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USA - Yugoslavia Radio Match

Aleksandar Matanovic2/2(+2 -0 =0)[games]
Milan Vidmar Jr2/2(+2 -0 =0)[games]
Stojan Puc1.5/2(+1 -0 =1)[games]
Arthur Bisguier1.5/2(+1 -0 =1)[games]
Arnold Denker1.5/2(+1 -0 =1)[games]
Petar Trifunovic1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Borislav Kostic1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Robert Eugene Byrne1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Samuel Reshevsky1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Svetozar Gligoric1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Alexander Kevitz1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Vasja Pirc1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Israel Albert Horowitz1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Reuben Fine1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Borislav Milic1/2(+0 -0 =2)[games]
Borislav Ivkov0.5/2(+0 -1 =1)[games]
Arthur William Dake0.5/2(+0 -1 =1)[games]
Braslav Rabar0.5/2(+0 -1 =1)[games]
Olaf Ulvestad0/2(+0 -2 =0)[games]
Albert Pinkus0/2(+0 -2 =0)[games] Chess Event Description
USA - Yugoslavia Radio Match (1950)


The USA - Yugoslavia Radio Match was contested using Teletype machines and short wave radio transmission between New York, USA and Belgrade, Yugoslavia. It took place between Saturday 11th and Tuesday 14th February 1950.

The Americans had previous experience of this type of match (USSR - USA Radio Match (1945)). In the decade after the Second World War, there were several such radio matches. The technology was proven and it provided a relatively inexpensive method of arranging long-distance competition at a time when many countries were still recovering economically and travel was expensive and restricted. Other such matches included the Anglo-Soviet match (1946) (Game Collection: 1946. USSR vs GB (Radio match)), Anglo-Australian match (1946), Australia vs France (1946) (Game Collection: 1946 Australia vs France : radio match), Australia vs Canada (1947) (Australia vs Canada Radio Match (1947)), and Argentina vs Spain (1949). For more information on radio matches see Game Collection: 1947 radio matches.

Moves were relayed using the Udemann telegraphic code which it was intended would allow a time control of 50 moves per 2 hours. The mechanics of transmission, however, caused delays which slowed the progress of the match down. The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) provided the American radio transmission machinery. (1). RCA was the leading manufacturer of radio components in the USA, and as a leading supplier of this technology the match provided beneficial publicity. Hans Kmoch was the match referee. (2) The American team played in an office in The Chanin Building, a 56 storey office block on 122 East 42nd Street, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, Manhattan. (3) The Yugoslav team were given the use of the Kolarech University Hall (Kolarac Concert Hall), Belgrade which had a 1,200 seat capacity. The Yugoslav's opening ceremony was a grand affair, with the Belgrade Radio Symphony Orchestra serenading a hall packed with dignitaries including the US Ambassador and veteran GM Milan Vidmar, who served as the "American representative" for the match. (4)

The American team

A week before the match, the American team was deprived of Isaac Kashdan, their intended third board, when he was hospitalised with a perforated ulcer. It was further weakened by internal dissension when Herman Steiner, who had agreed to play, withdrew the day before the commencement of the match as he was not given Board One. (5) Olaf Ulvestad was brought in as a last minute replacement rushing to New York from Cleveland. Unfortunately, he was rusty, having played little competitive chess in the previous year. (6) Albert Pinkus, after having lost his first round game, effectively defaulted his second round game by resigning in the early middle game in an equal position:

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24...h5 is equal. Pinkus resigned before day two of his game, explaining that he had to go to a business appointment.

The Yugoslavian team

The preparedness and single-mindedness of the Yugoslav team contrasted with the lack of preparation and last-minute improvisation of the Americans. It was an important match for the Yugoslavs and for them it had a political imperative and social aspect that was lacking on the American side. Of their top players only Andrija Fuderer, who shared 4th in the Yugoslav championship, was not on the team. Interestingly, whilst the 18-year-old Fuderer did not play, Borislav Ivkov, who was two years his junior, was on the team. The Yugoslav state had decided to devote significant resources to chess for reasons of national prestige and as a flag carrier for socialist culture. Edo Turnher, the President of the Slovenian Chess Association, explained that in "the profound social changes in our country, the revolutionary struggle for socialism ... chess can be enjoyed by us through significant support from the national governments and within a plan of work to elevate the economic and cultural level of our homeland." (7)

The Yugoslav government was prepared to invest precious resources into chess at a time when there was little to go round. Whilst still recovering from the devastation of war, the economy had been cut off from its Eastern European trade partners. Ejected from the Communist trading bloc (Cominform) by Stalin, Yugoslavia could not yet generate sufficient foreign exchange to pay for hard currency imports. Instead, it was dependent on an American loan to pay for a significant amount of its imports. Despite this, Yugoslavia hosted the 1950 Olympiad and also arranged a number of matches for their top players: Gligoric - Stahlberg (1949), Euwe - Pirc (1949) and Najdorf - Trifunovic (1949). The match on the present page was widely publicised in Yugoslavia and attracted leading government and political figures.

