Remembering Svetozar Gligoric (Part three)

10/10/2012 – He was one of the great players of the 20th Century, record national champion of Yugoslavia, friend of Bobby Fischer, theoretician, musician, author and gentleman. He died in August at the age of 89. Kiril Penusliski, a Macedonian art historian, has selected games that better illustrate the unique Gligoric style, and narrates them in their historical context – with exquisite descriptive analysis.

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Svetozar Gligorić: 2 Feb. 1923 – 14 Aug. 2012

The legendary Serbian grandmaster Svetozar Gligorić died in Belgrade on August 14 after suffering a stroke. He was 89 years old. Gligorić as buried on Friday at 13.30 in the Alley of the Greats at Belgrade's New Cemetery (Novom Groblju).

Gligorić came from a poor family in Belgrade and starting playing at the age of 11, when he was taught by a boarder living in the house. He made his first chess set by carving the corks of wine bottles, and won his first tournament in 1938, four years after he had learnt the game. He went on to become one of the world's leading players, and was one of the world's top ten in the 1950s and 60s. He won the Yugoslav Championship twelve time, and represented his country with great success in fifteen Chess Olympiads.

Gligoric made significant contributions to the theory and practice of the King’s Indian Defence and the Ruy Lopez. He was fluent in several languages, and worked as a professional journalist and organiser of chess tournaments. Besides chess his most enduring passions was music, and in 2011 he released a CD featuring compositions that drew on jazz, ballads and rap.

Remembering Svetozar Gligoric (Part three)

By Kiril Penušliski

The last two games of our Gligoric Memorial are presented by Borislav Ivkov. I selected the first, Bilek-Gligoric, as it is not the typical type of game associated with Gligoric. Here he sacrifices the strongest chess piece not in the hope of later gathering more material, as material in this position was irrelevant, but for the sake of dominating the black squares on the board. The game also shows how creative and imaginative Gligoric could be.

Game five, Bilek-Gligoric

This game was played in Teeside in 1972. Gligoric played a lot of impressive games, but I have a particular fondness for this one. As the comments by Borislav Ivkov say, this is really a triumph of imagination over matter. I can see Bilek’s cigarette dropping from his mouth after Ne4.

[Event "Teeside"] [Site "Teeside"] [Date "1972.??.??"] [Round "8"] [White "Bilek, Istvan"] [Black "Gligoric, Svetozar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A24"] [WhiteElo "2485"] [BlackElo "2600"] [Annotator "Ivkov,Borislav"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "1972.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "ENG"] [EventCategory "10"] [Source "ChessBase"] {A Queen Sacrifice A queen sacrifice is the ideal of all chess plays who want to make a name for themselves. The victory of spirit over matter is a theme which has always attracted masters as the pinnacle of chess creativity. In chess history there were many sacrifices of the strongest piece, after which a quick end, usually forced, followed. But to sacrifice a queen on the basis of positional motifs and a deep evaluation of the position, it is the manner of great players, who with their deep calculations can assess that the greatest sacrifice can be only of a momentary nature and that in time it will bring a return of material and victory.} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. d3 c6 6. e4 d6 7. Nge2 Nbd7 8. O-O e5 9. h3 Nh5 $1 {With this move Black achieves equal play in the centre.} 10. Kh2 Nc5 11. Be3 Ne6 12. d4 c5 {Giving up d5 but securing d4 for his knight.} 13. dxc5 dxc5 14. Nd5 Nd4 15. f4 Be6 16. f5 Bxd5 17. exd5 Nf6 18. g4 gxf5 19. gxf5 Kh8 {Black is preparing an attack on the g-line so, before the decisive clash in the centre, he removes his king from that line.} 20. Nc3 e4 $1 {An unexpected tactical stroke, Black sacrifices a pawn} 21. Kh1 ({On} 21. Nxe4 {0} Nxe4 {1} 22. Bxe4 Be5+ {would follow with Qh4 and a dangerous attack.}) 21... Rg8 22. Bg5 Bf8 $1 {This bishop could not be activated from the square e5, so black transfers it to another diagonal, bringing him to d6. At the same time, he plays a move which looks like a gross blunder but in reality is a fruit of a deep combination.} 23. Nxe4 {White was hoping for an easy victory, but is in for a big surprise.} Nxe4 $3 {This type of sacrifice comes once a decade.} 24. Bxd8 Ng3+ 25. Kg1 Rxd8 {Is the combination over before it started? Lets count! For the queen Black has two strong knights and he also dominates the black squares where the black square bishop will play an important role. But he also has a lot of fantasy and imagination, which Gligoric now brings into the final manoeuvres of the combination.} 26. Rf3 Bd6 27. Qd3 Rde8 28. Raf1 Nxf1 29. Rxf1 Ne2+ 30. Kh1 Ng3+ 31. Kg1 Nxf1 32. Kxf1 Rg3 $1 {Although the material balance has been restored, Black has kept his decisive advantages because of the domination over the black squares.} 33. Qd1 Reg8 34. Qh5 Rxg2 35. Qxf7 Be5 {White was cheeky enough to threaten an action on the black squares which are under absolute domination by black. One move with the bishop on the diagonal is enough to break down White's defensive concept.} 36. f6 Bd4 {Ivkov, Borislav, Sahovske Lepotice, Glas Slavonije, Osije 1973, pp. 178-179.} 0-1

