Gligoric: a grand old master
Svetozar Gligoric the Yugoslav Grandmaster and former world title Candidate recently celebrated his 85th birthday and in his honour an 85 player Rapid Chess tournament was held in his home town of Pancevo.
For many years Gligoric was one of the strongest players outside of the USSR and his success contributed to the huge popularity of chess in Yugoslavia which persists today in the seven new countries that emerged after the collapse of Communism. His record in Chess Olympiads includes twelve medals of all hues and he won the Yugoslav championship eleven times.
Gligoric reached the Candidates Matches many times but could never overcome the hurdle of the Soviet chess machine. Doubtless he was hampered by a lack of strong contemporaries and trainers in Yugoslavia.
I can strongly recommend his autobiography ‘I Play Against Pieces’ published by Batsford/Anova in which he suggests that his career peaked in the late 1950s when he scored 6/8 in the USSR-Yugoslavia match, shared first with Sammy Reshevsky at Dallas in 1957 and scored 12/15 on the top board at the 1958 Chess Olympiad in Munich. His score at the Olympiad bettered that of Mikhail Botvinnik and later that year he finished in second place at the Portoroz Interzonal half a point behind Mikhail Tal.
Gligoric was a regular visitor to Hastings and won the Premier five times. He was one of the first players to master the King’s Indian Defence and, as he writes, the Mar del Plata Variation could just as well have been named after him.