Svetozar Gligorić (Serbian Cyrillic: Светозар Глигорић) (born February 2, 1923) is a Serbian chess grandmaster. He won the championship of Yugoslavia a record twelve times, and is considered the best player ever from Serbia.
During the 1950s and 1960s, he was one of the top ten players in the world, also among the world's most popular, owing to his globe-trotting tournament schedule and a particularly engaging personality that is reflected in the title of his autobiography, I Play Against Pieces (i.e., with no hostility to the opponent, or playing differently for "psychological" reasons against different players; playing the board not the man).
Svetozar 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 great contemporary, the Estonian grandmaster Paul Keres.
Gligorić was a good student during his youth, with both academic and athletic successes that famously led to him being 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 resulting from his family's impoverished condition. His first tournament success came in 1938 when he won the championship of the Belgrade Chess Club; 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 the World War II, Gligorić worked several years as a journalist and organizer of chess tournaments. He continued to progress as a chessplayer and was awarded the chess International Master (IM) title in 1950 and the Grandmaster (GM) title in 1951, eventually making the transition to full-time chess professional, continuing active tournament play well into his sixties.
Gligorić was one of the most successful tournament players of the middle of the century, with a number of tournament titles to his credit, but was less successful in competing for the World Chess Championship. He was Yugoslav champion in 1947 (joint), 1948 (joint), 1949, 1950, 1956, 1957, 1958 (joint), 1959, 1960, 1962, 1965 and 1971.
He represented his country (Yugoslavia) with great success in fifteen Chess Olympiads from 1950 to 1982 (thirteen times on first board), playing 223 games (+88 =109 -26). In the first post-war Olympiad, on home soil at Dubrovnik 1950, Gligoric played on first board and led Yugoslavia to a historic result, the team gold medal. The Yugoslav team was usually second or third in the world during the 1950s.
His list of first-place finishes in international chess competitions is one of the longest and includes such events as Mar del Plata 1950, Stockholm 1954, Belgrade 1964, Manila 1968, Lone Pine 1972 and 1979, etc. He was a regular competitor in the series of great tournaments held at Hastings, with wins (or ties for first) in 1951–2, 1956–7, 1959–60, 1960–61, and 1962–3.
His record in world-championship qualifying events was mixed. He was a regular competitor in Zonal and Interzonal competitions with several successes, e.g. zonal wins in 1951, 1960 (joint), 1963, 1966, and 1969 (joint) and finishes at the Interzonals of 1952, 1958, and 1967 high enough to qualify him for the final "Candidates" events the following year. However, he was not as successful in any of the Candidates events, with mediocre results in the 1953 and 1959 Candidates Tournaments and a match loss to Mikhail Tal in the 1968 Candidates match series.
Gligorić was dangerous to the world chess champions, though he had minus scores against most. E.g., Mikhail Botvinnik +2 -2 =5, Vasily Smyslov +5 -7 =21, Tigran Petrosian +7 -10 =10, Mikhail Tal +2 -11 =19, Boris Spassky -5 =15, Bobby Fischer +4 -6 =6, Anatoly Karpov -4 =6 and Garry Kasparov -3.
Though 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 and has contributed regularly to the Chess Informant semi-annually (more recently, thrice-yearly) compilation of the world's most important chess games.
One of Gligorić's most famous games was this win against the former world champion Tigran Petrosian at the great "Tournament of Peace" held in Zagreb in 1970. It displays Gligorić's virtuosity on the Black side of the King's Indian and his willingness to play for a sacrificial attack against one of history's greatest defenders. Zagreb 1970 was another Gligorić tournament success, as he tied for second (with Petrosian and others) behind Fischer, at the start of the latter's 1970-71 run of tournament and match victories.
The following game can be played through here .
Petrosian–Gligorić, Zagreb 1970:
Petrosian–Gligorić, Zagreb 1970:
Indeed, Gligorić was the first person to inflict a defeat on Petrosian after he won the world title from Mikhail Botvinnik in 1963.