Aug 15, 2012, 6:46 AM |

This is very sad indeed. He was a lovely man, full of humanity and humility. One of the most gentlemanly people one could hope to meet." --IM David Levy




Svetozar Gligorić (Serbian Cyrillic: Светозар Глигорић), also known affectionately as Gliga, was born in Belgrade on February 2, 1923.

 Gligorić has made his muti-faceted mark on the chess world as a top-ten player, noteworthy theorist, eloquent commentator, acclaimed journalist (his official profession), as well as a tournament organizer and arbiter. He was the best Yugoslav and Serbian chess player of all time, having won a record 12 national championships and 12 medals in Chess Olympiads starting with Gold in Dubrovnik 1950 (1 gold, 6 silver, 5 bronze). One of the world's greatest chess players outside the Soviet Union during three decades after WWII, he was also candidate for World Championship title.

He first became famous in 1947 for his first place in Warsaw where he defeated Vasily Smyslov. Gliga had seven wins and two draws for a score of 8/9, with two points ahead of Smyslov, Boleslavsky and Pachman.

Another example of his playing strength was the story of how at the 1958 Munich Olympiad both Botvinnik and Smyslov declined to play him White on top board in the USSR-Yugoslavia match (as the former World champion Petrosian once told Gligorić, Soviets had a meeting before the match and Keres was delegated and had to play Gliga).

In Munich, Gliga was in excellent form scoring 12/15, or 80% (+9 =6 -0), and won special prize for best individual result at board 1 ahead of the then World champion Mikhail Botvinnik.

In his prime, there was hardly a player that he did not beat. Gligorić's tally against World champions is the following:

Mikhail Botvinnik -2 +2 = 5,

Vasily Smyslov +5 = 21 -7,

Tigran Petrosian +7 = 10 -10,

Mikhail Tal -11 +2 = 19,

Boris Spassky -5 = 15,

Bobby Fischer -6 +4 = 6,

Anatoly Karpov -4 = 6,

Garry Kasparov -3

Fischer Connection

Gliga has had a special relationship with Fischer. Their friendship began when Bobby arrived to Yugoslavuia for the Portorož Interzonal Tournament in 1958 and it lasted for about 40 years.

Chess caricature by Berislav Petric

Gliga was one of few who could, if necessary, counter Bobby about his most intimate beliefs with authority, without Bobby getting offended. Everything that was coming from Gliga Bobby was respecting and receiving open-heartedly. At the same time, Gliga remained loyal to Bobby, they maintained a close contact all the time (not that common for Bobby and people around him) and stayed friends till the very end of the American genius. During the two decades of his self-isolation Gliga was one of the very few people who were in regular touch with him.

When organisation was under way for the 1992 “Revenge Match of the 20th Century” between Spassky and Fischer, Bobby only agreed to negotiations on the condition that Gligorić was present. He even refused to leave the plane if Gliga wasn’t at the steps.

"During Bobby’s stay in my country he asked me to be in his company all the time, and we went to Sveti Stefan together. He had plenty of time at his disposal and since he had not played chess for 20 years he probably felt uncertain about whether he had maintained his previous form. He therefore asked me to do him a favour: to play ten secret training games against him, with his new chess clock (now valid in the whole chess world), which was due to be used in the Spassky match.

The games were played in Sveti Stefan, while we were waiting for Spassky’s arrival. Bobby and I had two bungalows close to each other, and he was in the best one, where Sophia Loren had stayed during an earlier visit. As far as I recall, we played our ten games there, one per day."

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