Person of day - 11 SEPTEMBER 2023
The leader of Bosnian-Herzegovinian chess Predrag Nikolić was born in the small town of Bosanski Samac, where he made his first steps in chess. The boy amazed everyone when he qualified for the final of the Yugoslav championship at the tender age of 9- a feat that had not been seen in history heretofore. Predrag scored just 4 points out of 17 and failed to complete two games in the tournament, but he was up against the strongest Yugoslavian masters and grandmasters.
Ten years later, Nikolic moved to the forefront of Yugoslav chess: at the world U18 championship, he battled heroically against Arthur Jussupow, performed successfully in the national championship and defeated Zurab Azmaiparashvili in the traditional USSR-Yugoslavia match.
In 1980 and 1984, Nikolic won the Yugolsav championship, while successes at the 1982 tournament in Sarajevo and the Chigorin Memorial in Sochi- where Predrag finished second to Mikhail Tal- made him a grandmaster. One of his country’s greatest players was a regular participant of inter-zonal tournaments, appearing in 1985, 1987 and 1990. At the 1987 inter-zonal tournament in Zagreb, Predrag Nikolic was only half-a-point away from becoming a candidate and in 1990, he played well at the gruelling tournament in Manila, qualifying for the 1/8 finals of the candidates’ matches, where he played against Boris Gelfand.
Gelfand was considered the outright favourite, but the main time of the match finished with a 4:4 draw and the Soviet grandmaster advanced only after winning the play-off at rapid chess.
Predrag became a bronze Olympic medallist with Yugoslavia in 1980 and won silver at European and world championships. After the collapse of Tito’s Empire, he became one of the heroes of the 1994 Olympiad in Moscow, where the newly-independent Bosnia and Herzegovina sensationally won silver. He has also won several European Champions’ Cups with Bosna.
After the outbreak of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he was forced to emigrate to the Netherlands, where he settled near Leiden. He won the Dutch championships in 1997 and 1999. Predrag continued to play at tournaments of the highest level during the noughties- in 2004, he split 1st place with Vassily Ivanchuk in Antalya, but lost to the Ukrainian in additional games.
The grandmaster has played against world champions like Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen- Predrag has an equal score with the 9th and 12th chess kings.
Despite his age, the Bosnian continues to perform consistently and maintains a rating above 2600. He has returned to his homeland, but he considers the house next to Leiden his second home.