IM (1950); GM (1951)
Generally considered to be the greatest Yugoslav and Serbian player ever, Svetozar Gligorić (Светозар Глигорић) was born on February 2, 1923 in Belgrade in what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He passed away in his home city over 89 years later, completing a life in which he was widely regarded as a key figure in the development of chess in his native country.
Gligorić developed an interest in chess as a small child watching people play in a local bar. He began playing about three years after his father died, at the age of 11, when he was taught by a boarder in his family home. He frequented the Belgrade Chess Club, whose gates were defended by a guard who turned a blind eye to school-age Gligorić's entry. He was sufficiently interested in pursuing the game to make a chess set with pieces carved from the corks of wine bottles. He became a national master in 1939 at the age of 16 by winning the 1939 Yugoslav Amateur Chess Championship, the year before his mother died. His career was interrupted by the onset of World War II, during which he fought as a partisan against the Nazis, rising to be captain and winning two military awards. After the War, he worked as a journalist and organized tournaments while continuing his development as a chess player that had been interrupted by the War, gaining his Grandmaster title in 1951 thereby becoming one of the earliest of the modern official Grandmasters.
In the fifties and sixties, he was amongst the World elite, contesting three Candidates events and forming lifelong friendships with Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Mikhail Botvinnik, Miguel Najdorf, Efim Geller, Mikhail Tal and Robert James Fischer, the last during the Candidates Tournament - Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959). In later years he was the chief arbiter in the aborted Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match (1984), but turned down his appointment by FIDE to that position for the Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match (1985). During his playing career, he won 24 games against six players who were at one time World Champions, namely Max Euwe (2), Botvinnik (2), Smyslov (6), Tal (2), Petrosian (8) and Fischer (4). These wins include two wins against Petrosian while he was World Champion, one of which was Petrosian's first defeat since winning the title from Botvinnik.
Championships and Matches
In 1938, at the age of fifteen, Gligorić won the championship of the Belgrade Chess Club. He came first at the Bulgarian Championship in 1945, but was excluded from claiming the championship because he was not a national. He won the Yugoslav championship in 1947 jointly with Petar Trifunovic, 1948 jointly with Vasja Pirc, outright in 1949, 1950, 1956 and 1957, jointly with Borislav Ivkov in 1958, and outright in 1959, 1960, 1962 and 1966.
He was a regular participant in the World Championship cycle between 1948 and 1973, participating in every Interzonal between 1948 and 1973 inclusive, except for the 1955 Interzonal in Goteborg. He notched up zonal wins at Bad Pyrmont in 1951, Madrid in 1960 (joint), Enschede (Netherlands) in 1963, The Hague in 1966, and Praia da Rocha (Portugal) in 1969 (joint), and his finishes at the Interzonals of 1952, 1958, and 1967 were sufficient to qualify him for the Candidates events that followed. However, he was not as successful in any of the Candidates events, with mediocre results in the 1953 and 1959 Candidates Tournaments and a match loss to Mikhail Tal in the first round of the 1968 Candidates matches. Gligorić recalled how he allowed himself to be distracted from winning the match after he took a one game lead and was easily holding off Tal.* The Interzonal in 1973 was his last attempt at the World Championship.
Gligorić played three hard fought and close exhibition matches. The first was played against Gideon Stahlberg in 1949, with four games played in Belgrade and eight in Split, with Gligorić winning in what was then considered an upset by 6.5-5.5 (+2 -1 =9) - Gligoric - Stahlberg (1949). The second match was against Samuel Reshevsky at the Manhattan Chess Club in 1952, and was narrowly won by Reshesvky 5.5-4.5 (+2 -1 =7); this match was played soon after Reshevsky's match with Najdorf. Gligorić played his third match when he was in his late 50s versus world number 18 Ljubomir Ljubojevic in Belgrade in 1979, the result being narrowly in Ljubojevic's favour 4.5-5.5 (+4 -3 =3). Gligoric also played ten training games against Fischer in the lead up to the latter's rematch with Spassky in 1992. Most of the game scores are unavailable, but Gligorić's recollection is that Fischer won at least 3 games, while he won the last.**
In 1947, Gligorić won his first major international event at Warsaw, ahead of Vasily Smyslov and Isaac Boleslavsky, winning by 2 full points with 8/9 (+7 -0 =2). Other victories were at events such as the Ljubjana Liberation Tournament of 1945/46, Mar del Plata 1950 and 1953, 1st Staunton Memorial (London) 1951, Hollywood 1952 (ahead of Oscar Panno), Stockholm 1954, equal 1st (with Samuel Reshevsky) Dallas in 1957, equal 1st with Ludek Pachman at Sarajevo in 1961, equal first with Lajos Portisch in Sarajevo in 1962, Belgrade 1962 and 1964, Tel Aviv 1966, Manila 1968, Lone Pine 1972 and 1979, and Los Angeles 1974. He was a regular competitor at the Hastings tournaments, winning in 1951–52, taking equal first with Bent Larsen in 1956–57, and winning in 1959–60 and 1960–61, and taking equal first in 1962–63 with Alexander Kotov .***
Other notable results include 2nd place at Zurich in 1959, half a point behind Tal, but ahead of Fischer and Paul Keres 2nd behind Ivkov at both Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires in 1955. There were 18 leading Grandmasters contesting the 4th Alekhine Memorial held in Moscow in 1956; Gligoric came 4th behind Botvinnik, Smyslov and Mark Taimanov, ahead of Najdorf, Paul Keres and David Bronstein, and was the only non-Soviet player to have a plus score against the Soviet GMs. This era in Gligoric's career lead Bronstein to opine that Gligoric was one of the three top players in the world. In 1975 at the age of 52, Gligorić placed equal 2nd with Geller behind Karpov at the Vidmar Memorial ahead of Bent Larsen, Lajos Portisch and Ljubomir Ljubojevic. He played his last tournament in the 2003 Rilton Cup at the age of 80.
