First Summer Chess Festival in Belgrade (part 1)

by Diana Mihajlova
9/10/2018 – Aside from celebrating the tennis victories of Novak Djokovic, Serbia is steadily reviving the country’s old chess glory, etched in chess history by the likes of Gligorić, Ljubojević, Matanović, Matulović and Ivkov, to name a few. Now, three grandmaster friends and colleagues, having shared many years of happiness and tribulations as chess professionals, are creating a platform for chess promotion in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and further afield in the country. DIANA MIHAJLOVA takes a look in this extensive photo report. | Pictured: Among the winners, IM Umut Atakisi and WIM Sandra Djukic | Photos: Diana Mihajlova

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Three Musketeers

GM Ivan Ivanišević, GM Miloš Perunović and GM Branko Tadić, in 2016, founded the Champions Chess Academy with the aim of "returning the chess board [to] homes throughout the country". The main beneficiaries would be younger generations who gain high-quality educational camps, with open-air learning, and support for students with special needs. Like three musketeers, Ivanišević, Perunović and Tadić have set an ambitious goal — "to renew the Serbian chess tradition and culture". Each of them is a multiple-time Serbian champion and has won important international competitions. They have represented their country at the Olympiad for several consecutive tournaments. They are chess trainers and writers — Tadic is currently editor-in-chief of the world famous magazine Informator

Ivanisevic, Perunovic, Tadic

The three musketeers: Grandmasters Ivanisevic, Perunovic and Tadic | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

To further these goals, they mounted the First Belgrade Summer Chess Festival, an ambitious project fully organized and sponsored by the trio. The Festival, consisting of a closed GM group, two closed IM groups, an Amateur Open (Under 2200) and a Blitz tournament, took place from June 25th to July 1st, 2018, at the Sports Center Shumice in the Vozhdovac neighbourhood of Belgrade.

In all, 300 participants from 17 chess federations competed. The Amateur tournament included a prize fund of €4,500 euro across 12 regular categories plus additional category and rating prizes. The first prize of €1,000 euro is quite generous considering for an amateur tournament in Europe, comparable to many higher level Open tournaments.

The Amateur tournament included 192 players in total and was won by the Turkish player Boran Doga Sahin with 8/9. His compatriot Yanki Kara followed, just a half point behind, with 7½/9. In the third place was the young Mongolian FM Yesentumur Tugstumur, also with 7½ points.

The prize or the best woman went to Sandra Djukic who scored 6/9. 

Kara, Sahin, Dolgun, and Tugstumur

Left: Turkish forces: (L-R) Yanki Kara, FM Boran Doga Sahin and FM Can Dolgun who played in the IM tournament
Right: Yesentumur Tugstumur | Photos: Diana Mihajlova

Kovacevic, Djukic, Nestorovic, Katanic, Vujic, Ivanisevic

Best Ladies, (L-R) WFM Radmila Kovacevic (3rd), WIM Sandra Djukic (1st) and WFM Irena Nestorovic (2nd), flanked by chief arbiter IA Petar Katanic-Vujic (left) and organiser GM Ivanisevic (right)

Sandra Djukic

First place woman, WIM Sandra Djukic | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

Best veterans

Best veterans: (L-R) Velizar Djalovic (2nd), Jovo Markovic (1st) and IM Zivojin Ljubisavljevic (3rd) with GM Ivanisevic | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

Professional photographer Zoran Trbovic made his photo career as a professional snapper of the ex-Yugoslav and international show personalities particularly the rock stars. He is also a chess player and took part in the Amateur Open.

Zoran Trbovic and photo of Goran Bregovic

Zoran Trbovic at the Belgrade Chess Festival and one of his many famous shots of the Yu-rock legend Goran Bregovic


A wonderful team of arbiters: (L to R) FA Vladica Andrejic, chief IA Petar Katanic–Vujic, IA Branka Vujic-Katanic, NA Rade Goljovic | Photo: Diana Mihajlova


"Shumice", the name of the sport and cultural complex where the tournament took place means "little forests". In fact, it is quite a large area of parks and trees adjacent to the playing hall, a perfect place for recreation, a picnic or a meditative rest.