First Round

1 Reshevsky vs Gligoric 2 Pirc vs Fine 3 Horowitz vs Trifunovic 4 Rabar vs Denker 5 Ulvestad vs Vidmar 6 Puc vs Dake 7 Kevitz vs Milic 8 Kostic vs Byrne 9 Pinkus vs Matanovic 10 Ivkov vs Bisguier

February 11th-12th; USA had White on the odd-numbered boards.

Second Round

1 Gligoric vs Reshevsky 2 Fine vs Pirc 3 Trifunovic vs Horowitz 4 Denker vs Rabar 5 Vidmar vs Ulvestad 6 Dake vs Puc 7 Milic vs Kevitz 8 Byrne vs Kostic 9 Matanovic vs Pinkus 10 Bisguier vs Ivkov

February 13th-14th; USA had White on the even-numbered boards.

1 Reshevsky 十 - 十 Gligoric 2 Fine 十 - 十 Pirc 3 Horowitz 十 - 十 Trifunovic 4 Denker 1 - 0 Rabar 5 Ulvestad 00 - 11 Vidmar 6 Dake 0 - 1 Puc 7 Kevitz 十 - 十 Milic 8 Byrne 十 - 十 Kostic 9 Pinkus 00 - 11 Matanovic 10 Bisguier 1 - 0 Ivkov First Round - Score: 4 - 5. Second Round - Score: 4 to 6.

The Yugoslavs were victorious in both rounds and won the match 11 to 8. They won Round 1 by 5 to 4 and Round 2 by 6 to 4. Arnold Denker was the only American to win in Round 2. Of the Americans, only he and Arthur Bisguier managed a plus score overall. Denker won the First Brilliancy Prize for his second round game against Rabar (Denker vs B Rabar, 1950). Bisguier won the Second Brilliancy Prize for his first round game against Ivkov (Ivkov vs Bisguier, 1950). For his second round win over Ulvestad, Vidmar Jr was presented with a special prize for the best positional win (M Vidmar Jr vs O Ulvestad, 1950).


Arthur Dake was lucky to survive his first round game:

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With 22.Bd8! instead of taking the Knight on b4, his opponent Stojan Puc would have won. Borislav Kostic played aggressively in his games against Robert Byrne, but in the first round (as White) he was outplayed. Byrne later miscalculated and Kostic managed to draw:

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33...Kxh7 would have given good winning chances. In the second round, the match was effectively decided when Dake as White lost this position:

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Ulvestad lost his first round game by walking into a mating net against Vidmar:

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34.Rd2? (34.Na4=) 34...Bf3+ 35.Kh3 Qc4 36.Na4 Qg8 37.Kh4 Qh8+ 38.Bh7 Be4 0-1. In round two, Denker defeated Braslav Rabar with a combination which if played out would have involved a Queen sacrifice:

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38.Qe7+ Kh6 39.Qxh7+ Kxh7 40.Re7+ Kh6 41.Rh8 mate. The full score for this First Brilliancy Prize game: Denker vs B Rabar, 1950.

Contemporary report

The match was mentioned by the mainstream press in some detail. On February 3rd, 1950, The New York Times introduced the Yugoslav team to its readership: "Champion Heads Team. BELGRADE, Feb. 2 - Svetozar Gligorich, Yugoslavia's 1949 champion, will lead a strong team against American chess masters in the international radio match starting Feb. 11. Gligorich is regarded as one of the strongest players in Europe. In 1947 at Warsaw he defeated Vassily Smyslov and drew with Isaac Boleslawski, two of the ranking Soviet masters. Last summer Gligorich defeated Gideon Stahlberg, the Swedish master, in a twelve-game match. Gligorich won two games, lost one and drew nine. The Yugoslav expert is a journalist by profession and is a member of the staff of "Borba", the official newspaper of the Yugoslav Communist party. He will be seconded by Vasya Pirts, Professor of Modern Languages, and Petar Trifunovich, Yugoslavia's chess champion in 1945 and 1946, who shared top honors with Gligorich in 1947. Trifunovich won two matches, lost one and drew four against Soviet masters at the Stockholm tournament in 1948, in which he placed tenth among twenty players. Trifunovich is a journalist by profession.

