Svetozar Gligorić bigraphy, stories - Serbian and Yugoslavian chess grandmaster

Svetozar Gligorić : biography

2 February 1923 - 14 August 2012

Svetozar Gligorić ( 2 February 1923 – 14 August 2012) was a Serbian and Yugoslavian chess grandmaster. He won the championship of Yugoslavia a record twelve times, and is considered the best player ever from Serbia. In 1958 he was declared the best athlete of Yugoslavia.

In the 1950s and 1960s Gligorić was one of the top players in the world, and also among the world's most popular, owing to his globe-trotting tournament schedule and a particularly engaging personality, reflected in the title of his autobiography, I Play Against Pieces. (I.e., playing without hostility toward the opponent, or playing differently against different players for "psychological" reasons; playing the board and not the man.)


Gligorić was born in Belgrade to a poor family. According to his recollections, his first exposure to chess was as a small child watching patrons play in a neighborhood bar. He began to play at the age of eleven, when taught by a boarder taken in by his mother (his father had died by this time). Lacking a chess set, he made one for himself by carving pieces from corks from wine bottles—a story paralleling the formative years of his contemporary, the renowned Estonian grandmaster Paul Keres.

Gligorić was a good student during his youth, with both academic and athletic successes that famously led to him to be invited to represent his school at a birthday celebration for Prince Peter, later to become King Peter II of Yugoslavia. He later recounted to International Master David Levy (who chronicled his chess career in The Chess of Gligoric) his distress at attending this gala event wearing poor clothing stemming from his family's impoverished condition. His first tournament success came in 1938 when he won the Belgrade Chess Club championship; however, World War II interrupted his chess progress for a time. During the war, Gligorić was a member of a partisan unit. A chance encounter with a chess-playing partisan officer led to his removal from combat.

Following World War II, Gligorić worked several years as a journalist and organizer of chess tournaments. He continued to progress as a player and was awarded the International Master (IM) title in 1950 and the Grandmaster (GM) title in 1951, eventually making the transition to full-time chess professional. He continued active tournament play well into his sixties.


Although he compiled a superb tournament record, it is perhaps as an openings theorist and commentator that Gligorić will be best remembered. He made enormous contributions to the theory and practice of the King's Indian Defense, Ruy Lopez and Nimzo-Indian Defense, among others, and particularly with the King's Indian, translated his theoretical contributions into several spectacular victories with both colours (including the sample game below). Theoretically significant variations in the King's Indian and Ruy Lopez are named for him. His battles with Bobby Fischer in the King's Indian and Sicilian Defense (particularly the Najdorf Variation, a long-time Fischer specialty) often worked out in his favor.

As a commentator, Gligorić was able to take advantage of his fluency in a number of languages and his training as a journalist, to produce lucid, interesting game annotations. He was a regular columnist for Chess Review and Chess Life magazines for many years, his "Game of the Month" column often amounting to a complete tutorial in the opening used in the feature game as well as a set of comprehensive game annotations. He wrote a number of chess books in several languages. One of the most notable was Fischer v Spassky: The Chess Match of the Century, a detailed account of their epic struggle for the world title in Reykjavík in 1972. He also contributed regularly to the Chess Informant semi-annual (more recently, thrice-yearly) compilation of the world's most important chess games.


On August 14, 2012, Svetozar Gligorić died from a stroke at 89 years of age in Belgrade.. Chessbase. Retrieved on 2012-11-10.. The Telegraph (2012-08-15). Retrieved on 2012-11-10.Loeb, Dylan. (2012-08-16) . NY Times. Retrieved on 2012-11-10.. SMH. Retrieved on 2012-11-10. Gligorić was buried on August 16, 2012, at 13:30 in the Alley of the Greats at Belgrade's New Cemetery.

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