Interview with GM Svetozar Gligoric

by Jermuk Chief Organizer Smbat Lputian

Below we present the second part of the interview with Svetozar Gligoric, Honorary Guest of the Tigran Petrosian 80th anniversary Grand Prix tournament in Jermuk, Armenia. GM and Chief Organizer Smbat Lputian sat down to have a lengthy and warm discussion with the esteemed 86 year old Gligoric, who has made his muti-faceted mark on the chess world as a top-ten player, noteworthy theorist, eloquent commentator, inspiring journalist as well as a tournament organizer and arbiter. Read part one of the interview.

Smbat Lputian: How would you assess the current state of affairs in the chess world, and how would you asses the quality of the chess being played here in Jermuk?

Svetozar Gligoric: Of course I am pleased with the overall quality of play here in Armenia, and there have been some truly outstanding games. It is my opinion that today, playing chess is much, much harder than it was back in the times when I played. Nowadays, players are extraordinarily well-prepared, and the creative aspect of the game has diminished. The role of the internet and the ubiquitous presence of computers are significant, and players are obliged to be aware of the latest information and topical lines. On top of that, players are compelled to come up with new ideas, something that is not so easy to do in this day and age.

Smbat Lputian: With a long and impressive career as a chess player, are you satisfied that you dedicated your life to chess?

Svetozar Gligoric: I think yes because my principle passion when playing chess was to create at the board. Secondary for me was the result. In that sense I always had ample opportunity to be creative and for that reason I can say I feel quite fulfilled by my chosen profession.

Jermuk Gligoric

Svetozar Gligoric with Jermuk mayor and Smbat Lputian during the second rest day

Smbat Lputian: How did you digest your defeats? How did you overcome failures?

Svetozar Gligoric: To be honest I don’t think that I took it all that badly. This is the nature of sport. Defeat should be a motivation for you to improve, work harder, and do better the next time. As Capablanca said, the best teacher is defeat. You simply need the will and strength to be able to turn the experience into something positive.

Smbat Lputian: One aspect of your creativity was your discovery of many new ideas in the openings. How important is this aspect of your legacy?

Svetozar Gligoric: Of course, I was always very happy and proud when I discovered new ideas in openings, especially in those lines where former world champions and other great players had been unable to find anything new. Indeed I brought to life several new ideas, in such openings as the King’s Indian defense, Sicilian defense, French defense, Ruy Lopez, the Nimzo-Indian defense and others. One time Najdorf approached me and – I am not sure if he was complimenting me or not – but he said, “Svetozar, if I had the positions out of openings that you always emerged with, then I would probably have become World Champion.” I guess he was being more critical of my play, a backhanded complement of sorts, of how I was unable to realize my advantages, but in any case, I do think I had a good feel for openings.

Smbat Lputian: Is there something you could identify which prevented you from becoming champion? You mentioned that creativity was your greatest passion in chess, but in a match, the result becomes the paramount factor.

Svetozar Gligoric: Well, of course I have played many matches. Maybe on the account that I was not driven to become champion as some were, it was unpleasant for me to be in the tense environment that envelops you during such a match. For example, in my candidates match against Tal, after five games I was leading, but the expectations of my fans and friends who were constantly visiting me and calling me and encouraging me to win, I began to feel exhaustion from this added burden. The pressures of those expectations probably undermined my subconscious will to win, and when I lost the match, I felt more relief than disappointment. I could add that there was a similar expression of emotion by Petrosian, in 1969 after he lost the title to Spassky. The first meeting we had after his loss, he confided in me that he also felt this gigantic relief, stating how content he was that he was now an ex-champion forever, and was no longer burdened by the additional weight of being world champion. In fact, his results after this loss were much better than those while he was the champion.

Smbat Lputian: You have lived a long life, seen the world, felt many emotions. What would you identify as the essence of life?

Svetozar Gligoric: The most important things are love and creativity. The harmony between man and woman, as in music, as in life.

Smbat Lputian: As I understood you have been fueled by the need to create throughout your career. When you retired from chess, how did you envision applying your creativity now that you were no longer to be playing?

Svetozar Gligoric: In fact when I realized that I was no longer able to create on the chessboard as I wanted, I retired as it was no longer a practical exponent of my desire to create. My first love, before chess, before journalism, was music. As such, upon my retirement I decided to study music in earnest. I didn’t know many of the nuances of the field, but because I felt and understood music in its essence, I was able to take advantage of today’s modern technology which has enabled me to record the notes on a computer, transforming my musical ideas into documented notes and chords. I am grateful that at the age of 86, I compose music. I will continue to compose, and this has become a very fulfilling creative outlet for me to perpetuate my efforts in creating for the world.

Courtesy of the Jermuk Grand Prix official website