Lightning From a Blue Sky

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Aug 30, 2012

Today we will be seeing a game by grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric, who recently passed away.  Gligoric was born in Belgrade in 1923 and died on August 14 at the age of 89. After first learning chess by watching people play at a local bar, he made rapid progress and was a national master by the age of 16. Although the Second World War interrupted his progress as a chess player, soon after it ended he took his place among the best players in the world, which he maintained for decades. For quite some time, he has been a living legend.

As evidence of the strength of his life spirit, at the age of 88 he recorded and published a jazz, blues, and rap CD called “How I Survived the 20th Century”. Although I would like to hear the songs, I haven’t yet been able to find them anywhere online. Nevertheless I think I can understand the dual meaning of the title – part of it obviously refers to the turbulent times he lived through as a Serb in the twentieth century; but I can surmise that there is a second meaning that relates to his longevity or perhaps that it is music and/or chess that allowed him to live. I understand that one of the songs is about Bobby Fischer.

Gligoric was a player with a classical style. He respected the pawn center and space. Nevertheless, he was one of the greatest experts in the King’s Indian Defense. Normally as white he opened with 1.d4, and he made many contributions to theory, especially in the 4.e3 line of the Nimzo-Indian.

I picked a very entertaining and apparently light-hearted game which varies a little bit from his later style. This game was played in 1946, right after the World War had ended. Gligoric had fought in the resistance against the Nazis who were occupying Yugoslavia, and during that time his chess career was on hold. Thus in 1946 he did not even have the international master title. In this game, unlike throughout the majority of his chess career, he opened with 1.e4.

When I was driving back from a recent tournament in Indianapolis, some time in the early evening the sky was a very dark shade of blue. There was no evidence of anything coming, when suddenly the entire sky ahead of me exploded in lightning, like fractures in a window. Then instantly the rain started. That reminds me of this game – White’s development seems slow and passive, by the fifteenth move his pieces still do not occupy any square beyond the third rank and Black seemingly has pressure on the d-file. But then out of nowhere comes the improbable advance d4 and then d5, the black pieces are driven back, the white knights jump in to the kingside with four consecutive moves, and the black kingside is ripped apart. White’s slow buildup concealed the hidden energy of his position, which exploded like lighting from a clear sky.


  • 11 months ago


    You can find his songs on youtube now, somebody uploaded them.

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    Check out these games by Gligoric - after you play thru the one here!

  • 4 years ago


    Nice article, well written. Thanks too to Franken_Berry for posting that video!


  • 4 years ago


    Great game, thanks for posting it. It's #4 in this book which is available at          I'm plugging the book because I own it & really like it!

  • 4 years ago


    Nice article!

  • 4 years ago


    Black lost because of suprtior white development in the center, and could have sacrificed a Knight to bring some important pieces to regaining that defensive stance he lost in the opening.

  • 4 years ago


    Growing up he was one of my most favorite players. When advised to choose a player to emulate and make as a player model for my openings I chose him. He was the only reason I had ever played the KID. I've had 10 years break of chess ever since high school, play more or less like a patzer now, and now sadly I barely study any chess or openings because of work. My tactical ability has gotten bad too but still OK xD Gligoric may you rest in peace, you will always be one of my heroes! (Don't be mad at what I wrote in my "About Me", you are still my heroooo)

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    do u tell me about the move 24........?

  • 4 years ago


    bravo Gligo.svaka cast majstore.well done master.

  • 4 years ago


    That was somethink! Great game great master R.I.P

  • 4 years ago


    A wonderful game that I had seen a few times before -- thanks to the brilliant effort of people at But what I appreciate most about this article is the quality of writing that Mr. Bryan Smith provides. The concluding analogy is brilliant! And it reminds me of a lot of games wherein I thought I had a safe position, only to watch my position implode.

  • 4 years ago


    Great game!

  • 4 years ago


    Attack from nowhere.

  • 4 years ago


    Great Spanish game.

  • 4 years ago


    nice game

  • 4 years ago


    Indeed, positions can blast open and result in attacks extremely quickly -- rather narrow things like the hanging bishop on e7 as you mentioned can make a huge difference in the speed of the attack. The bishops on c1 and c2, even from their homes, always had the potential to attack the kingside, as they are long range pieces.

  • 4 years ago


    Lovely game! Sad to hear of Gligoric's death. I agree with everyone else about the metaphor - very fine.

  • 4 years ago


    My favorite type of game.  3-piece sac!

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