Hort stories: "Pricao mi Gliga..."

by Vlastimil Hort
4/28/2019 – During the 1950s and 1960s Svetozar Gligoric was one of the world's best players and the Yugoslavian number one. Gligoric was also happily married, a successful journalist and writer, and had fought for the Yugoslavian partisans during World War II. Vlastimil Hort often met Gligoric and now shares his memories.

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Svetozar Gligorić

I am much older than you but our characters are very similar. Therefore I am happy that you are about to write a detailed biography about me.
Gliga

Miroslav Nesić, a Serbian sports journalist and chess fan, spent huge amounts of time with Svetozar Gligorić (1923 – 2012), the best player from the Balkan countries. And while Gliga talked, Nesic asked questions, carefully took notes and collected memorable events from Gligoric' chess career.

Gligoric and Nesic | Source: Pričao mi Gliga

Rome wasn't built in a day — and it took a while before the fine literary biography Pričao mi Gliga (Now Gliga told me…) saw the light of day.

Pricao mi Gliga

The chess hero from Belgrade put his memories in the hands of the most capable journalist. The successful result of this cooperation can be felt in each and every line of the book. I don't think there is an English or German translation of this memory. At least, I have never heard of one. So I am grateful to fate that I had many a chance to learn Serbo-Croatian during the tournaments I have played in Gliga's homecountry. And I happy to share the most interesting passages of the book with the ChessBase readers and to combine them with my personal memories.

The book was published posthumously, a short while before Gliga's 90th birthday. February 2, 2019, he would have celebrated his 96th birthday. A good reason to celebrate and to remember him.

After the much too early death of my father, my mother was lucky to find work at the post office. Unfortunately, she also soon Unfortunately she soon became seriously ill and on November 1, 1940 she had to leave me all alone in this world.

As a high school student I had already achieved quite good results in chess, and in 1939 I was able to qualify for the Amateur National Championship in Agram. To everyone's surprise, I finished first, which I could hardly believe myself.

A short time later I received a telegram by Dr. Milan Vidmar: "I congratulate my successor!"

As a "rising star" I was suddenly very much in demand as sparring partner. The best blitz players in Belgrade and the surrounding area did not take long to compete with and against me. A lot of fast games were played, always for a stake of 2 dinars.

At the end of a typical day I could have afforded a lot of Ćevapčići but after having filled my stomach I preferred to keep the rest of my wins.

My chess career, however, still had to wait. After the outbreak of World War II I left Belgrade and like many of my countrymen I went to Montenegro. For all of us the Italian Zone was the lesser evil. 

In the summer of 1943 I joined the guerrillas. As a "Prvoborac" (spearhead) I operated the little guns. 

(My translation from Pričao mi Gliga.)

Reading the book it becomes apparent how faithfully Gliga followed Marshall Josip Broz Tito and how much he sympathized with his political line.

Gliga and I, two Slavs and two soul mates, always understood us brilliantly. His wife Dana even fully supported my Czech people after the invasion of the army of the Warsaw Pact States in 1968.

But when and how did these two, Dana and Svetozar, actually met for the first time? Gliga's chess friend Ludajić had set his mind to marry him off. But life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. Ludajić thought that he had found the right partner for his friend in the nice village of Senj. Gliga, slim and sporty, the one chosen by Ludajić' copurlent and muscular like Hercules. No wonder, that this attempt for marriage arrangement went south!

Fate had other things in mind and in the end Gliga met the right one. During a walk in Senj he had met the graceful Dana. He did not hesitate for long, seized the opportunity, and asked her: "Dana, do you want to marry me?" She asked for one day to consider. "Good, then we will meet again tomorrow."

Gligoric with his wife Dana | Source: Pričao mi Gliga

Dana's mother knew Gliga and liked him. Thus, she had no doubts at all when her daughter asked: "Gliga proposed to me, what shall I do?" Two tendes boxes on the ear were the first answer, the second: "Marry him, please, quick and immediately!" Gliga supports this little story of his marriage proposal with a picture. You can find it on page 41 of the book Chess Olympiad Dubrovnik 1950.

