Dragoljub Velimirović, 1942-2014

Dragoljub Velimirović, 1942-2014

| 23 | Chess Players

Serbian Grandmaster Dragoljub Velimirović died recently at the age of 72, as reported on Twitter by the Serbian publishing company Chess Informant.

Born in Valjevo, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), Velimirović represented his home country in six different Chess Olympiads from 1974-1990. In his first outing, he won silver for both his team and himself. That squad was led by legendary GM Svetozar Gligorić, who passed away less than two years ago.

"He was a truly funny guy," said Josip Asik, chess journalist and CEO of Chess Informant. "He was often telling stories that would gather everyone around."

GM Dragoljub Velimirović (images courtesy Josip Asik)

He also won a silver at the World Team Championship in 1989. Gligorić's team accolades continued at the European Team Championships, where he won three individual and two team medals in four attempts. He won many tournaments within Yugoslavia in cities like Nikšić, Belgrade, Budva and Novi Sad, and three Zonal Tournaments, though he never got past the Interzonals to make it to the Candidates Matches.

The World Championship did come calling in 1981, as he seconded GM Viktor Korchnoi in Merano, Italy in the rematch with GM Anatoly Karpov.

Velimirović (left) playing with GM Ljubomir Ljubojević

His nickname was "The Boss."

"Everyone called him that," Asik said. "Like a sign of respect among chess players."

The grandmaster will live on forever thanks to the opening bearing his name, the Velimirović Attack, a variation in the Sicilian where White castles queenside with aggressive intentions. The namesake opening befitted his overall style. Here it is in action:

To show what esteem great modern attackers had of him, "Velimirovic" was the ICC handle used by GM Alexander Morozevich.

Here the real Velimirović used a different setup to defeat a frequent Olympiad teammate. Instead of sacrificing a knight on f5, he went the more traditional route and plopped one on d5. Velimirović then offered a rook and bishop to make up for the "lack" of ingenuity.

Back to his namesake opening, there are fewer sacrifices here, except the queen at the end. The final position is quite appealing.

Sometimes, his knights were sacked for long-term positional gain. You'd think his opponents would have been ready by now:

Velimirović got as high as 2575 in the mid-1980s and still remained above 2400 at the time of his death. He won the Yugoslav National Championship three times, with the first and third coming 27 years apart. His final tournaments were played in 2011, where he competed in the Belgade Cup and Serbian Cup.

He is survived by his wife; other family is not known. Velimirović's mother Jovanka (1910-1972) was a leading female player in Yugoslavia.

According to Asik, his latest student was GM Aleksandar Indjic, the current Serbian champion.

There will be a ceremony in his honor on May 26, 2014.

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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