A SHORT HISTORY OF CROATIAN CHESS
Chess in Croatia has been played for more than six centuries. That is a fact, but there is a legend, too, witnessing to the deeper roots of the king´s game in this area.
The legend says that the Croatian king Suronja, who ruled between 997 and 1.000, beat the Venetian doge in a chess contest for a number of Croatian islands.
It reveals how the chess-board of 64 squares was introduced into the coat of arms of the Croatian kings, to be reduced gradually to the red and white inset of 25 squares we have today.
The first written trace of chess in Croatia is the posthumous inventory of belongings of a merchant from the city of Zadar, by the name of Mihovil, who died in 1385.
It lists a small table and a chess set! It is documented thar chess was played in Dubrovnik (in 1422 and 1434), in the region of Lika (in 1486) and Split (in 1535).
The famous English historian and Orientalist Thomas Hyde in his work “De ludis orientalibus”, published in 1694 registered correspondence games between Venetian and Croatian merchants as early as 1650!
Chess in Croatia is booming in the 19th century owing to our intellectuals who studied in Vienna, Padova, Bruxelles, Paris etc. The “Pilger” of Karlovac published the first chess problems in 1844, while the first chess column appeared in the “Hrvatska lipa” in 1875.
The first chess tournament was played in Zagreb in January 1886. Owing to dr Gjuro Pilar, a scientist of world renown and a passionate lover of chess, The “Zagrebacki sahovski klub”, the first Croatian chess club was founded on March 11, 1886.
The first chess primer was written by Vjekoslav Rutzner and it was published in several installments in the “Pobratim” in 1893.
At the beginning of the 20th century chess was played intensively in Zagreb, Karlovac, Varazdin, Sisak, Osijek, Vukovar, Pula, Dubrovnik and elswhere. In 1904 and 1908 international tournaments were played in Zagreb, while the first chess book in Croatian, “Sahovska abeceda” (“Chess Alphabet”) by Isidor Gross, was published in Karlovac in 1909. Chess clubs were formed all over Croatia.
Their delegates founded the Croatian Chess Federation on May 12, 1912 – 12 years before the foundation of the international chess federation FIDE. Thanks to the “Zagrebacki sahovski klub”, the strongest club in the state, on August 22, 1920 the founding assembly of the Yugoslav Chess Federation was held in Zagreb.
The Croatian Chess Federation remained a part of it till 1991. At the Congress of FIDE in Manila the Croatian Chess Federation became a full and respected member of FIDE, owing to the results of its players and organizational competence. At that moment Croatia boasted of 14 grandmasters, 28 international masters and 46 FIDE masters!
The Croatian chess players won the world championship three times: Bojan Kurajica became a junior champion in 1965, Ognjen Cvitan in 1981, Hrvoje Stevic won the Under-16 championship in 1995. Nenad Petrovic and Hrvoje Bartolovic were chess composers who acquired world fame.
Nenad Petrovic won the world championship in 1947, 1965 and 1974, while Hrvoje Bartolovic became a champion in 1965! Braslav Rabar won the gold medal taking part in the Olympiad in Dubrovnik 1950, while a number of Croatian chess players achieved excellent results in the cycles for the world championship, in Olympiads and Europian team championships, winning numerous silver and bronze medals (not less than 81 medals!).
The Croatian Chess Federation excelled in successfull organization of many official competitions of FIDE and numerous international tournaments as well.
In 1950 the ninth men Olympiad was organised in Dubrovnik, in 1959 a part of the Candidates tournament was played in Zagreb, the city of Split acted as host to the second women Olympiad, the fourth Olympiad for blind persons was held in Medulin in 1972. Apart from that, Pula organized women zonal tournaments in 1985 and 1990, the interzonal was played in Zagreb in 1987 and the men and women zonal tournament in 1993.