Aleksander Matanovic (1930-2023) –

Aleksander Matanovic (1930-2023) -


GM Aleksandar Matanovic, the oldest living chess grandmaster, one of the great players during the golden age of Serbian chess, and co-founder of Chess Informant, died on Wednesday at the age of 93.

Matanovic was born on May 23, 1930 in Belgrade, Serbia (then Yugoslavia). He won the junior championship of his country in 1948 and earned the grandmaster title in 1955. He was a three-time Yugoslav champion, winning the tournament in 1962 (tied), 1969, and 1978 (tied), while being the runner-up in 1951, 1956, 1959, and 1967.

Early in his career, Matanovic won several tournaments, such as Opatija 1953, Hamburg 1955, Beverwijk 1957, Buenos Aires 1961 (tied), Zevenaar 1961, Titovo Uzice 1966 (tied), and Bad Pymont 1970 (tied). He earned second place in Belgrade in 1954, Jerusalem in 1964, the Vrnjacka Banja zonal tournament in 1967, and Houston in 1974. 

Alexander Matanovic in 1961
Alexander Matanovic at the “Peter Stuyvesant” chess tournament in Zevenaar, the Netherlands, in 1961. Photo: Wikipedia.

Matanovic represented Yugoslavia in 11 Chess Olympiads (1954-72, 1978), playing alongside big names such as GMs Svetozar Gligoric, Borislav Ivkov, and Ljubomir Ljubojevic. He won five silver and four bronze medals with his team as well as one gold, two silver, and one bronze individual board medals.

He participated in four interzonal tournaments; his best result was seventh place in Portoroz, Slovenia, in 1958. That one was won by GM Mikhail Tal with 13.5/20, but the future world champion’s only loss was against Matanovic. The Dutch GM Hein Donner wrote: “Only Matanovic managed to hold his own against him. He fought him with his own weapons. The Yugoslav unleashed such concentrated violence that Tal caved in. It was one of the best and also one of the longest games of the tournament.”

Over his career, Matanovic defeated many other legendary players, including Efim Bogoljubov, Savielly Tartakower, Gligoric, Paul Keres, Efim Geller, Bent Larsen, Lajos Portisch, Leonid Stein, Vlastimil Hort, Fridrik Olafsson, Lev Polugaevsky, Tigran Petrosian, Ljubojevic, Ulf Andersson, Jan Timman, and Ivkov. You can find these games, including the one mentioned against Tal, below:

It has been suggested that Matanovic, who was also a radio announcer and producer, could have been an even more successful player if he hadn’t started writing and publishing. That, however, was his biggest legacy for the chess world.

In 1966, together with Milivoje Molerovic, Matanovic founded the company Chess Informant (Šahovski Informator in Serbian) and started publishing books with the same name twice a year. It was a revolutionary new product in a time without the internet, chess databases, or engines. For the first time, you could get your hands on large collections of recent top-level games, often annotated by the players themselves. For the next two decades, professional players would compromise on the amount of clothes they would bring to tournaments to keep room in their suitcases for several Informants.

1st Chess Informant
The first Chess Informant, from 1966.

As the number of events started to grow, Chess Informant went from two to three issues a year in 1991–2011 and since 2012, four Informants a year. GM Garry Kasparov famously said: “We are all children of Informant.” 

Starting from the 1970s, the publishing house issued more publications, such as the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings (ECO), specialized opening monographs, books on tactics, endgames, and more. Matanovic served as its editor-in-chief for more than two decades. Later, he became the head of the management board.

About the enormous influence Chess Informant had on chess, Matanovic said: “[L]ittle did we know that we were trailblazing a path towards an era yet to come—the information era.”

Matanovic played his last official games in 2007 when a revival of the famous USSR-Yugoslavia matches from the 1950s-1980s was organized in Moscow. He drew his two games with GM Mark Taimanov. The “USSR” team also had GMs Viktor Korchnoi, Yuri Averbakh, Evgeny Vasyukov, and Yuri Balashov while GMs Gligoric, Ivkov, Dragoljub Velimirovic, and Nikola Karaklajic were Matanovic’s teammates for Yugoslavia. The final score was 11-9 for the USSR.

In February of this year, Matanovic attended a chess ceremony in Belgrade’s Veterans’ Club in honor of Gligoric’s 100th birthday anniversary. He spoke about his 64-year-long friendship with Gligoric, from the early days of youth competitions to chess Olympiads, matches, and tournaments: “We were mischievous, opponents on the chessboard, friends for 64 years. These 64 black and white squares brought us together and decided both his and my life path.”

Alexander Matanovic in 2023
Alexander Matanovic speaking about Gligoric in February 2023. Photo: FIDE.

Matanovic was the oldest living grandmaster since the passing of Averbakh on May 7, 2022. The oldest grandmaster now is GM Yair Kraidman of Israel, who was born in 1932.


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