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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Milan Matulovic

     Matulovic, a Serbian GM born in Belgrade, was born on 10th June 1935 and passed away on 9 October 2013 after a long illness. He was one of the leading Yugoslav Grandmasters in 1960s and 1970s, national champion in 1965 and 1967 and winner of many international tournaments in. He became International Master in 1961 and Grandmaster in 1965.
     When Fischer qualified for the 1958 Interzonal at Portoroz, Yugoslavia, in order to get used to the venue and international chess, he arrived in Belgrade early and played a two-game match (both drawn) against Janosevich and then defeated a promising young Matulovich 2.5 -1.5 despite losing the first game.
     Matulovic participated in five Chess Olympiads (1964-1972), winning 2 silver and 2 bronze team medals, one gold and 2 silver individual medals. He also played in four European Team Championships (1961-1973), winning three silver medals. His best result was equal first with Gligorich, Ivkov and Polugaevsky at Skopje 1969 ahead of former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and Efim Geller. Although he played in many Interzonals he never advanced to the Candidates stage.
     In the 1970 "USSR versus Rest of the World" Matulovic played on 8th board against Botvinnik where he lost one game and drew three. There was controversy over this pairing as Matulovic as well known for his "Botvinnik complex" and his long history of poor results against Botvinnik. 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. Of course, there was never any doubt that he was never in Botvinnik's class, so the controversy, in my opinion, was nothing mote than a tempest in a teapot.
     Controversy was nothing new to Matulovic though because he was known for playing out hopeless positions long after etiquette said he should have resigned. All that, as annoying as it was to his opponents, was minor when compared to the controversy surrounding the 1970 Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca where he was accused of throwing a game to Mark Taimanov in return for $400 bribe.  His loss allowed Taimanov to advance to the Candidates matches...not that it did Taimanov any good because he was defeated by Bobby Fischer 6–0.
     At the Sousse Interzonal in 1967 he played a losing move against Istvan Bilkek then took it back after saying "j'adoube." Bilek complained but the move was allowed to stand. This incident earned Matulović the nickname "J'adoubovic." It's been said that was neither the first nor last time he pulled that trick; rumor has it that he once did the same thing against none other than Bobby Fischer.

     In this position Bilek has just played 37...Qc-c6 and Matulovic answered with 38.Bf3? and before Bilek could play 39...Rxf3 Matulovic put the Bishop back and played 38.Kg1. Matulovic claimed he was adjusting the pieces. The game ended in a draw. After this incident, Matulovic was given the nickname "J'adoubovic".
     Matulovic was not the only player in the history of chess to throw games, take bribes or take back moves, so it's not clear why he has been vilified by the press and his peers for such conduct when the same shenanigans by stronger players than Matulovic have been ignored or glossed over.
     GM Nigel Short, aka Nasty Nigel, never known to mince words or exhibit good taste, said on Facebook on hearing the news about Matulovic's death, "They say only speak good of the dead. He's dead? Good!" Matulović was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and served nine months in prison for a car accident in which a woman was killed.
     The following game features a nice finish.

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