Gligoric around 1950, in "Velemajstor Gligoric" by V. Cicek and B. Ivkov, 1973 (provided by E. Winter)

The last game, Fischer-Gligoric, was chosen because it was a game of incredible importance. It was played in the last round of a Chess Olympiad and was to determine what team was going to get the silver medal.

Game six, Fischer-Gligoric

Game six, Fischer-Gligoric, comes from the Varna Olympiad in 1962, and it is a magnificent struggle. The game is presented by GM Ivkov (Ivkov, Borislav, Povratak Bobija Fišera, Chess Press, Novi Sad, 1993, pp. 33-35) who paints a vivid picture of how the game unfolded.

‘In the previous Olympiad in Leipzig 1960, the Americans pushed us away from our ‘silver’ position. That was the first time Fischer played for the US. To Zlatni pjasci [which translates to Golden sands], the famous resort near Varna, they came as gold prospectors. Silver was not enough for them. They were lead by Fischer, who went into the match with us [the Yugoslav team] as the acknowledged moral victor over Botvinik.

Botvinnik vs Fischer in Varna 1962 – the game ended in a draw

The round pairings were done according to the wishes of the best film directors. The drama was rising. The Soviets had already secured the gold medal. Whereas a direct clash with the Americans, in the last round of the tournament, was to decide how the plot was going to unfold. Before the start of the round we had half a point more than the youthful confident Fischer team, but not a particularly great tradition in matches with our main competitors. They beat us in Leipzig and had two more points than our bronze. In Zlatni pjasci we only needed a 2:2 score. In any other situation nothing impossible, nothing worrisome. But now?

Before the start of the match it seemed that my friends had an unhealthy pale-green colour. No one was eager to play, and those who ‘voluntarily’ had to, were not very calm. It felt like they were already stomping on us... Gligoric had the most difficult task. Bobby was eager for a rematch for his defeat in Leipzig, and what was worse, he had the white pieces. A decisive game. But in whose favour?
Until that round, against e4 we (Gligoric, Matanovic and myself), very successfully played an un-penetrable variant of the Spanish game. But now, should we just stubbornly defend or play something sharper, with chances for both sides? Gligoric’s choice was the bravest, a Sicilian. The first good move, the tenth, belongs to Fischer. By the adjournment it seemed to us, in fear the eyes are big, that there was no salvation for Gliga.

A rare thing happened to me in that round. I played my game with Robert Byrne quickly and efficiently and was able to adjourn it a full hour before the time control. With a sense of comfort I moved into the audience. Feeling like I already had the full point in my pocket, I sat down near ‘Gica’ Maric who was immersed in Gligoric’s position against Fischer. Joining Gica, I right away shared his concerns. It was the critical moment of the game; will Fischer keep or even increase his advantage?

‘Bobby’s pawn on f6 reminds me of horror films – Maric whispered. Like those scenes when the attacker pushes his foot into the door and doesn’t allow the victim to close it...’ But almost imperceptibly, the position changed. Gligoric’s queen cut the diagonals, and then the rooks, long entrenched in the defence of the king, left their trenches and.... an adjournment. But an adjournment which Fischer himself would have wanted if he had Gligoric’s pieces.’

Ivkov pp. 35-36:

'It was 2 am. The captain of the American team knocked on the door [of Ivkov’s room, which was serving as the Yugoslav team headquarters]. Someone immediately knocked down the pieces on the boards where we we're looking at the adjourned games. The guest addressed Karaklajic, our captain. He suggested – well, in words suggested, but in tone, expressions, gestures, body language, he pleaded – Fischer will resign without resuming play, so could the other game, R. Byrne-B. Ivkov, be declared a draw without resumption?

Karaklajic said that he had to ask me, and by shaking my head and with the expression on my face I declined the offer. When our night visitor left, I explained. It's not only the sports aspect; I have a winning position when it's enough that both I and Gliga draw our games. I have three subjective reasons. First, at the previous Olympiad in Leipzig I lost a much better positions in time pressure to that same Byrne. Second, before the match they were so sure of themselves, they were even arrogant. And third, how can I damage Argentina, my second homeland, where I became a grandmaster when I was 22.

