Happy Birthday! Lubomir Ljubojevic turns 70!

by Dagobert Kohlmeyer
11/2/2020 – Lubomir Ljubojevic is a living legend. In the 1970s and 1980s he was one of the world's best players, who famous for his creative, daring and brilliant attacking chess. Today, November 2, 2020, Ljubojevic celebrates his 70th birthday. Dagobert Kohlmeyer remembers highlights of a remarkable career. | Photos: Dagobert Kohlmeyer, Dutch National Archive, David Llada

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"Ljubo" Ljubojević turns 70

At the Chess Olympiad 1970 in Siegen, Lubomir Ljubojević, who at that time was almost 20 years old, was still among the spectators. But he had travelled to Siegen to watch the superstars of chess, such as Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky and others at close range. In the foyer of the Siegerlandhalle he demonstrated his remarkable skills by playing blitz non-stop.

One year later he was a Grandmaster himself, and at the Chess Olympiad 1972 in Skopje, "Ljubo" played on board three for Yugoslavia, behind the legends Svetozar Gligorić and Borislav Ivkov. With a final score of 15½/19 he contributed significantly to the third place of his team but also won the gold medal for the best individual result on board 3.

Ljubomir Ljubojević was born on November 2, 1950 in Titovo Užice, Serbia. The town is located close to the border with Bosnia and since 1992, after the Yugoslavia of Josip Broz Tito had disintegrated, it is called Užice again.

At the end of the 1950s Yugoslavia experienced an incredible chess boom. The main triggers were the Interzonal Tournament in Portorož in 1958 and the Candidate Tournament in Bled in 1959. At that time, the whole of Yugoslavia was enthusiastic about Mikhail Tal's great performances, including little Ljubo. He later confessed that Tal's games and daring combinations had a decisive influence on him to become a professional chess player. Indeed, Ljubojević' daring play is very reminiscent of the tactical style of the eighth World Champion.

Chess Olympiad Malta 1980 - Yugoslavia plays against The Netherlands

The tournament successes of the spirited grandmaster are numerous. Ljubojević won among others in Palma de Mallorca 1971, Las Palmas 1974 and in Manila 1975. In the famous "Tournament of the Stars" in Montreal 1979 he finished fourth behind Karpow, Tal and Portisch. In 1985 in Linares, in 1985/86 in Reggio Emilia, and in 1986 in Amsterdam. Ljubojević also impressed with his performance in the World Cup series 1988-89, in which 25 of the world's best grandmasters took part, and where Ljubojevic finished 5th in the overall ranking. In Barcelona 1989 Ljubo shared first place with Garry Kasparov. He remained unbeaten, led for a long time and was only caught up by Kasparov in the final round.

Ljubojevic and Tal in Wijk aan Zee

Although Ljubojević was among the world's best players for many years, he never made it to the Candidates. One reason for this was certainly his risky style, to which his opponents could finally adjust. Sometimes, his form also varied wildly; he could win tournaments brilliantly, but sometimes also finished at the bottom of the table. At the Interzonal Tournament 1976 in Manila, he shared 5th and 6th place and narrowly failed to qualify.

I got to know the Grandmaster, who speaks half a dozen languages, when I was working as a journalist at the Olympiad 1990 in Novi Sad. Ljubojević was the leader of the Yugoslavian team, and next to him, on board two was Predrag Nikolic, who remained undefeated in that Olympiad, and two years later played for his home country Bosnia at the Olympiad in Manila. As a result of the Balkan war Yugoslavia had disintegrated, which also had an impact on chess. Serbia did not start in Manila but at the Olympiad 1990 in Novi Sad, everything had been peaceful, and it was shocking to later see the pictures of the destroyed bridges of the city, which had been bombed during the Kosovo war, on television.

By this time Ljubomir Ljubojević had long since moved to Spain. He has lived in Linares for about three decades and married an Andalusian woman. For many years he took part in the Linares supertournament, which was organised by the hotelier Luis Rentero. In 1985 Ljubo won in Linares together with Robert Hübner. His beautiful game against Viktor Kortschnoi from that tournament (see below) is still remembered today.

Because of his cheerful and sociable nature Ljubojević has many friends in the chess world. Among them was the Dutch patron Joop van Oosterom (1937-2016). From 1992 to 2011 van Oosterom organised the famous Melody Amber tournaments in Monte Carlo, where rapid and blind chess was played. (Melody Amber is the name of van Oosterom's eldest daughter). The world's chess elite loved to play in these tournaments, where they enjoyed to stay in 5-star hotels and where the wealthy organisers paid good prize money.

Ljubojević 1998 in Monte Carlo

Ljubo was always invited to these tournaments, first as a player and later as a guest. It was always a pleasure to see Ljubo celebrating his victories and loudly presenting his highlights to colleagues and journalists in the press room. He could get terribly upset about defeats and then used strong words when he analysed them. His colleagues like Karpov, Anand, Kramnik & Co. acknowledged these outbursts with a mild smile. In 1998 Ljubojević won in round two with White against Anand and later said to him: "I am so happy when you resigned. I was afraid to make a mistake." One year later he defeated Anand in Monaco also with Black.

In October 1994, van Oosterom organised a tournament in Buenos Aires to celebrate Lev Polugaevsky's 60th birthday. Polugaevsky was a great lover of the Sicilian and therefore only Sicilians were played in this tournament. Of course, Ljubojević was part of the action. In fluent Spanish he bantered with Miguel Najdorf and Oscar Panno, who visited the event daily. As the oldest in the field, Ljubojevic no longer had chances to win the tournament but still managed to upset some of the favourites.

Polugaevsky makes the first move of the game Ljubojević-Anand

The games below show how risky and creative Ljubojevic plays. Again and again he comes up with original ideas. And he loves to attack, whether he plays with White or with Black.











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Dagobert Kohlmeyer is one of the best known German chess journalists. For more than 25 years Kohlmeyer, who lives in Berlin, has been travelling all over the world to report about and to capture impressions of Chess Olympiads, World Championships, and top tournaments.


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