The super-successful Netflix show, The Queen’s Gambit, shone the spotlight on South East Europe’s long history of world-class chess. It’s no coincidence that many world-masters have emerged from SEE. Grandmaster is the highest title one can be awarded in chess, and former Yugoslavia is a region that birthed an unusual amount of them.
This month international chess media profiled living legend, Ljubomir Ljubojevic from Serbia, on his 70th birthday. As Grandmaster and one of the world’s best players, he was inspired by Yugoslavia’s chess boom in the 1950s and became known for his daring and brilliant tactic – as well as good looks.
The first woman to earn the title of Grandmaster in1978 was Nona Gaprindashvili, from Georgia. Like The Queen’s Gambit fictional character, Nona successfully competed in men’s tournaments, and won her Grandmaster title after 23 games, including in 1977 when she won Lone Pine against 45 players, most of them grandmasters.
Another chess icon is Judit Polgár from Hungary, considered the strongest female chess player of all time. She was also the youngest person to win the title of Grandmaster at 15, breaking the record previously held by former World Champion Bobby Fischer. Polgár, now aged 44, has been inactive since 2015.
Check out the trailer for a documentary on Nona Gaprindashvili and three other real-life women grandmasters: GLORY TO THE QUEEN (2020)
Are you a chess player? Who’s your favorite Grandmaster?