Person of day - 21 MAY 2023
Zdenko Kozul was born on 21stMay 1966 in the Bosnian city of Bihac. His first major successes came in the late 1980s. In 1989, Zdenko fulfilled all the norms of a grandmaster and in 1989-1990 he won the Yugoslav championships. In the first of these, Kozul received the gold medal after an additional match against Damjanovic, whom the young chess player defeated 2.5:1.5.
Zdenko Kozul was called up for the Yugoslav national team, which came third in the 1990 Olympiad, largely thanks to the amazing results of the newcomer. As Dimitrie Belica, a renowned journalist, accurately noted, this was the “swansong” of a great Yugoslav team. Afterwards, the country was beset by collapse, sanctions and restrictions, which meant that a legendary generation of Yugoslavs was never replaced.
At the 1992 Olympiad, Kozul represented Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the country was soon engulfed in military violence and Zdenko was forced to move to the more peaceful Croatia. In the 1990s, the grandmaster was one of Europe’s strongest chess players; he won prestigious tournaments in Zadar in 1995 and in Nova Gorica in 1999, as well as winning the Pirc Memorial several times.
Zdenko Kozul’s best years came when he played for Bosna. Young Zdenko made his debut for his team in the Yugoslav championship in the 1980s. In 1987, Bosna qualified for the quarter-final of the European Cup, where it lost to a star-studded Zolingen. The 1993 European Cup brought the Bosnians bronze medals, but Kozul could not play in the final competition because the War started. For political reasons, the grandmaster played for Croatia’s Mursa in 1994-1996 and he could only return to his homeland’s finest team after Croatia’s reconciliation with Bosnia.
Kozul won three club championships of the Old World with Bosna. In 2000, the final brought together Bosna and Polonija, which was only decided by Kozul’s spectacular victory over Bartlomiej Macieja. After the club descended into crisis, Zdenko won the Macedonian championship with Alkoloid and the Slovenian championship with Maribor. He also played for these teams in the European League.
During the Noughties, Zdenko underwent a chess renaissance whereby the 40-year-old grandmaster reached new heights. In the 2004 world championship in Tripoli, he made it to the 1/8 finals, where he lost to Veselin Topalov, who went on to crush all and sundry. Two years later, he sensationally won the European individual championship.
Today, Kozul is active in training Croatia’s best chess players and promoting chess across the country. But the former leader of the national team by no means wants to hang up his boots- not long ago, the Croatian grandmaster came first in Zagreb.