During the Chess Olympiad 1972 in Skopje Tito, the inventor of the "third countries", had invited all first board players to a reception. With relish, Marshall Tito, all in white, smoked one of the best Havana cigars. We could drink whatever our hearts desired, and we were free to enjoy the expensive Cuban cigars as much as we liked.

I envied Gliga. In contrast to the other socialist countries every citizen of Yugoslavia had a passport which opened the door to the whole world.

Group picture with Tito | Source: Pričao mi Gliga

Tito was the central person and in the middle of the action. Only Gliga and Botvinnik had the honour to stand beside him during the reception of the traditional team match Yugoslavia vs USSR in 1972.

Gliga was pleasantly surprised to hear that his political idol spoke perfect Russian. He was even more impressed by Tito's extensive knowledge about chess history. Tito could talk about Steinitz, Lasker, and Alekhine, but also about opening theory.

Marshall Josip Tito playing chess

As far as I know Gligorić first of all had a passion for everything English, the language, the landscape, the culture. However, I fail to know whether he was also a passionate follower of the Panslavic Movement.

Back to the Chess Olympiad 1972 in. CSSR vs Yugoslavia, 2½:1½.  A surprising result. The last game was Hort vs Gligorić. A lot of spectators followed the nerve-wrecking final phase of the game. But when Gligorić resigned it was completely silent in the hall.

A year before, at the tournament in Wijk aan Zee 1971, after a brilliant exchange sacrifice by Gliga, I had no choice but to show my friendliest loser face! Nobody likes to lose but I never had a problem when Gliga was better. However, losses against Polugayevsky hurt twice. I am certain that the readers will be able to name uncomfortable opponents in their "confessions", opponents that trigger aversion and allergic reactions.

 

Lengyel-Gligoric, Wijk aan Zee 1971 | Photo: Dutch National Archive

An American hobby chess player comes to Paris, visits a couple of museums, and raves about the many famous works. "So, Mister, how did you like our Toulouse-Lautrec?", he was asked. "No, no, I do not like to lose anything", was his prompt reply. Yes, indeed, nobody likes to lose!

Sad news arrived during the tournament in Bugojno. On May 4, 1980, Josip Broz Tito died. For one week national mourning was ordered all over Yugoslavia, and our tournament was interrupted. The organisers, among them Mr. Primorac, were very creative and generous. During the time of mourning we were brought to the wonderful Adriatic spa Dubrovnik. Nestor Miguel Najdorf joined us as guest of honour. The hotel "Argentina", in which we lived, owes its name to the national team of Argentina, which stayed there during the Chess Olympiad 1950.

After this break, which was not unwelcome, the tournament continued in Bugojno.

Rg. Name Country 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pts.
1 Anatoly Karpov
 
  ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 8.0 / 11
2 Bent Larsen
 
½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 7.5 / 11
3 Jan H Timman
 
0 ½   ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 6.5 / 11
4 Ljubomir Ljubojevic
 
½ ½ ½   ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.5 / 11
5 Ulf Andersson
 
½ ½ ½ ½   ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 5.5 / 11
6 Lev Polugaevsky
 
½ ½ 0 1 ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.5 / 11
7 Bojan Kurajica
 
½ ½ 0 0 1 ½   0 ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0 / 11
8 Mihail Tal
 
0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1   ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0 / 11
9 Borislav Ivkov
 
0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ ½ 5.0 / 11
10 Vlastimil Hort
 
½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ 5.0 / 11
11 Lubomir Kavalek
 
0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   ½ 4.0 / 11
12 Svetozar Gligoric
 
0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½   3.5 / 11

During the second part of the tournament Don Miguel treated us to a wonderful surprise and example of chess passion. As "Grandmaster of Honour" he had access to all game and was an accepted presence on the stage. But he was already a bit unsteady on his feet and to follow the events on the board he had to take hold on to the back of the chair of the player whose game he was interested in. His heavy breathing, particularly during time-trouble, could just not be ignored. Most of the time he followed the games by his favourite player, Ljubomir Ljubojević. Once, when he looked at the position, he wondered what might be Ljubo's best move. He thought and thought and thought … both players had just left the board…and then it happened. Lost in thoughts, Najdorf sat down on Ljubo's chair, made "his" move, pressed the clock and – as the rules demand – wrote it down on the scoresheet.

