Svetozar Gligoric, a legendary Serbian and Yugoslav chess grandmaster who was the national champion 12 times and one of the world's top players in the 20th century has died in Belgrade. He was 89.

Serbia's Chess Federation says Gligoric died on Tuesday and was buried in the Serbian capital on Friday. Media in Serbia reported that Gligoric died of a stroke.

"We have been painfully deprived of a truly great man," the federation said on its website. "He was a legend."

Gligoric was born in 1923 in Belgrade in what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He made his first chess career moves early, winning his first title aged 15 at the Belgrade Chess Club championship.

Gligoric was from a poor family and both his parents died by the time he was 17 and World War II was about to start. During the war, Gligoric's joined the anti-Nazi guerrillas and put his chess career on hold.

After winning his first international tournament in Warsaw, Poland, in 1947, Gligoric became Yugoslavia's champion 12 times and played at 15 biennial Chess Olympiads, collecting one gold, six silver and five bronze medals. He was awarded the grandmaster title in 1951.

Serbia's Chess Federation described Gligoric's victory in Poland as a "historic triumph" over the greatest Soviet players of the time, including future World Champion Vasily Smyslov.

The federation said that Gligoric secured 64 victories at international chess events.

The World Chess Federation said Gligoric was among the top ten players of the world for many years. "He was very well known and respected as a perfect gentleman with style," it said.

In Yugoslavia, Gligoric received a number of state awards. After the former federation broke up in a civil war in 1990s', Gligoric lived in his native Serbia.

"There is hardly a chess player in the world who does not know who is Svetozar Gligoric," fellow chess master Aleksandar Matanovic said at a commemoration ceremony this week.

"He always played for victory, not against his rival across the board, but the chess pieces," Matanovic said.