The Rebirth of Serbian Chess

In September this year, the Serbia Chess Federation (SCF) celebrated 73 years since its founding. Throughout its history, it has been home to many chess players of all ages, holders of various chess titles, who with their joint successes have contributed to the unquestionable development of chess culture both in Yugoslavia and in Serbia. Performing the role of organizer of the most important chess tournaments at the national level, SCF consistently performs its role of preserving that culture. Nevertheless, in the last three decades, more precisely than the extraordinary successes of Alisa Marić, who at the peak of her career was officially the third chess player in the world at the beginning of the 1990s, Serbian chess records mostly isolated individual successes of grandmasters. However, the development of chess at the national level requires a more systematic approach that includes a developed network of state support, as well as cooperation at the international level through institutions such as the World Chess Federation (FIDE) or the European Chess Union (ECU). Unfortunately, in the last three decades, all three aspects necessary for the more systematic development of chess have not been at a satisfactory level.

Serbian chess


But, as not all chess fields are only black, this story that we are writing in the fall of 2021 now contains at least equally white fields. It is true that since the 60s of the last century, when Svetozar Gligorić, the twelve-time champion of Yugoslavia in chess, Serbian chess has not had a player who has been at the very top of world chess for a long time. But it is also true that in 2021, nineteen-year-old Serbian grandmaster Velimir Velja Ivic entered the eighth-finals of the FIDE World Cup held in Sochi, leaving behind German grandmaster Blubaum and one of the best Russian chess grandmasters, Andrejkin. In both matches, Ivic's opponents were clear favorites. Only the Russian grandmaster Fedosejev eliminated Ivić in the overtime, in games in which the young Serbian chess player offered extraordinary resistance, even having an advantage at certain moments. In addition to entering the eighth-finals of the strongest chess tournament, and in addition to the fact that Ivic constantly played at a level far above expectations, at least when his ELO rating is observed, the fact that this success is not a consequence of luck and did not go unnoticed is especially gratifying. At the European Championships in Reykjavik last month, Ivic won a lesser-known 20th place; however, this placement is also an extraordinary success, having in mind that his starting position in the tournament was behind the 40th place, as well as that he further improved his rating by gaining 17 new points and approaching the figure of 2700 ELO points. With these successes, Ivić has already secured participation in the FIDE World Cup next year. The World Chess Federation did not remain silent on Ivić's successes on the international scene. A special invitation to the prestigious FIDE Grand Swiss tournament that will take place in Riga, the capital of Latvia from October 25 to November 8 this year, soon followed. We are looking forward to Ivic's new parties.

Serbian chess grandmasters


And the fact that it is not just the isolated success of a chess grandmaster, and that Serbian chess has something to hope for in the decades to come, is also shown by the facts that include other young and promising players. Ivic is not the only one to receive an invitation to the FIDE Grand Swiss tournament. Serbian grandmaster Luka Budisavljević also received a special invitation from the organizers, and the story behind that invitation shows how important it is to have a strong institution like the Chess Federation of Serbia that stands up for its players. The invitation to Budisavljević represents a kind of diplomatic success of the SCF since it is a direct consequence of the commitment of the SCF president Dragan Lazić and the great understanding of the FIDE president Arkady Dvorković. Namely, Budisavljević was eliminated from the European Championship in Reykjavik only because he played a match with a player positive on COVID19. Thus, this invitation comes as a kind of compensation for that injustice, but it does not diminish the importance of the fact that Serbian chess will have two young and promising representatives at one of the most prestigious chess tournaments this year. It is especially gratifying that FIDE is sending a total of four special invitations for this tournament and that as many as two ended up at the address of the Chess Federation of Serbia.

As the celebrated Serbian grandmaster Aleksandar Matanović said at the celebration of the 73rd anniversary of the SCF: "Winter's dream is over, it's time for a chess awakening!". Click for Serbia is looking forward to the next matches of Serbian grandmasters on the international scene. Considering that we are engaged in the promotion of art, science, and sports, with congratulations to chess players and the Chess Federation of Serbia, I end this short story with perhaps the most famous quote from the famous Russian chess player Karpov: "Chess is everything - art, science, and sports."

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