th, a point behind co-leaders Viktor Korchnoi and Anthony Miles and half a point behind 3rd placed Gyula Sax at the category 11 IBM tournament in Amsterdam. (18) He also competed at Novi Sad in 1976 placing 2nd behind Jan Smejkal and ahead of Hort and Gligoric. (19) In 1978, he placed =3rd at Osijek behind Gligoric and Andras Adorjan, (20) and 1st at Albufeira ahead of Ljubomir Ljubojevic. (21) In 1979, he came in 2nd at Smederevska Palanka behind Dusan Rajkovic. (22)
<1980s onward> This decade saw Velimirović continue his exploits and successes on the 64 squares. In 1980, he came 2nd at Borovo behind Milan Matulovic; (23) =1st at Zemun alongside Milan Vukic (24); and =3rd at Maribor behind Vladimir Kovacevic and Jonathan Speelman. (25) In 1981, he was =2nd at Banja Luka behind Vitaly Tseshkovsky. (26) In 1982, he placed
3rd at Vinkovci behind Kovacevic and Matulovic and alongside Ivanovic. (27) In 1984, he was =1st alongside Korchnoi and ahead of Mikhail Tal at the powerful tournament in Titograd. (28) In 1985, he won outright at Vrsac and two years later was =1st in that event, winning on tiebreak. (29) His other successes in the 1980s include 1st at the Metz Open in 1988 (30) and =2nd at Zenica in 1989 behind Petar Popovic. (31) In 1994, he won at Niksic (32) and in 2001 he won the Savic Mauzer Memorial tournament in Bijeljina. (33)
Velimirović played for the Yugoslav national team many times between 1960 and 1990, including in the student and open Olympiads, the Balkaniads, the European Team Championships and in the World Team Championship. He also played for the winning Belgrade team against a Moscow team in 1998. (34)
<Olympiads> In 1964 he played board 4 for the Yugoslavian team at the Student Olympiad held in that year in Cracow in Poland, (35) and helped his team to win the qualifying stage (36) to enable it into the final where it placed 5th. (37) He also played top board for his country in that event in 1967. (38) He represented Yugoslavia at six Olympiads, namely 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986 (when he was also the coach (39)), 1988 and 1990; his tally of medals included a team silver and an individual silver, both of which were won at the 1974 Nice Olympiad. (40)
<National Team> He played for Yugoslavia against the USSR team in 1961 (aged 19) in Belgrade (41), in 1966 (42), and in 1972 at Ohrid, during which he crushed Rafael Vaganian in the first round playing the Benoni Defence, (43) in 1973 (44) and in 1979 in Teslic (45). He also represented Yugoslavia in the match against Hungary held in Pula in 1971. (46)
Velimirović represented Yugoslavia in the Balkaniads (a round robin set of matches between some or all of the Balkans countries) in 1972 (vs Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey Greece), 1974 (vs Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria) and 1978 (vs Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania), winning 2 team golds and an individual gold, as well as an individual silver and a team and an individual bronze. (47) In the European Team Championship, he won individual silver in 1970 and 1977, team silver in 1973, individual bronze in 1973 and team bronze in 1977, but was shut out in 1980. He won team silver at the World Team Championship in Lucerne 1989. (49)
<European Club Cup> Velimirović briefly played in the ECC, that being in 1996 when his only known game in the event was for the team ŠK Montenegrobanka Podgorica. (50).
<National League> He played in the Yugoslav Cup from 1961 (51) and in the Yugoslav League from 1989 until 2003 inclusive. (52), the Serbia and Montenegro team championship of 2003 and the Serbian Team Championships of 2006 and 2007. He also played in the Greek League in 2000 (53) and 2001 (54).
<Other team events> Velimirović played for the Old Hands against the Snowdrops in the Czech Coal match of November 2010. (55)
In 1981, he was Korchnoi’s second in Merano, Italy during the Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship Rematch (1981). (56). He appears (as himself) in a film dated 2010 “Opelo za Bobija Fiser” (Requiem for Bobby Fischer”), a documentary seen through the eyes of Fischer’s Serbian friends, chess opponents and acquaintances. (57) Velimirović’s last games were played in 2011, where he competed in the Belgrade Cup and Serbian Cup.
Career ratings and rankings
Velimirović was considered to have been in the world's top 100 players since at least 1969 and possibly even before that time, when he was still untitled. He won his International Master title in 1971, the year FIDE first published its official ratings. His rating at that time was 2470 and he was ranked =83rd in the world. He remained in the top 100, apart from three ratings periods in 1981 and 1983, peaking at equal world number #20 in January 1986. His rating also peaked at that time at 2575. (58)
Velimirović’s aggressive Velimirović Attack variation is identified by the sequence of moves: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qe2 a6 9.0-0-0:
Velimirović died on May 22, 2014, at the age of 72 in Belgrade and is survived by his wife, Mirjana Velimirović.