The next day, everything ended according to our expectations – and the American fears. In the golden sands near Varna, Yugoslavia again rose to the silver pinnacle of world chess, the Argentines overtook the Americans and claimed the bronze, and the silver team from Leipzig, the Fischer four, ended fourth without a medal'.

[Event "Varna ol (Men) fin-A"] [Site "Varna"] [Date "1962.??.??"] [Round "11"] [White "Fischer, Robert James"] [Black "Gligoric, Svetozar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B80"] [Annotator ",kiril"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "1962.09.16"] [EventType "team"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "BUL"] [Source "ChessBase"] [WhiteTeam "USA"] [BlackTeam "YUG"] [WhiteTeamCountry "USA"] [BlackTeamCountry "YUG"] 1. e4 c5 $1 {Although the Sicilian was a major part of Gligoric's repertoire, you have to give credit where credit is due. In the last round of a tournament, facing an opponent who had to win and was keen on revenge for an earlier loss, he goes for one of the sharpest responses to e4. The exclamation mark is given for bravery.} 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. g3 {Usually Fischer played 6.Bc4 here, a continuation which gathered more fame because he played it, rather than for its inventor, the Soviet master Veniamin Sozin.} e6 ({What started as a Najdorf ended up as a Scheveningen. However, the Scheveningen has survived the test of time and is still considered a very flexible, good setup for Black. Some six years later Fischer himself had the same position with black in a game versus Matulovic played in Vinkovci 1968. There he continued} 6... e5 7. Nde2 Be7 8. Bg5 Nbd7 9. Bh3 b5 {and won in 40 moves.}) 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. f4 {This is probably the most daring continuation at this point. The other popular way of dealing with this position was to fianchetto the other bishop and try to control the centre by a subsequent c4, as Gligoric played against Boleslavsky at the Candidates tournament in Zurich 1953. That game ended in a draw in 19 moves.} Qc7 10. g4 { Its apparent what's on the agenda.} Nc6 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. g5 Nd7 13. f5 {Chess purists, armed with a lot of CPU power, will question this move. But in an over-the-board situation, it is irrelevant if this really is the strongest continuation. With Fischer marshalling the white pieces, it is very clear that this early pawn charge means only one thing, a storm is gathering and Black is in for a long and hard defence.} Re8 $1 {I like this move. It seems very cool-headed to me. It is an indication that Black knows what's coming and has a plan how to face the storm. This move allows him to reposition his pieces for a good solid defence.} 14. Kh1 Bf8 15. Bf4 Ne5 {At first glance this doesn't look right, but the point of the move is that if White takes, which eventually he will have to, his attack on the black king will be less virulent for the lack of the black bishop.} 16. f6 g6 17. h4 {Looking at the position after 16...g6, the square h7 draws the eye. But repositioning the heavy pieces via Qe1-h4 and one of the rooks via e3 to pile up against the h7 pawn, will take too much time, and the threat can be easily parried with h6 and Kh7.} a5 18. h5 Ba6 19. Re1 Qb6 20. hxg6 fxg6 {Giving White a passed pawn on the sixth rank looks scary. However, this is a good decision by Black, as now the rooks can guard the seventh rank.} 21. Bxe5 dxe5 {It was the last moment to take the knight, otherwise Black would have tucked it away on f7.} 22. Qf3 Ra7 23. Bf1 Rf7 {Black's situation looks precarious. White has a monster pawn on f6, controls more space, has the initiative... all the trumps. But in general terms White has no entry point. With Rf7 Black plugs all the holes and reinforces his position with some heavy concrete.} 24. Bxa6 Qxa6 25. Qg3 Qb6 26. Qxe5 $6 {Although this seems like a more or less normal move to make, I think its a mistake. The point of the move is to later bolster up the f6 pawn via an eventual e5; Black was already thinking about flanking attacks like h6. But taking on e5 right away gives Black a free hand on the queenside, where his queen will rampage through the pawns. Guarding b2 and not allowing weaknesses to crop up on that wing was better.} Qxb2 27. Rad1 h6 $1 {There are other moves for Black, but none is as double edged as this one. On the other hand, this is the only move which preserves some chances for a result in his favour.} 28. Re3 Bb4 29. gxh6 Qxc2 {By playing solid defence Black has managed to thwart the attack and secure his king. Now, he starts to want more.} 30. Rg1 Kh7 31. Qg3 {Breaking trough with a move like 31. Rg6 doesn't work as long as the other rook is undefended.} Rg8 32. e5 Bxc3 {A must! Otherwise the knight would have hopped on to g5. But there is another reason why the knight should be taken. White's pieces are not cooperating ideally, and there seems to be a lot of 'luft' around the white king. After Black eliminates the knight it will be much easier for his queen to use all the free space and create problems for White.} 33. Rxc3 Qe4+ 34. Rg2 Rd8 {Very strong and Black's first offensive move in many moons. Since the game begun the rooks did what they were asked: sit tight and guard the chief! But now they go on the warpath. Most programs claim that White is little better, but that is only an illusion. The black king is healthier, and there are no avenues of attack which lead toward him. On the other hand, White's king seems to be sitting in a house with a number of open doors.} 35. Re3 Rd1+ 36. Kh2 Qb1 37. Qg4 Rh1+ 38. Kg3 Qc1 39. Re4 { Programs will tell you that this is the ?? error which cost Fischer the game. Its a blunder no doubt, but take a good look at the position from both sides of the board and ask yourself what position would you like to play here, white or black?} Rd7 $1 {Now its easy. Here come the reinforcements and suddenly its all over for White.} 40. Qe2 Qg5+ 41. Qg4 Rd3+ 42. Kf2 Rd2+ 43. Kg3 Rxg2+ { There is some debate if the last moves were actually played. Mednis in 'How to Beat Bobby Fischer' says that Gligoric sealed 43...Rg2 and that Fischer resigned after Gligoric demonstrated the simple wins after 44. Kg2 Qc1 45. Kf3 Qf1 46. Ke2 Rh3 with mate in 2.} 44. Kxg2 Qc1 0-1

