June 26, 2022


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The actual – Life Queen’s Gambit: how Georgian Nona Gaprindashvili conquered the chess World

You’ve in all probability already heard of Netflix collection, The Queen’s Gambit, which follows the lifetime of American chess prodigy Beth Harmon in her quest to tackle the world’s prime Grandmasters — all whereas battling her personal interior demons.

When Harmon lastly faces the Soviet heavyweights in Moscow for the primary time, the digicam pans briefly to a feminine Soviet(Georgian) chess participant, Nona Gaprindashvili. Whereas Harmon’s story is fictional, Gaprindashvili is an actual chess participant from Georgia who grew to become the Ladies’s World Chess Champion 5 instances. Within the present, Gaprindashvili is launched by the commentator as “a feminine world champion, who has by no means confronted males” — one thing that stunned the true Gaprindashvili, who was no stranger to taking part in chess in opposition to male opponents.


From Estonian Keres and Serbian Gligorić to American Tarjan and Latvian Tal, “I performed in opposition to many nice Grandmasters,” says the 79-year previous, who grew to become the world’s first feminine Grandmaster — the best title awarded to chess gamers — on the age of 37. At this time, she is speaking through video name from her Tbilisi house after watching her favorite snooker participant, Judd Trump, enter the semi-finals of the Northern Eire Open. Within the background is an open chess board. “I had many notable matches in opposition to them, and I acquired many acknowledgements from them for these matches,” she continues. “So, it’s utterly unfaithful. It’s not a giant emotional issue to be sincere, but it surely’s dishonouring to have misinformation unfold about somebody’s achievements.”



Gaprindashvili was born within the Georgian metropolis of Zugdidi, a stone’s throw away from the Black Coastline, in 1941. She grew up along with her dad and mom, 4 older brothers, and a youthful brother. “We have been a really energetic household,” she describes. “We performed the whole lot from soccer to volleyball and desk tennis to billiards.” Tournaments held of their small household backyard would entice all the neighbourhood, she mentioned.

From a younger age, Gaprindashvili was not afraid to set her sights on profitable. And, of all of the video games she performed, chess gripped her essentially the most. Studying from her older brothers, she was intent on beating her siblings, in addition to the entire different boys within the neighbourhood. “I used to be, and I nonetheless am, very aggressive. This [drive] is what has helped me most in chess.”

In 1954, on the age of 12, she discovered herself competing for the Zugdidi metropolis workforce on the Georgian Nationwide Championships, hosted within the seaside city of Batumi — regardless of not making use of to participate. When the all-male Zugdidi workforce heard a couple of lady on the town who was a talented chess participant, they invited her to play rather than her brother, “who was prepping for college and had no time to compete.”

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Gaprindashvili in 1963. Picture: Jack de Nijs/Anefo/Wikimedia Commons beneath a CC licence

It was in Batumi that younger Gaprindashvili was found by famend Georgian chess coach, Vakhtang Karseladze, who satisfied her dad and mom to maneuver to Tbilisi, so she might practice at one of many capital’s prestigious chess faculties. Two years later, Gaprindashvili went on to win the Ladies’s Georgian Chess Championship title in 1956, (adopted by three extra victories in 1959, 1960, and 1961).

Whereas Georgia had no World Chess Champions but, chess tournaments have been attracting plenty in each metropolis. “Everybody liked chess. It was a recreation that united us all. On lunch breaks, you’ll usually see folks taking part in chess in opposition to one another.”



On the age of 21, Gaprindashvili received her first World Ladies’s Chess Championship title by defeating twice World Ladies’s Champion Elisaveta Bykova from Russia with a landslide rating. The win was a terrific victory for the small nation of Georgia. Gaprindashvili wore a victory garland on her practice journey again house, and her Georgian followers flocked to stations throughout the nation to observe her practice pull in.

Her victory in Moscow attracted worldwide consideration, and a 12 months after her first title win, Gaprindashvili was invited to an unique chess match in Hastings, England, attended by the world’s prime gamers: from Capablanca and Alekhine to Spassky and Botvinnik. Because the second lady to ever compete within the match, and the primary to win prime spot, Gaprindashvili was now not praised for her gender, alone. She had “the chess world in one thing of a checkmate,” as one Day by day Mirror article put it.

