In memoriam Svetozar Gligoric
To play against pieces? (Songs) strange, quite strange. But not for those who knew Svetozar Gligoric very well. It was not a coincidence that Gliga for his greatest book, in fact his biography, picked up such unusual title: I Play Against Pieces.
So, this means that chess is not a sport? No, not at all. Such way of thinking does not lead to the right answer. Enigma is deeper, it is Gligoric's axiom which he was following from the very beginning until very end. The objective is definitely a victory, but not in victory only. The point is victory in the most honest way. It is necessary to win the balance of the opponent's pieces and not a man who sits in the other side of the table.
Even though he was in Yugoslavia (everywhere, in all republics) extremely appreciated and popular, probably also is not a coincidence that the biggest chess power, the Soviet Union, issued the book before his homeland. Not only that: a big edition of 100.000 copies was sold out in record time.
This few lines say more about Gligoric than thousands of articles. Such an army of readers is the best proof who is who, what is was his worth. Gligoric liked writing very much. Even more than that, he enjoyed it as a reserve occupation. Also in writing is strictly complying with its laws in chess. A product can be good, beautiful only if it is starts well in the opening. If the work is at the leading edge. Exactly the same was with his written words. For him they were a mirror of personality, his view on the world.
Gliga was a simple and modest man, who did not want to live in the shadow. He liked people very much, people of all walks of life and all ages. With his typical good humoured smile he attracted people (absolutely not only chess people) in the very first moment for ever.
He liked people, but not too much noise. That was not his style. In very characteristic way he always escaped such "dangerous" situations. But the weight of his reputation was definitely a champion's one.
World Champion Mikhail Tal was his very close friend (as well Fischer who had very few real friends). No doubt that his assessment of Gligoric as a chess player was based only of knowledge of its true value: history will always recognise him as one of those who were immediately with the champions.
Even though he was a very rigorous chess professional, Gligoric drank life from myriads of other sources. Second place on the podium goes to music. His collection of records is certainly among the richest in the country. When he left the active chess (unearned defeats by ever weaker opponents never left him indifferent) he found time for his second big love and successfully embarks on a study of music composition. Less than three years ago he promised me to write European Chess Union anthem.
Football was also a passion, but he was not spectator only. For many decades, once a week with a whole generation of younger, (first of them was superstar Dragan Dzajic) played with him.
It is interesting that Gligoric never wrote about his losing candidacy for the FIDE Presidency in Buenos Aires in 1978. Ten or twelve years later he told me that his defeat actually was his win. “To me, not being elected was a great gift", he said, not even a little bid sad despite the behaviour of the Chess Federation of Yugoslavia, which completely failed to support and prepare for election of its favourite son.
“Chess for me is the fight on the board. This I like this I know. But outside of the chessboard I am weak. Really I am so happy and satisfied that was no punishment (election).”
I recommend that FIDE should have an annual award for Fair Play – The Gligoric Cup – in memory of such a great and fair player.