Fischer – Gligoric is not a perfect game. It has no brilliant sacrifices or a remarkable strategic plan, and it ends after a serious blunder. Moreover, there is no doubt that White had a significant pull for most of the game. But, I can't find the moment when White was supposed to pull the trigger. Perhaps there was no such moment, as Black's defence was always equal to the task. Either way, a closer inspection of the game reveals Gligoric's character as a player, that of a true fighter. In the opening (by choosing a Sicilian) he showed that he wasn’t just going to sit quietly and defend, he then survived a pawn storm (that whole g4, g5, f5 business), demonstrated no fear (as shown by moves like Re8 and Ne5), organized a rather unusual defence with two rooks guarding his king, and in the end (by playing the scary looking h6) confirmed his readiness to fight for the full point.

If these games are not enough and you want to see more of Gligoric’s play, I would suggest you play over:

  • Gligoric – Smyslov, from the 1959 Yugoslavia – USSR match, where Gliga’s contest with the ex-world champion ended 2-2;
  • Korchnoi – Gligoric from the 1969 Capa memorial in Havana, a KID and another win for Gligoric;
  • Smyslov – Gligoric from the Rovinj- Zagreb tournament in 1970;
  • Gligoric – Yanofsky from Saltsjobaden 1948;
  • Gligoric – Velimirovic, from the Zonal tournament in Haag 1966 which, in my opinion, is the best blockade/piton-stranglehold game ever;
  • and finally Gligoric – Petrosian, Belgrade 1954, which Gligoric himself once pointed out as one of his dearest games.
  • I would also highly recommend his own book I Play Against the Pieces.

Svetozar Gligoric was a true legend of the chess board and his presence will be missed. Adios amigo.

Kiril Penušliski is a Macedonian art historian with tempestuous hair, an expert in Italian Renaissance art and is supposedly writing his doctorate (the last pages), but can on most nights be found playing on the server.

He learned to play chess at age six and formerly played second board for the Penušliski family team (comprising of: first board Dr. Kiril Penušliski (now deceased), second board Kiril Penušliski Jr., third board Ilija Penušliski and fourth board Ilija Penušliski Jr.). His most lofty goal and ambition in life is some day to learn how to avoid making mouse slips.

See also: The Contemporary Chess Art of Ilija Penušliski, by Kiril Penušliski

Previous articles

Svetozar Gligoric 1923-2012
15.08.2012 – He was one of the great players of the 20th century, record national champion of Yugoslavia, friend of Bobby Fischer, theoretician, musician, author and gentleman. He was also a close personal friend, and we will provide more material on his career in the coming weeks and months. Svetozar Gligoric died in Belgrade on August 14 at the age of 89. The chess world will miss this great human being.
Remembering Svetozar Gligoric (Part one)
20.08.2012 – "If you post a follow-up article on Gligoric, please don't make the mistake of other sites and simply copy & paste his win versus Petrosian from Rovinj-Zagreb from Wikipedia," wrote Kiril Penusliski. We asked the Macedonian art historian to select examples that better illustrate the unique Gligoric style, and he sent us some beautifully annotated games of his teacher and mentor. Do not miss this one.
Remembering Svetozar Gligoric (Part two)
02.09.2012 – One of the truly great chess players of the 20th Century, record national champion of Yugoslavia, theoretician, musician, author and gentleman, died two weeks ago at the age of 89. He is sorely missed by many, especially chess fans like Macedonian art historian Kiril Penusliski, who grew up with Gligoric as his great hero. In part two of his tribute Kiril shows us two beautifully games annotated.

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