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USA - Yugoslavia Radio Match
Compiled by Chessical


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 international 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 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:

The American team was deprived of Isaac Kashdan, their intended third board, a week before the match when he was hospitalised with a perforated ulcer.

The American Team was further weakened by internal dissension. Herman Steiner who had agreed to play withdrew the day before the commencement of the match as he was not given Board One. (5). 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)

Pinkus having lost his first round game and effectively defaulted his second round game by resigning in the early middle game in an equal position

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24...h5 =

Pinkus resigned before day two of his game, he explained that he had to go to a business appointment.

The preparedness and single-mindedness of the Yugoslav team contrasted with the lack of preparation and last-minute improvisation of the Americans.

The Yugoslavian team:

This was an important match for the Yugoslavs and for them it had a political imperative and social aspect that was completely lacking on the American side. Of their top players, only Andrija Fuderer, who came 4-6 in the Yugoslav championship, was not on the team. Interestingly, whilst the 18 year old did not play, Ivkov who was two year's 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, wrote in 1949: .

"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 Yugoslav economy had recently 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 which invited leading grandmasters to play their top players:

Gligoric - Stahlberg (1949)

Euwe - Pirc (1949)

Najdorf - Trifunovic (1949)

The match was widely publicised and followed in Yugoslavia and attracted leading government and political figures.

First Round:

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

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


Second Round:

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

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

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, Jr 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 - winning Round 1 by 5 to 4 and Round 2 by 6 to 4. Denker was the only American to win the Round 2. In the American Team, only he and 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 of the match - M Vidmar Jr vs O Ulvestad, 1950.


Dake was very lucky to survive his First Round game;

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With <22.Bd8>, instead of taking the Knight on <b4>, his opponent Puc would have won.

Kostic with White, played very aggressively in both of his games aginst Byrne, but in the First Round he was thoroughly outplayed. Byrne later miscalculated and Kostic managed to draw.

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33....Kh7! would have given good winning chances.

In the Second Round, the match effectively decided, Dake as White made a draw in a dead lost position:

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With <34.Rd2?> Ulvestad lost his First Round Game by walking into a mating net against Vidmar (Jr):

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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 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.

Other Masters Named

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 - ed), 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 Yugoslavian 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)


The score of the First Round, Board Four game: Rabar v Denker was found by User: Retireborn in the "New York Times", February 12th, 1950. p.138.

(1) Match description and background from: "Chess Review", January 1950, Volume 18, No.1, p.10 - 11; "Chess Review", February 1950, Volume 18, No.2, p.35; "Chess Review", March 1950, Volume 18, No.3, p.72 - p.79; and "Chess Review", April, vol.18, No.4. p. 114 - p.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 "Meč Pirc-Eve 5:5 : Bled-Ljubljana, 1949", p.6.

(8) "The New York Times", February 3rd, 1950.

(9) "Chess Life", January 2016, p.32.

Round 1 - Board 1.
Reshevsky vs Gligoric, 1950
(E56) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6, 28 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 1 - Board 2.
Pirc vs Fine, 1950
(A06) Reti Opening, 33 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 1 - Board 3.
I A Horowitz vs P Trifunovic, 1950
(C65) Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense, 24 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 1 - Board 4.
B Rabar vs Denker, 1950
(B92) Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation, 15 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 1 - Board 5.
O Ulvestad vs M Vidmar Jr, 1950
(D37) Queen's Gambit Declined, 38 moves, 0-1

Round 1 - Board 6.
Puc vs Dake, 1950
(D44) Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, 32 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 1 - Board 7.
A Kevitz vs B Milic, 1950
(E92) King's Indian, 22 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 1 - Board 8.
Kostic vs R Byrne, 1950
(B80) Sicilian, Scheveningen, 40 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 1 - Board 9.
Pinkus vs A Matanovic, 1950
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 56 moves, 0-1

Round 1 - Board 10. Second Brilliancy Prize
Ivkov vs Bisguier, 1950
(C78) Ruy Lopez, 60 moves, 0-1

Round 2 - Board 1.
Gligoric vs Reshevsky, 1950
(E56) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6, 45 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 2 - Board 2.
Fine vs Pirc, 1950
(E72) King's Indian, 24 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 2 - Board 3.
P Trifunovic vs I A Horowitz, 1950
(D32) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 25 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 2 - Board 4. First Brilliancy Prize
Denker vs B Rabar, 1950 
(A31) English, Symmetrical, Benoni Formation, 38 moves, 1-0

Round 2 - Board 5. Best positional win prize.
M Vidmar Jr vs O Ulvestad, 1950
(E11) Bogo-Indian Defense, 53 moves, 1-0

Round 2 - Board 6.
Dake vs Puc, 1950 
(A04) Reti Opening, 64 moves, 0-1

Round 2 - Board 7.
B Milic vs A Kevitz, 1950
(E58) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 8...Bxc3, 51 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 2 - Board 8.
R Byrne vs Kostic, 1950
(D08) Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Counter Gambit, 26 moves, 1/2-1/2

Round 2 - Board 9.
A Matanovic vs Pinkus, 1950
(C98) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 24 moves, 1-0

Round 2 - Board 10.
Bisguier vs Ivkov, 1950
(B59) Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3, 47 moves, 1/2-1/2

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