Svetozar Gligoric

One of the greatest chess grandmasters ever, Svetozar Gligoric, died this year, on August 14, 2012, at the age of 89.

He was born on February 2, 1923 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, an only child, to Dragoje and Rakic Gligoric.  In 1934, he began to play chess at age 11.  His father had died in 1932 and a boarder taken in by his mother taught him the game.  Gligoric could not afford a chess set, so he made one himself by carving chess pieces from corks from wine bottles using a razor blade.

In 1935, he played in his first chess tournament.  He took 2nd place in his junior high school chess championship.

In 1937, he won the Under-14 championship of Belgrade.

In 1938, at the age of 15, he won the Belgrade Chess Club championship and the Belgrade junior championship.

In 1939, at the age of 16, he became a national master after winning the 16th Yugoslav Amateur Chess Championship, held in Zagreb.  There were 44 participants in the event.

In November 1940, his mother died, making Gligoric an orphan.  He was taken into the home of the president of the Belgrade chess club, and in 1941,they all fled to Montenegro when the Germans invaded Yugoslavia.

In 1944, he was a captain in the Yugoslav partisan unit who fought against the Nazis and won two military awards for bravery.

In 1945, he won the Bulgarian Championship.

After World War II, he organized chess tournaments as worked as a journalist for a daily newspaper.  He later was employed by Radio Belgrade.

In 1947, he got married and won the first major international chess event at Warsaw.

In 1950, he was awarded the International Master title.  He was awarded the Grandmaster title in 1951 and became a full time chess professional.

He represented Yugoslavia in 15 chess Olympiads from 1950 to 1982.  He played first board 13 times.  He won more medals in chess Olympics than any other person.  He won 12 medals (1 gold, 6 silver, and 5 bronze).  Tied for second with 10 medals are Tigran Petrosian and Boris Ivkov. He also won 5 European medals.

 In 1957, he was part of a 11-member Yugoslav chess team that gave the first U.S. coast-to-coast tour of a great European chess team.

In 1958, as a chess player, he was declared Sportsman of the Year in Yugoslavia.

He won the championship of Yugoslavia a record 12 times, from 1947 to 1971.

He won the annual Hastings tournament 5 times and took 2nd place 4 times.

In 1972, he was awarded the International Arbiter title.

In 1980, Gligoric was attacked in his sleep by masked burglars, who tied him up and took money, jewelry, and chess trophies.

In 1984, he was the chief arbiter of the Karpov-Kasparov World Championship match.  He was also the chief arbiter in 12 FIDE Candidates matches.

In 1994, his wife of 47 years died at the age of 65.

In 2001, he was proclaimed Yugoslav chess player of the 20th century.

He was a regular participant in the World Championship cycle between 1948 and 1973 and was a candidate for the World Championship three times (1953, 1959, 1968.  He played in 7 Interzonal tournaments.

During his lifetime, he defeated Max Euwe twice, Botvinnik twice, Smyslov 6 times, Tal twice, Petrosian 8 times, and Fischer 4 times.

Gligoric played in over 70 international chess tournaments and won or shared 20 first-place prizes.

Gligoric wrote over 20 chess books during his lifetime.

Gligoric is buried at the Novrom Groblju (Alley of the Greats) cemetery in Belgrade.  When he died, he was the world’s second oldest chess grandmaster.


Gligoric - Toran, Havana 1952

1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.d4 Ndf6 6.Nc5 g6 7.Bc4 Nh6 8.Ne5 e6 9.Qf3 Nf5 10.c3 Bg7 (10...Bxc5) 11.Bg5 O-O 12.Ne4 h5 13.g4 c5 (13...hxg4 14.Nxg4) 14.gxf5  1-0