<Olympiads> He represented Yugoslavia in fifteen Olympiads from 1950 to 1982, including 13 stints on board one and played 223 games (+88 −26 =109). In the first post-war Olympiad at Dubrovnik in 1950, Gligorić played first board and led Yugoslavia to win the team gold medal. The Yugoslav team was usually second or third in the world during the 1950s and 1960s, winning a further 6 silver and 5 bronze medals on his watch, and he personally won a gold medal for his top board performance in 1958.
<National Summit> During the match between Yugoslavia and the USSR held in Leningrad in 1957, Gligoric scored 6/8 (+4 =4), the best result of all the participants. although the USSR won the overall result decisively.
Gligorić made far-ranging contributions to the theory and practice of the Nimzo-Indian Defense, the Ruy Lopez, and the King’s Indian Defense, some of which were named after him, including such critical and commonly played opening variations as the Nimzo-Indian Gligorić System (E54): <1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3>:
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the Ruy Lopez, Exchange, Gligorić Variation (C69): <1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. 0-0 f6 6. d4 Bg4>:
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the Ruy Lopez Closed Breyer, Gligorić Variation (C95): < 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d6 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Bc2 c5>:
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and the King’s Indian (Gligorić Variation) (E92): < 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 0-0 6. Be2 e5 7. Be3>:
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Gligorić was a regular columnist for <Chess Review> and <Chess Life> magazines and contributed regularly to the <Chess Informant>. He wrote his autobiography <I Play Against Pieces> and other books such as <Fischer vs Spassky Chess Match of the Century>, one of the biggest selling chess books of all time; <The French Defence>, co-authored with Wolfgang Uhlmann <King’s Indian Defence, Mar Del Plata Variation>; <The Nimzo-Indian Defence>; <Play the Nimzo-Indian Defence>; <Selected Chess Masterpieces>; <Shall We Play Fischerandom Chess?>; <The Sicilian Defence> co-authored with Vladimir Sokolov <Svetozar Gligorić’s Chess Career 1945-1970>, also co-authored with Vladimir Sokolov; <The World Chess Championship>, co-authored with Robert Wade <Le Grande Tournoi International D’echecs, Terre des Hommes, Montreal 1979>; <Najdorf Variation Sicilian Defence>; <Yugoslav Chess Triumphs>; <Interzonen Turnier Portoroz 1958>, co-authored with Aleksandar Matanovic <Kandidatenturnier fur Schachweltmeisterschaft / Bled - Zagreb - Beograd / 6 September-31 Oktober 1959> (Candidates Tournament for the World Chess Championship / Bled - Zagreb - Beograd / 6 September-31 October 1959), co-authored with Viacheslav Ragozin and was one of seven contributors, along with Larry Melvyn Evans, Vlastimil Hort, Portisch, Petrosian, Larsen and Keres, to <How To Open a Chess Game>.
Gligorić was usually ranked in the top ten players of the world in the 1950s and 1960s. When numerical ratings were first introduced in the early 1970's, Gligorić, though nearly fifty years old, was placed fifteenth, and he remained in the top 100 until 1987 when he was 64.
In 1958, he was declared the best athlete of Yugoslavia. In 1978, he was a candidate for FIDE president in the Congress in Buenos Aires and was eliminated in round one, having just one vote less than Fridrik Olafsson, who become the fourth FIDE president. During the last few years of his life, he turned to music, learning the piano and music theory, and at the age of 88, he recorded a music CD, <Kako Sam Preživeo Dvadeseti Vek> (How I Survived the Twentieth Century), featuring 12 compositions that drew on jazz, ballads and rap.
His philosophy: <"Life - that's all we have.">****
chessbase.com http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail...; by chessdom.com: http://www.chessdom.com/legendary-g... by chessvibes.com http://www.chessvibes.com/reports/s... and by the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/w...; Three-part tribute by Macedonian art historian Kiril Penusliski: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail... and http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp... and http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp...
Gligorić was buried in the <Novom Groblju> (Alley of the Greats) at Belgrade's New Cemetery.
* http://www.chessintranslation.com/2...; ** http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail...; ***http://www.hastingschess.org.uk/pre...; **** Interview in 2011 with "Masha" Manakova posted posthumously at: http://chesspro.ru/_events/2012/man...; Interview in 2009 during the Jermuk Grand Prix by Smbat Gariginovich Lputian http://jermuk2009.fide.com/intervie...; Interview in 2010 with Yury Vasiliev: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2... Links to numerous photos on Edward Winter's site: http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/...
Wikipedia article: Svetozar Gligorić