 

The arbiters suddenly had a lot to day. They had never seen something like this. They finally decided to let the game continue. Ljubo was allowed to make his "own" move. Unfortunately, I do not know whether he made the same move as his great admirer… And I don't know whether Gliga even noticed this episode. At any rate, when the tournament continued, he came in a black suit with a black ribbon. Did he back then, as I did, sensed that his beloved Yugoslavia would fall apart after the death of Tito? The era in which all Balkan states sailed under one chess flag was drawing to a close. Not only sad for Gligorić!

Gliga was always very confident at the board. His journalistic work was also very appreciated, a lot of his works were translated into other languages.

The distinction as "Prvoborac" also brought him a substantial state pension after the war. He kept away from cigarettes, alcohol, and extra-marital affairs, his only weakness, or, to use a better term, passion, were fast, expensive Western cars like Porsche and Ferrari.

How did he acquire his deep theoretical chess knowledge? His strategic skills? As far as I know he had neither teachers nor seconds. Were Soviet chess magazines and the Serbian Chess Informant the only source of his extensive know-how? Miguel Najdorf was always keen to lift Gliga's secret. "If I had such good positions as Gliga, I would have been World Champion ages ago!"

Rg. Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Pts.
1 Svetozar Gligoric   1 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 16.0
2 Miguel Najdorf 0   ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 14.5
3 Julio Bolbochan 1 ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ½ 13.5
4 Petar Trifunovic ½ ½ ½   0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 13.0
5 Miguel Cuellar Gacharna 0 ½ ½ 1   1 1 0 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 12.5
6 Hermann Pilnik ½ ½ ½ ½ 0   0 1 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 11.5
7 Rene Letelier Martner ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 1   ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 0 1 ½ 1 1 1 11.0
8 Erich Gottlieb Eliskases 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 ½   ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 11.0
9 Hector Rossetto ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 ½   1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 10.5
10 Kaarle Sakari Ojanen 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 0   ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 10.0
11 Carlos Enrique Guimard 0 0 ½ 0 1 0 ½ 0 1 ½   1 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 10.0
12 Jacobo Bolbochan 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0   1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 9.5
13 Ruben Shocron 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0   1 1 0 1 1 1 1 9.0
14 Herman Steiner 0 0 0 ½ 0 1 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0   ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 8.5
15 Antonio Angel Medina Garcia 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½   1 ½ 1 1 1 7.5
16 Carlos Hugo Maderna 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ 0 1 0 0   ½ 1 1 1 7.5
17 Bernardo Wexler 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½   1 0 ½ 6.5
18 Carlos Jauregui Andrade 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0   1 0 3.0
19 Francisco Burgalat 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 1 0   1 2.5
20 Flavio Carvalho 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 0   2.5
 

During the fifties and sixties Gligorić was one of the best chess players in the world.

Glogoric

Svetozar Gligoric, 1959

His visiting card is also impressive:

Two Candidates Tournaments (Zürich 1953, Bled 1959), and in the Candidate Matches 1967 he reached the quarter-final, but then lost 3½-5½ against Tal. Playing on first board he won twelve olympiad medals with Yugoslavia, and at the Chess Olympiad in Munich 1958 he was even the best player of the entire Olympiad.

Che Guevara follows the game of Svetozar Gligoric, Havana 1966

One can only guess: his chess account includes about 4,000 tournament games and 17,000 simultaneous games. In 1958 his country crowned him as sportsperson of the year.

