Person of day - 2 NOVEMBER 2023
His appearance on the European scene shocked many. The determined, charismatic chess player from Yugoslavia immediately conquered the hearts of many fans not only with beautiful play but also with his open and friendly character. His friends and colleagues referred to him simply as “Ljuba”
Ljubomir was taught to play chess by his father, who served as an officer in the merchant navy. The hero of both father and son was the effervescent Mikhail Tal and this had an effect of the playing style of the hope of Yugoslavia. In 1970 Ljubojevic paid for his own trip to the Olympics in Siegen, where he spent whole days playing blitz in the foyer, impressing others with his results against formidable masters. Even Robert Fischer came to acquaint himself with the bold newcomer and, while in Siegen, Ljubomir received an invitation to a prestigious competition.
Ljubomir Ljubojevic competed in a large international tournament in 1970 for the first time, and only one year after winning second place in the “super” in Vrnjačka Banja became a grandmaster! The young man won Yugoslavia’s national championship twice and was included in the country’s Olympic team, in which he was a three-time medallist in World Chess Olympics and in European Team Championships.
In the country led by Tito there developed a battle for the leadership between Ljubojevic and the leader of the “old guard”, Svetozar Gligoric, the culmination of which came in the match of 1979. The young competitor won 5.5:5.4, after which Gligoric withdrew all claims to the first position in the team.
Ljubojevic won twice in super-tournaments in Linares in 1974 and 1975 and won in tournaments in Buenos Aires, Wijk aan Zee, Manila, Belgrade and Amsterdam. In the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s he was rated as one of the world’s top 10 players, and in 1983 he had the third highest Elo coefficient, after Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.
In the Match of the Century of 1984 he played for the World Team on the 4th board and won two points out of four available against Vasily Smyslov and Vladimir Tukmakov. Amongst Ljubomir’s achievements are victories against Kasparov, Karpov, Tigran Petrosian, Mikhail Tal and the majority of the leading chess-players of that epoch.
Surprisingly, while defeating world champions, winning super-tournaments and amassing first prizes in the leaders’ team competitions, Ljubomir Ljubojevic regularly suffered misfortunes in inter-zonal tournaments. His refusal to accept a draw in an objectively-dangerous position against David Bronstein, who was in a severe time trouble, in Petropolis in 1973 and a gross blunder in his match against Florian Gheorghiu in Manila in 1976 prevented Ljubojevic from becoming a Candidate.
“No, I never had ambitions. I merely enjoyed playing chess, I enjoyed learning the game. You know, I played a lot, tournament after tournament and then, when I should have produced a good result somewhere in an international tournament, I didn’t, I just couldn’t do it. But as you know, the life of a chess-player does not end if he doesn’t become the world champion. World champions are special people who are born that way. I, on the other hand, lived happily and I’m very pleased with my career, I loved my life and it did not matter to me if I became the world champion or not” L. Ljubojevic
In 1985 he moved to Linares with his wife and son. At the end of the 1980s he regularly showed impressive results, winning with large margins in Reggio Emilia, Barcelona and Brussels (the most memorable is his spectacular victory against Vishy Anand), but he no longer competed for the world supremacy. After the dissolution of his home country, he remained under the Serbian flag and still actively competes in tournaments, maintaining an impressive individual coefficient. He regularly commentates during large tournaments, but he is principally opposed to book-writing.
“No, I never wrote. I did this on purpose. Because writing for me…you know, I have the following opinion: you should commentate on matches right after they finish, not after a certain while. No one will be able to remain absolutely truthful and correct in these commentaries. He will surely try to mask the truth! He will say “I did not fear that.” But he did! He will say “I saw that.” But he never saw it during the match. It is easy to analyse after the match. But commentary on the match should take place during a game, so that everyone could see. Like warm bread out of the oven. Only then should you write it down, that is the most genuine! You can’t disguise anything there" (L. Ljubojevic).