The other Yugoslav players are Vraslov Rabar, journalist; Milan Vidmar, engineer and a son of the Yugoslav grandmaster of the same name, Stoyan Putz, clerk, Bora Militch, student, Bora Kostich, aged 63, oldest member of the team, Alexander Matanovich, student, and Bora Yiv (sic, Ivkov), 16-year-old high school student. Two substitute players will be attached to the team. The Yugoslavs are generally rated second to the Soviet masters in European chess. In post-war international matches they defeated a Swiss team 17 to 2, the Austrians 16 to 3, the Dutch by 10 to 9, the Hungarians by 10 to 9, and the Czechoslovaks, 15 to 5. Central House of the Yugoslav Army will be the scene of the play here. The Yugoslavs are approaching the match with great enthusiasm because they rate Americans as strong players and because it be the first time they will he met them in competition since the end of the war." (8)

An eye witness account

"In 1950, Yugoslavia defeated the United States of America in a 10-board, four-day "radio match." Steve Pejovich was then a high school senior in Belgrade. Before he left Yugoslavia in 1957 for a career culminating as professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, Steve was known by his given name of Svetozar. Svetozar Pejovich and other Belgrade high school chess players volunteered as match assistants. Pejovich remembers, "We got permission to miss four days of School" to relay the moves that one of his fellow volunteers recalled were "radio-received." Three volunteers were assigned to each game. A first volunteer took each move from the radio room to a second volunteer, who sat across from the Yugoslav player. That second volunteer made the Americans move on the board and started the Yugoslavs clock. Pejovich was a third volunteer. His job was to update his assigned games demonstration board. I asked Pejovich if he remembered who played that game. He said that Ivkov played for Yugoslavia and ... "a fellow named Bisguier played for the American side."" (9)


(1) Match description and background from: Chess Review, January 1950, Volume 18, No. 1, pp. 10-11; Chess Review, February 1950, Volume 18, No. 2, p. 35; Chess Review, March 1950, Volume 18, No. 3, pp. 72-79; Chess Review, April 1950, vol. 18, No. 4. pp. 114-116.
(2) Chess Review, March 1950, Volume 18, No. 3, p. 75.
(3) Wikipedia article: Chanin Building.
(4) Wikipedia article: Ilija M. Kolarac Endowment.
(5) Chess Review, March 1950, Volume 18, No. 3, p. 72.
(6) Chess Review, March 1950, Volume 18, No. 3, p. 75.
(7) Quoted in Mec Pirc-Eve 5:5 : Bled-Ljubljana, 1949, p. 6.
(8) The New York Times, 3 February 1950.
(9) Chess Life, January 2016, p. 32.

Original text and tables by User: Chessical. The score of the First Round Board Four game, Rabar vs Denker, was found by User: Retireborn in the New York Times, February 12th, 1950, p. 138.

 page 1 of 1; 20 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. B Kostic vs Robert E Byrne  ½-½401950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchB80 Sicilian, Scheveningen
2. Robert E Byrne vs B Kostic  ½-½261950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchD08 Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit
3. Puc vs Dake  ½-½321950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
4. Pirc vs Fine  ½-½331950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchA06 Reti Opening
5. Pinkus vs A Matanovic  0-1561950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchB17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
6. Kevitz vs B Milic  ½-½221950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchE92 King's Indian
7. Ivkov vs Bisguier  0-1601950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchC78 Ruy Lopez
8. I A Horowitz vs P Trifunovic  ½-½241950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
9. O Ulvestad vs M Vidmar Jr  0-1381950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
10. Reshevsky vs Gligoric  ½-½281950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchE56 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6
11. B Rabar vs Denker  ½-½151950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchB92 Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation
12. Gligoric vs Reshevsky  ½-½451950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchE56 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6
13. A Matanovic vs Pinkus  1-0241950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
14. B Milic vs Kevitz  ½-½511950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchE58 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 8...Bxc3
15. Bisguier vs Ivkov  ½-½471950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
16. Denker vs B Rabar 1-0381950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchA31 English, Symmetrical, Benoni Formation
17. P Trifunovic vs I A Horowitz  ½-½251950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
18. M Vidmar Jr vs O Ulvestad  1-0531950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchE11 Bogo-Indian Defense
19. Fine vs Pirc  ½-½241950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchE72 King's Indian
20. Dake vs Puc 0-1641950USA - Yugoslavia Radio MatchA04 Reti Opening
 page 1 of 1; 20 games  PGN Download 
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Kibitzer's Corner
May-16-19  Caissanist: Comprehensive article on this match from User: SBC, with a lot of background on the internal bickering on the US side prior to the match: .

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