• tbilisi, georgia
  • tbilisi, georgia
  • tbilisi, georgia

Nona Gaprindashvili and the Georgian Chess

Nona Gaprindashvili

To a great extent, Georgia was always involved in the world of chess. Under the flag of the Soviet Union, women of Georgia have been extraordinarily successful. The best proof for this is the Women’s World Chess Champion title which was in the hands of Georgian chess players for almost 30 consecutive years. There is certainly something special about the relationship of Georgian women with chess according to these results.

Probably one of the most notable women in Georgia is Nona Gaprindashvili. She was the sixth Women's World Chess Champion from 1962 when she was only 21, to 1978, as well as the first female Grandmaster. Nona was a World Champion five times and a part of the Soviet Olympics team eleven times, and one time for Georgian Olympics team. During that period, she won 25 medals, among which eleven team gold medals and nine individual gold medals.

Her success was an inspiration for many generations of Georgians as well as thousands of chess players around the world. Because of her, parents named their daughters Nona or sent them to the chess lessons. For Georgians, she is simply a celebrity, a national hero, an idol who was a great influence for other chess players that came after her such as Maia Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, Nana Ioseliani, Nino Gurieli, Ketevan Arakhamia and Ketevan Kakhiani.

As it was already mentioned, Gaprindashvili held her WWCC title until 1978 when she lost it to her greatest fan and follower, Maya Chiburdanidze. At that time Maya was only 17, which made her the youngest WWCC winner until 2010. Chiburdanidze was Women´s World Champion from 1978 until 1991. According to some sources, Nona lost her first match to Maya when she was only 13.

In that period, Georgia was still under control of the Soviet Union. However, after the break of USSR, Georgia as an independent country took three gold medals in a row during the Chess Olympiad in 1992, 1994 and 1996. At the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany in November 2008 the team with Maya Chiburdanidze, Nana Dzagnidze, Lela Javakhishvili, Maia Lomineishvili, and Sophio Khukhashvili took the gold. At the same competition, Chiburdanidze won another individual gold medal showing the best performance at the tournament. It is also necessary to mention that this competition from 1997 also awards the nation which has the highest total number of match points in the open and women's divisions combined. This award is appropriately called the Nona Gaprindashvili Trophy.

Nona’s love for the chess as well as her incredible spirit is still a great inspiration for many chess players around the globe. In her later career, she also won four Senior World Chess Championships in 1995, 2009, 2014, and finally 2015, at the age of 74.

It is probably because of a strong connection between chess and Georgian tradition that women in Georgia particularly cherish this game. It was first introduced in Georgia in the 7th and 8th centuries. However, it was present in slightly different variations than the one we know today. On the other hand, chess has often been a part of Georgian literature and poetry. Besides, chess set was usually a gift from parents when their daughter got married.

Nevertheless, the popularity of chess in Georgia does not decline. Many young players still win medals each year at the World Junior Championships. This information could also be proved by the recent victory of the Georgian chess team at the Women’s World Team Championship in 2015. Today, the list of top 20 female chess players includes amazing women from Georgia such as Nana Dzagnidze, Lela Javakhishvili, Bela Khotenashvili and Nino Batsiashvili.