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By OliviaStill
Jan. 06, 2017

While there are not a lot of successful athletes who, when questioned about their journey to the top, will answer anything but how arduous and demanding it is to reach the highest level of proficiency in their discipline, some have had rockier beginnings than others, and have had to go through much more than their contemporaries.

is definitely one of the examples of how commitment and love of sport, combined with talent and a lot of hard work, can in the end help everyone overcome the odds and achieve stellar success despite unenviable starting point and external conditions. While every sport has its inspirational moments and personalities, it’s not often that we hear about the adversities that chess players face. It might be the lack of physical injuries (although having to spend hours on end sitting in contemplation is nothing to scoff at), the fact that they don’t need expensive equipment or facilities for training, etc. but, be that as it may, if you think that becoming a chess Grandmaster is not made more challenging by unfavorable conditions, or that is not just as impressive as achieving success in any other, physically more demanding discipline, we beg to differ.

List of achievements that Dragan Solak has under his belt is quite impressive, especially when you consider the fact that he is only 36 years old, and that he originally hails from Serbia, a small European country, which at the time when Solak was developing as a person and a chess player was going through serious economic hardships, civil war, sanctions, and a long period of recovery. The limitations imposed by this kind of insularity and poor economic state are manifold. First of all, internet was not as available or cheap as it is now, so practicing online has not been an option for the huge portion of the time Dragan Solak spent in Serbia. The fact that region was rather tumultuous in the early 1990’s and that it never fully recovered economically, means that not a lot of players of higher caliber were coming to the country, and going abroad was not really all that cheap or simple for Solak. Not only was it difficult to find people to play with, finding someone who would impart their knowledge and experience to him was equally challenging, which means it might be fair to say that everything he achieved was a result on his own personal dedication and desire to improve as a player.

To put this into context, and give you a better idea of his background, here’s a short personal and professional bio of Dragan Solak. He was born in Vrbas, Srbija in 1980, and already started achieving impressive results at 22, when he tied with Vladimir Tukmakov and Andrei Sokolov for 1st to 3rd place in the Hilton Open. He continued achieving excellent results for his native country, taking part in numerous Chess Olympiads as a member of Serbian chess national team, until 2011, when he makes a decision to leave Serbia and .

Even with all the complications that inevitably have to arise from that kind of move, his performance didn’t suffer, but, in fact, only continued to improve. He won the Turkish Chess Championship for two years in a row, in 2012 and 2013, as well as 2015 Dubai Open. To get a sense of just how accomplished he has managed to become you can also take a look at some of the , and hopefully be inspired by his success. His career should serve as inspiration to everyone who’s struggling to persevere in their passion, and as a reminder that you don’t have to allow your surroundings to keep you down, as long as you have a goal, intelligence and the willpower to become the (Grand)master of your destiny. 

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