The Titan of the 20th Century, Part Three

  • GM Gserper
  • | Sep 16, 2012

In Part Two we already had a chance to see GM Svetozar "The Opening Expert" Gligoric  at work. Today we'll discuss his King's Indian Defence legacy.

There are not many chess players who introduced as many ideas to the theory of the King's Indian Defense as Gligoric. That's why when a young Soviet schoolboy Garry Kasparov started playing this complicated opening, his mentor ex-World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik recommended he study GM Gligoric's games.  Perhaps the most famous Gligoric King's Indian masterpiece is the next game:

The Mar-Del-Plata variation

This is probably Gligoric's biggest opening idea. The beautiful and logical set up of the Black pieces is surprisingly simple. In one of his last interviews Gligoric mentioned that he came up with this idea in 10 minutes during his preparation for the game against GM Najdorf. This is a rough translation of his words: "How they used to play the King's Indian Defense? Close the center, lift the Rook to f6-g6 but your Knights on e7 and d7 stay, like two idiots, and only block other Black pieces. Everyone played like this and lost. And I said: "What's wrong with this world? There is something seriously wrong!" That's how I came up with the idea to improve the position of all the pieces first and only then start the attack."

Here is this beautiful game:

Two days after the game vs. Najdorf, GM Gligoric had to defend his brainchild against Argentinian GM Erich Eliskases:

Even today, almost 60 years later, the Mar del Plata variation is still one of the most aggressive lines in the King's Indian defense!

A sacrifice to clear the 'a1-h8' diagonal

The King's Indian Bg7 is the main piece of the opening. Unfortunately in many lines, when the center gets closed, the Bishop gets blocked by Black's pawn e5. It is usually a good idea to sacrifice some material to unleash the power of the Bg7.

The Rf4! sacrifice in the following game reminds me of the little Petrosian story which was mentioned here:

In the next game Gligoric sacrificed two pawn to achieve the same goal to clear the long diagonal. In his iconic book "Grandmaster's Tournament Zurich 1953" Bronstein expressed his admiration of Kotov's defensive skills. It is funny how difficult was Kotov's task even though he had two extra pawns!

As you can see, Gligoric was an outstanding opening authority. It is for this reason GM Najdorf once said: "If in the openings of my games I had such great positions as Gligoric does, I would be the World Champion!"


  • 4 years ago


    gliga naš brat,nek mu je večna slava.

  • 4 years ago


    Great article about a great player and one of my favourite openings for B.

    Against Petrosian, who else would not have played 14 ... Nh6+ when the N on f4 was threatened? 

    And against Najdorf, 18 ... Bf8! and 20 ... Nh8! Thinking out of the box.

    The Mar del Plata variation, what a great line.

  • 4 years ago


    The way Gligoric played by sacrificing two pawn to clear the long diagonal is just awesome... at times when he gives the sacrifice ,we wonder what the hell is he doing... later on in the game ,Our brains slowly get hypnotised into his magical moves.

    Salute you Gligoric  Sir... :)

  • 4 years ago


    Nice Article

  • 4 years ago


    just beautiful. Gligoric has a great style and  his games are very lucid and trenchant, with a purpose in every move. wish there were a good collecition of his annotated games in english.

  • 4 years ago


    Excellent article, thanks a lot!

  • 4 years ago


    I bought the Mar del Plata book years ago, but it was a bit too advanced for me and lost me.  This article, and a couple of years' experience playing the KID, has re-ignited my interest in the book and the opening, and made it all very approachable.  Can't wait to blow the dust off of that book and, more importantly, start playing the opening!  Thanks for making it all make sense, GM Serper!

  • 4 years ago


    Good article. The illustrative games suggests how to give life to the pieces.

  • 4 years ago


    Not only was Gligoric an outstanding player, but he was a genuinely nice person too. He wrote his autobiography naming it "I play against pieces", meaning that he played without any animosity against his oponents.


  • 4 years ago


    bravo glogo majstore.Srpski genije

  • 4 years ago


      Kasparov wrote about Gligoric and especially his contribution to KID in book 3 of `My Great Predecessors` series from pg. 33 to 55...with a very suiting title `Saga of Svetozar`...I really loved Kasparov`s tribute to Gligoric there. It was somewhat unexpected since he was angry with Gligoric since the 1984 World Championship match believing that Gligoric influenced the decision made there (match canceling). They became great friends once again in 1989 when Kasparov participated and eventually won the Belgrade Tournament and Gligoric was the president of that event. Btw, that Tournament became legendary because Kasparov broke the 2800 ratings for the first time!

  • 4 years ago


    Wow! Great, thankyou!

  • 4 years ago


    Excellent material, thanks. I don't play the king's indiam defense, but I'm now going to try it  out!

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    Thanks for your work GM Serper!

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    grate article, 

  • 4 years ago


    Great piece thank you GM Serper, I've been trying this opening

  • 4 years ago


    i thought bronstein and tal where masters at the kid now found another amazing games

  • 4 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    King's Indian Defence: Mar Del Plata Variation (Batsford Chess Books)This is the book Gligoric wrote on the King's Indian Defense on most of the lines in the E90s. Mar del Plata is a place name. The closest Gligoric came to getting credit after the tournament at Mar del Plata was having his ideas called Yugoslav, as if developed by a group. Of course, he is more recognized now. If things had happened another way, the book could have been "The Gligoric Variation." This book is very good, despite not being the latest. It is still instructive and relevant.

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