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Milan Matulović

Country Yugoslavia
Born 10 June 1935
Title International Master (1961)
Grandmaster (1965)
Peak rating 2530 (May 1974)

Milan Matulović (10 June 1935 - 9 October 2013) was a chess grandmaster who was the second or third strongest Yugoslav player for much of the 1960s and 1970s behind Svetozar Gligorić and possibly Borislav Ivkov. He was primarily active before 1977, but has remained an occasional tournament competitor as recently as 2006.


Matulović was born in Belgrade. In 1958 he played a four-game training match with Bobby Fischer, of which only one game (a Matulović win) has survived. He achieved the International Master title in 1961 and became a Grandmaster in 1965.

He won the Yugoslav Chess Championships of 1965 and 1967 and was a prolific competitor on the international tournament scene, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. Probably his best result was equal first with Gligorić, Ivkov and Lev Polugaevsky at Skopje 1969 ahead of former World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and multiple Candidate Efim Geller. Other first-place finishes during this period, either shared or outright, included Netanya 1961, Vršac 1964, Novi Sad 1965, Belgrade 1965, Reggio Emilia 1967/68, Athens Zonal 1969, Belgrade 1969, Sarajevo 1971, Birmingham 1975, Bajmok 1975 (and in 1978), Majdanpek 1976, Vrbas 1976, Belgrade 1977 and Odzaci 1978. By the 1980s and beyond, his tournament victories had become less frequent, but included Osijek 1980, Borovo 1980, Helsinki 1981 and Vrnjacka Banja 1985. He repeated his Vrnjacka Banja success in 1990.

He also had excellent results in the Chess Olympiads. He played seventy-eight games in six events for Yugoslavia, with the overall result of forty-six won, twenty-eight drawn and only four lost, with a 76.9 percent score, the tenth all-time best olympic performance.

His pursuit of the world championship was rather less successful, as he never advanced to the Candidates stage of the process for selecting a challenger for the title. He played in the celebrated 1970 "USSR versus Rest of the World" match on eighth board against Botvinnik, losing one game and drawing the other three. A certain controversy attended this pairing, as Matulović was well known for his "Botvinnik complex" and a long history of poor results against the Soviet player; there were accusations that the Soviet team captain had placed Botvinnik on a lower board than his stature would warrant in order to take advantage of this.


Controversy in actions both over and away from the board was nothing new to Matulović. Over the board he was known for playing out hopeless positions long after grandmaster etiquette called for a resignation, allegedly in the hopes of reaching adjournment (suspension of a game for resumption on a later day, common in tournament play at the time) so that the news reports would read "Matulović's game is adjourned" rather than "Matulović lost!"

More seriously, in the aftermath of the 1970 Interzonal tournament at Palma de Mallorca, he was accused of "throwing" his game against Mark Taimanov in return for a $400 bribe, thus allowing Taimanov to advance to the Candidates matches, where he was famously defeated by Bobby Fischer 6-0. The accusations centered on Matulović's conduct during the game and the alleged feebleness of his resistance. However, it has also been suggested that he was simply uninterested in the game, having been eliminated from contention for the Candidates matches. The score of this game follows:

Taimanov-Matulović; Queen's Gambit Accepted
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Bxc4 e6 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.h3 Bh5 8.0-0 Bd6 9.e4 e5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Be2 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Qe7 14.Bf4 Be5 15.Bxe5 Qxe5 16.Qe3 0-0 17.f4 Qe7 18.e5 c6 19.Rfe1 Rfe8 20.Qf3 Qc5+ 21.Qf2 Qxf2+ 22.Kxf2 Nd5 23.Nxd5 cxd5 24.Red1 Red8 25.Rac1 Rd7 26.Ke3 Rad8 27.Kd4 Kf8 28.f5 Ke7 29.Rd3 Re8 30.Rdc3 b6 31.Rc7 Rd8 32.R1c6 Ke8 33.g4 h6 34.h4 Rb8 35.g5 hxg5 36.hxg5 Rb7 37.Rc8+ Rd8 38.Rxd8+ Kxd8 39.Kxd5 a5 40.Rd6+ Ke8 41.Kc6 Re7 42.Rd5 1-0

Perhaps Matulović's most notorious transgression was against István Bilek at the Sousse Interzonal in 1967. He played a losing move but then took it back after saying "j'adoube" ("I adjust" - spoken before adjusting pieces on their square, see touch-move rule). His opponent complained to the arbiter but the move was allowed to stand. This incident earned Matulović the nickname "J'adoubovic". This reportedly happened several times, including in a game against Bobby Fischer.

Matulović was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and served nine months in prison for a car accident in which a woman was killed.

Illustrative game

a b c d e f g h
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 24...Rb8

Matulović's sharp attacking play is shown in a more favorable light in this game against the Bulgarian grandmaster Georgi Tringov from the 1970 Chess Olympiad at Siegen.

Matulović-Tringov; Pirc Defense
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.fxe5 dxe5 9.d5 c6 10.dxc6 bxc6 11.Kh1 Qc7 12.Be3 Nb6 13.a4 a5 14.Qe1 Nfd7 15.Rd1 Qd8 16.Qf2 Rb8 17.Nd2 Qe7 18.b3 Kh8 19.Ne2 f6 20.Ng3 h5 21.Nc4 Nxc4 22.Bxc4 Rb4 23.Rd3 Re8 24.Rfd1 Rb8 (see diagram) 25.Nf5 gxf5 26.Qh4 Nf8 27.Qxh5+ Nh7 28.Bc5 Qxc5 29.Rh3 Bh6 30.Qxe8+ Qf8 31.Rd8 fxe4 32.Qxf8+ Bxf8 33.Rxf8+ Kg7 34.Rg8# 1-0

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