The Shumice park is frequented as both a resting and recreational place, especially as a heaven to dogs that are obviously very much loved and cared for by Belgrade residents.

Town hall and the mayor

The Town Hall of Vozdovac and their Mayor who generously provided the playing hall

Shumice forest

Shumice, the forest | Photos: Diana Mihajlova

Picnic in the park

Twin brothers, chess players Milan and Spasoje Vukojichic and their mother Olivera picnic in the Shumice between rounds | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

One player who enjoyed time in the park is FM Carl Strugnell, from Wales, who competed in the IM closed tournament. Carl is a European chess-boxing champion. He moved to Belgrade where he lives with his Serbian filmmaker girlfriend and is on track to create a Serbian chess-boxing federation.

Carl Strugnell

FM Carl Strugnell is also a chess-boxer

Further up in the forest, a cosy hotel is situated where invited titled players and other participants enjoyed great conditions in an intimate atmosphere of green calm only a few minutes walk from the playing hall.

Urtsaih Urintuya

Mongolian WIM Urtsaih Urintuya resting on the hotel and restaurant's terrace

Ivanisevic and Atalik

Inside the restaurant, Ivanisevic with GM Suat Atalik from Turkey in a conversational mood over lunch

Hidden in the leafy Shumice there is a chess historic building: the GM Svetozar Gligoric’s house that was presented to him by the then Yugoslav government. Fischer visited him many times, as the two GMs kept on cordial terms, in the days when chess players were respected sportsmen and promoters of the country and enjoyed benefits accordingly.

Gligoric house

Gligoric house

The Eswaran girls and their mother live in the USA. They crossed 'the pond' in order to play in several European tournaments over the summer.

Eswaran family with Diana Mihajlova

Four smilies in the little forest: sisters WCM Aksithi and WIM Ashritha Eswaran with their mother Jackuline with Diana Mihajlova

International guests

Ognjen Cvitan

For a week, the Shumice's well-appointed cafeteria, corridors and several adjacent restaurants became a meeting place for parents, visitors, journalists and coaches from around the world.  

Croatian GM Ognjen Cvitan (pictured), world junior champion (1981, which back then earned him the IM title) became a GM in 1987. He has represented the former Yugoslavia and Croatia in the Chess Olympiad paid a friendly visit and support to his colleagues and the Belgrade Festival.

From Turkey, siblings WCM Aydin (2nd prize U-1800) and Alabas Gulenay (3rd prize U-12) came, accompanied by their parents and coach, GM Doga Cihan Goksel.

Turkish guests

Aydin and Alabas Gulenay, their parents and coach | Photos: Diana Mihajlova

Kiran Rautela had all reasons to be proud of her sons: the older one, Saksham took 6th place including a money prize with 7/9, and the younger, Sadbhav, added 88 points to his rating with 4/9, after wins against much higher rated opponents.

Rautela family

Kiran Rautela and her sons, Sadbhav and Saksham | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

For many Serbian youngsters this was their very first opportunity to taste an official competition, and with them came many nervous parents.


Anxious parents seeping coffees and exchanging notes about their young chess fighters | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

Alok Sinha and his parents

Alok Sinha who played in the IM tournament and his parents | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

Knezevic family

Local players, siblings Aleksandar (11) and Stefan (8) with their mother Mirjana and their trainer the grandfather | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

From Mongolia came coach and GM Dashzegve Sharavdorj, his little daughter Oyungerel, and his students WIM Urtsaih Urintuya and FM Tugstumur Yesentumur. They were the stars of the Festival, particularly little Oyungerel who evoked awe, tenaciously holding her opponents until the last breath. She came unrated but went back to Mongolia as a full-fledged player with an official rating.


(Seated) Coach / GM Dashzegve Sharavdorj and his little daughter Oyungerel, and (standing) WIM Urtsaih Urintuya and FM Tugstumur | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

It is worth mentioning that almost all of the foreign chess enthusiasts came with a common agenda: The Belgrade Summer Festival was only one stop on a larger summer chess tour in the Serbian republic. They were attracted by several tournaments running one after the other with only a couple of days in between and all within a close geographic proximity. Beautiful locations in a country that offers a rich historic, geographic and cultural experience, not to mention professionally organized tournaments with invited titled players, providing ever-needed norm opportunities with costs considerably lower than in most European countries.

