George Mohr & Ana Velimirovic – The Life and Games of Dragoljub Velimirovic: Volume 1

The name of Dragoljub Velimirovic (1942-2014) is synonymous with razor sharp play. He was an attacker’s attacker who favored 1.e4 as White and the Modern Benoni, King’s Indian and Dragon Sicilian as Black. Like fellow Yugoslav Grandmaster Albin Planinc, it was never clear if Velimirovic realized pieces were allowed to retreat. This was seemingly never a thought for a man who lived to sacrifice pieces and pawns.

Despite playing many brilliant games, no books have been dedicated to Velimirovic but now that gap has been filled thanks to his daughter, Ana Velimirovic-Zorica, and Grandmaster Georg Mohr. The two have written a fitting tribute, aided by a manuscript Velimirovic worked on but did not live long enough to complete.

This volume, the first of two, covers the “Yugoslav Tal” from the start of his career in the 1950s to 1975 when he was a well-established Grandmaster. It features not only carefully annotated games but lots of anecdotes and stories that allow one to get to know the subject better. What shines out is Velimirovic’s love for chess, hard work ethic and tremendous imagination. These characteristics made him the ideal coach and second for Svetozar Gligoric. One might not think this was a match made in heaven as the player’s styles were not identical, but the relationship was highly beneficial for both individuals.

As a youngster, this reviewer remembers reading a story that it was Velimirovic’s mother who invented the famous attack (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qe2 followed by 0-0-0 and the advance of the g-pawn[jF1] ) and not her son. As one might suspect, this story was inaccurate, but it had more than a grain of truth to it. As Mohr explains, it was Dragoljub’s mother, Jovanka, a top Yugoslav female player between the World Wars, who first tested it in correspondence games with the encouragement of her son. We should all have such a mother!

The Life and Games of Dragoljub Velimirovic is a book that belongs in every chess player’s library.

IM John Donaldson

Dragoljub Velimirovic was a former Yugoslav – Serbian, chess grandmaster whose international career was handicapped by political intrigues and his outspoken temperament.

During the heyday of the USSR as the greatest national chess power, the former Yugoslavia was capable of running the Soviet Union a good second. Dragoljub Velimirovic posed a real threat to the men from Moscow.

Velimirovic was born in 1942 to a prominent family from Valjevo, in the former Yugoslavia. He was introduced to chess at the age of seven by his mother, Jovanka Velimirovic, one of Yugoslavia’s leading female chess players.

He died at the age 72, being one of the last players to develop a system or strategy that is so inventive it bears its creator’s name.

It is a feat that is unlikely to be repeated in the modern era, when computer-based games and databases so thoroughly dominate competition that it is almost impossible to come up with something new.

That does not mean that players were more talented or courageous in the decades when Velimirovic was in his prime. Velimirovic, who became a grandmaster in 1973, was never among the 20 top-ranked players in the world. And that was when there were only 200 or so grandmasters; today, there are about 1,800.