The Chess Informant Today

by Diana Mihajlova
2/25/2021 – When the first "Chess Informant" was published in 1966, it demonstrated the power of information. Twice a year the "Informant" offered a collection of the most important games from current tournaments, information every serious chess player needed and wanted. Today, databases and the internet keep chess fans up-to-date but the "Informant" is still alive and kicking. Diana Mihajlova visited its offices in Belgrade.

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Some time ago I had an opportunity to visit the offices of the Chess Informant in Belgrade and meet members of the editorial staff. The editor-in-chief, GM Branko Tadic, the general manager, Vitomir Bozic and the editor/advertising officer Igor Zveglic, with a jovial friendliness and hospitality, shared with me, with nostalgia, stories about the boom-era of the Informator when the greatest names in chess worshipped it. (Recently, GM Milos Perunovic has joined the editorial staff.)

Matanovic, the only survivor of the ‘great five’ that invented the Informant, was not in Belgrade at that time. Today, approaching 90 years of age, he is spending most of the time at his holiday home, in the outskirts of the capital. For many years he was the Informant’s editor-in chief and author or co-author of its many side-publications.   

In one of his writings, recollecting the beginnings of the Informant, Matanovic said: "…little did we know that we were trailblazing a path towards an era yet to come – the information era."

GM Aleksandar Matanovic at the 29th Olympiad in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, 1990

The current editor-in-chief, GM Branko Tadic, and the general manager Vitomir Bozic at work at the Informant’s offices in Belgrade

In an elegant street in the middle of Belgrade, on the second floor of an old, baroque style building, a treasure of chess history is housed in a couple of rooms stuffed with books, papers, CDs and all sorts of old and new memorabilia of the famous chess periodical.

The original plaque on the Informant’s building at 31, Francuska St, in Belgrade

The street seen from the balcony of the Informant’s offices

The editor- in-chief, GM Branko Tadic

GM Branko Tadic co-authored many of the Informant’s publications including the Encyclopedias of Chess Openings, Miniatures and Combinations. He founded in Belgrade a successful chess school and club ‘Chess Club Tadic’ http://sahklubtadic.com/ which particularly caters for young students. Tadic is also one of the ‘three musketeers’ with GM Ivan Ivanisevic and GM Milos Perunovic whose ‘Champions’ Chess Academy ’ http://www.sahovskaakademijasampiona.com is organizer of the very well received new Belgrade Chess Festival, which started 2018 https://en.chessbase.com/post/first-summer-chess-festival-in-belgrade.

The general manager, Vitomir Bozic, witnessed the beginnings of the creation of the Informant. His father, Alexandar Bozic, was one of the five creators of the Informant. The Yugoslav chess legends Svetozar Gligoric and Alexandar Matanovic were close, family friends, and he would spend his childhood and teenage years in an atmosphere of frequent, animated, chess related discussions. He recalls that the original idea about the Chess Informant actually came from Milivoje Molerovic.

One day Milivoje gathered his chess friends, the future co-founders of the Informant, and exposed to them his concerns that they were lacking a serious chess publication… They all contributed with creative ideas to shape the Chess Informant. Matanovic took care of the more practical aspects of the publication and he became its first and long lasting editor-in-chief.

The Informant’s General Manager, Vitomir Bozic

Today, in the role of a general manager, Vitomir continues the legacy of his father. The Informant is very much to his heart and he is doing his utmost to maintain a steady, uninterrupted presence of the periodical on the world’s chess scene. The challenges are numerous and the difficulties of a printed book keeping up with internet publishing are obvious.  But, they still manage to sell about 2000 - 2500 printed copies per issue as well as about 1500 digital versions.

With the appearance of the CD the Informant promptly adapted products to this new format. However, the war in Serbia took its toll. Because of the sanctions imposed on the country, the Informant had "lost its course", as Bozic puts it, "as well as the possibility to keep pace with the digital revolution".

Bozic and Tadic, the general manager and the editor-in-chief, keeping the Informant active and up-to-date

Facing the uncertainties that await the future of the Informant, and always on the outlook for some improvement, Bozic envisages a prospective cooperation with the ‘stronger’ publishers and remembers an earlier fruitful co-operation with ChessBase:

"At an initial phase of co-operation, ChessBase would sell about 20,000 floppy disks of Informant’s material including its encyclopedias. It was the time when databases were only on paper…"

For the time being, it is going on with undiminished quality in spite of the dwindling numbers of sold copies. Their regular issues keep the usual rubrics: games, combinations, endings, correspondence chess, endgame blunders, tournament reviews, the best game from the preceding volume and the most important theoretical novelty from the preceding volume.

And, in these uncertain times, they came up with the ingenious idea of publishing the book The Match of the Century - USSR vs. World, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of this great event that took place in Belgrade. The book, by the authors Douglas Griffin and Igor Zveglic, is an expanded version of the original work that was compiled by Tigran Petrosian and Aleksandar Matanovic shortly after the match in which five world champions, and all of the world’s highest-rated players of the time participated. As Bozic told me in a recent telephone conversation: "Ever since its publication in April of this year, the book has been selling as hotcakes."

How long the Informant would reinvent itself and challenge the Internet databases is a question of time. However, each volume is a witness to an original, brave and worthwhile effort and a valued collectible about a by-gone era, preserving the vision of the five pioneers that set up the foundations of modern chess publishing: Matanovic, Rabar, Bozic, Milivojevic and Molerovic.

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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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Matthias Matthias 2/25/2021 12:09
I remember those beautiful offices well and have visited them thrice. In 1990 I spent a whole weekend alone in the silent rooms coding on an Atari and wrote some parsing stuff to format text files for the printing house of Chess Informant. One item in a bigger partnership between ChessBase and Chess Informant, initiated by Milutin Kostić and Zdenko Krnić.
I lay on the bed of my Belgrade hotel room and daydreamed whether it might be possible to connect computers by standing data lines. People would write texts on their computers about their business, their interests, their work and include clickable pointers which would then retrieve text from other computers creating some kind of big web of knowledge.
Lesson learned: Dreaming is nothing, you got to implement the stuff.
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