However, nobody is perfect! He was the main arbiter of the famous but unfinished World Championship match between Karpov and Kasparov in Moscow 1984/1985, and he was the one who agreed to terminate the match. After 48 games, when Karpov led 5:3.

After that Fischer broke up with him. Kasparov also felt hurt by Gliga's decision. In Pričao mi Gliga Gliga takes a stand on this. But to my mind rather subjective and one-sided. I never had the courage to put my thoughts about this into a question, which I now do: "Is it legitimate to interrupt an extended marathon after 48 kilometres because there are too many rays of sunshine?" Or, dear Gliga, should an athlete not decide for himself whether and when he decides to give up the competition due to his health?"

Epilogue

Like for many of his chess colleagues music became more and more important for Gliga in his later years.

Drawing: Otakar Masek

Gliga took piano lessons, composed, started to philosophize. Finally, the guitar replaced the chess board for him.

"If I had written my memoirs, their title would have been 'How I Survived the 20th Century'…"

In his book Nesić leaves his friend Gliga the last word:

In my youth I thought that my future and my life would be monotonous. But chess allowed me to be creative. I have seen the whole world but have never rested on my laurels. Tournament followed after tournament and I have experienced all ups and downs of chess. No, I was wrong, my life was not at all monotonous. I was happily married, for 47 years. How wonderful!

The only thing I regret is that I did not dedicate more time to music…

And when, after all, did we play our last game? At the Petrosian Memorial in Moscow 1999.

Rg. Tit. Name Country 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts.
1 GM Lajos Portisch
 
  ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0 / 9
2 GM Borislav Ivkov
 
½   ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0 / 9
3 GM Boris Vasilievich Spassky
 
½ ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5 / 9
4 GM Vassily V Smyslov
 
½ ½ ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5 / 9
5 GM Yuri S Balashov
 
½ ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5 / 9
6 GM Vitaly Tseshkovsky
 
½ 0 ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5 / 9
7 GM Vlastimil Hort
 
½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ ½ 4.5 / 9
8 GM Mark E Taimanov
 
½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ 4.5 / 9
9 GM Svetozar Gligoric
 
½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½   ½ 4.0 / 9
10 GM Bent Larsen
 
0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   4.0 / 9
 

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

Links




Vlastimil Hort was born January 12, 1944, in Kladno, Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s he was one of the world's best players and a World Championship candidate. In 1979 he moved to West Germany where he still lives. Hort is an excellent blindfold player, a prolific author and a popular chess commentator.
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Logos Logos 5/1/2019 11:39
A wonderful read. Thank you GM Hort.
macauley macauley 4/30/2019 02:16
@nicholsonjg - Yes, we agree this looks like a mistake in MegaBase. We'll confirm and correct it. Thanks!
sceptic101 sceptic101 4/29/2019 03:32
The book, Pričao mi Gliga was translated into English, “My Life in Chess” by New in Chess House in 2015. On this page we are into chess and not into politics unless it concerns the game. However, Hort’s effusive observations on Tito have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Tito also suppressed dissent and put his critics behind the bars, Djilas being a famous example. Importantly, he missed giving a measure of democracy to workers. Tito’s is a flawed and ambivalent legacy as discerning historians would put it today. The greater tragedy was the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the genocide that followed. Gligoric joined the Belgrade Circle of Independent Intellectuals that called for sanity and tolerance amidst all this strife. Unfortunately, it was lost in the cacophony of hatred and aggression.
nicholsonjg nicholsonjg 4/29/2019 01:17
30...Nd8 would make more sense than 30...Nb8.
nicholsonjg nicholsonjg 4/29/2019 12:55
Last move in last game surely given incorrectly.
mikolov mikolov 4/28/2019 08:22
GM Gligoric is one of my all time favorite players. Both his playing style, analytical skills and personality were pleasing and exceptional.
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