Alexandra Dimitrijevic

The Serbian tour has been going on for several years, but only recently has it picked up the attention of ambitious foreign and local players. It consists of the Silver Lake Open (June 17-24), Nis Open (June 26–July 4), Paracin International Chess Festival (July 6-13), The Battle of Senta Open, (July 14–21), Open Championship of Vojvodina, Novi Sad (PDF) (July 22-27), and now, of course, the Belgrade Summer Chess Festival which is also expected to become a yearly event.

Local media coverage followed the festival, including Serbian WGM Alexandra Dimitrijevic (pictured), who has had varied roles in the chess field as a chess player, a former member of the management team of the Serbian Chess Federation, an International Arbiter, FIDE trainer and most recently accomplished a coaching job in the USA with Yes2Chess. Her main role, however, is as a mom to her son Maksim (whose father is GM Baadur Jobava). She was following the tournament in her most current role of editor of the sports section at @ASerbija.

Back to the chess...

Blitz tournament

A Blitz tournament was held on July 19th, late in the evening after the regular games finished, attracted 78 players and was won by the GM Denis Kadric from Bosnia and Herzegovina with 8/9.

Blitz playing hall

The blitz playing hall | Photos: Diana Mihajlova


The Mongolian GM Dashzegve Sharavdorj enjoyed some respite from his training duties by taking part in the blitz tournament | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

Jack Yang

The young American, Jack Yang (left)

Ivanisevic playing blitz

GM Ivanisevic could allow an escape from the organizational duties to indulge in blitzing and scored a respectable third place (7/9)

A blitz game: FM Tugstumur Yesuntumur (MGL) 1-0 Dejan Tasev (SRB)

Dejan Tasev lost to the young Mongolian but made a point more (6½/9) overall than his opponent in the above video.

GM and IM groups

The GM group and a pair of IM groups, each with ten players, gathered norm seekers from the USA, India, Wales, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Mongolia, Montenegro and, of course, the host country.

Jovana Rapport

Among the homegrown competitors was WGM Jovana Rapport, a member of the Serbian women Olympic team and the ‘better half' of Hungarian GM Richard Rapport, who is now living in Belgrade. | Photos: Diana Mihajlova

Damljanovic and Djordjevic

GM Branko Damljanovic, the doyen of Serb chess vs young Serbian rising star, Vuk Djordjevic

Sohan vs Soysal

Das Sohan from India v. IM Serkan Soysal from Turkey

Annamaria Marjanovic

WFM  Annamaria Marjanovic from Hungary

Vladimir Klasan

IM Vladimir Klasan from Serbia

Ashritha Eswaran

WIM Ashritha Eswaran from the USA

Das Soham and mother

Das Soham, proudly holding the certificate for his IM norm and his mother, Soma  

In the penultimate round, IM Umut Atakisi played against his compatriot GM Suat Atalik. He sent us the game score of his painful draw — he needed 1½ points from the last two rounds to clinch his final GM norm but lost the last round to IM Mihajlo Radovanovic. A tie for first place (second on tiebreak) at least provided some consolation.


Umut Atakisi

IM Umut Atakisi from Turkey

Final standings (GM tournament)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Atalik Suat 6,0 0,5
2 Atakisi Umut 6,0 0,5
3 Radovanovic Mihajlo 5,5 0,0
4 Soham Das 5,0 1,0
5 Damljanovic Branko 5,0 0,0
6 Milanovic Danilo 4,5 0,0
7 Soysal Serkan 4,0 0,0
8 Rapport Jovana 3,5 0,5
9 Djordjevic Vuk 3,5 0,5
10 Nestorovic Lazar 2,0 0,0

Continued in Part 2 (to follow shortly)...

Corrections, September 11: Ognjen Cvitan was world junior champion once (in 1981). In 1987 he earned the GM title, but was not world junior champion that year.

Umut Atakisi drew with Suat Atalik in round 8, rather than round 9, and tied for first but was second on tiebreak score.

GM Tadic's first name is Branko, not Mirko.


A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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