After being invited again to Hastings in 1965 — this time to participate in the principle match — she performed in opposition to the likes of Mikhail Tal. Gaprindashvili finally received fifth place, beating the entire British gamers and drawing with chess heavyweight Keres. Her win put her in the identical rating as three-time World Chess Champion Botvinnik when he first got here to Hastings in 1934-35

Lone Pine


Identified for her aggressive type, Gaprindashvili was particularly praised for her tactical talent and her eager eye for a superb mixture of strikes. In her 1974 match in opposition to German grasp Rudolf Servaty in Dusseldorf, she sacrificed each her rooks — main items on the board — to clinch a checkmate and drive her opponent to resign. However Gaprindashvili’s favorite matches are from the 1977 Lone Pine match, a prestigious occasion within the chess calendar.

As the one lady invited, in a 12 months when the entry necessities have been raised to make the competition harder to enter, she received joint first place with Grandmasters Argentinian Panno, Russian Balashov, and Serbian Sahovic.

“I’m nonetheless amazed by the standard of the matches I performed,” Gaprindashvili says, “as a result of these weren’t ready at house — the strikes have been spontaneous.” Gaprindashvili acquired notable reward for her “high quality end-game method”, as one New York Occasions article described it, within the match in opposition to American Grandmaster Tarjan, during which she sacrificed a pawn to safe a win.

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It was her efficiency at these tournaments, amongst different achievements, that earned her the title of Grandmaster in 1978, the primary lady to take action on the time.

However being a prime chess participant didn’t come with out difficulties.



Usually, the strain of performing for a nation outweighed the depth of chess itself. She remembers defending her World Ladies’s title in 1969 in opposition to Russian (later Israeli) participant Alla Kushnir, who challenged the Girl’s Champion thrice. With two matches held in Tbilisi and two in Moscow, Gaprindashvili received the video games in Russia, however misplaced her matches on house turf.

“I feel that the loss was drastically related to the feelings that your direct surroundings places onto the sport,” Gaprindashvili says. “I keep in mind once I received again house to Georgia, the very first thing folks would ask [sometimes, without greeting me], was: ‘why did I win with such a small factors distinction?’”

Gaprindashvili (left) vs. Corrie Vreeken-Bouwman of The Netherlands. Picture: Harry Pot/Anefo/Wikimedia Commons beneath a CC licence.

As The Queen’s Gambit reveals by way of Beth Harmon’s battle with medication and alcohol, the pressures {of professional} chess can have dangerous penalties. Gaprindashvili warns that expertise is just not sufficient: “It’s important to be psychologically and bodily robust, and have a drive for excellence.”

For Gaprindashvili, it was important to stability chess with different actions. “After I felt careworn, I’d change to a unique sport, take heed to music, or learn — I really like studying,” she says. Fortunately, discovering a stability was a talent that got here nearly as simply as chess itself. “I’m 80 years previous proper now, I performed so many chess matches, and I can’t even recall one time that I had issues sleeping and there was no state of affairs the place I would want anti-depressants or sleeping help in any approach,” she says. “It’s one thing that comes pure.”

However finally, what stored Gaprindashvili motivated was her love for the great thing about the sport, reasonably than chasing the wins. “I worth even the losses,” she says.

Dangerous Liebenzell


Gaprindashvili misplaced her title in 1978 to a different Georgian, 17-year-old Maia Chiburdanidze, who held it for one more 13 years and remained the youngest World Chess Champion till 2010. The match marked a brand new chapter in Georgian chess historical past. Not was it nearly Gaprindashvili: extra Georgian girls have been rising among the many highest ranks of worldwide tournaments.

4 of the finals on the World Ladies’s Championships between 1962 and 1991 have been Georgians in opposition to Georgians (1975, 1978, 1981 and 1988) — particularly Gaprindashvili and Chiburdanidze alongside Nana Alexandria and Nana Ioseliani. Commentators known as them druzhina, a combat-unit. Even after dropping her Ladies’s Champion title, Gaprindashvili went on to win the World Senior Chess Championship in 1995: this time representing Georgia, not the USSR.

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How might a small nation like Georgia preserve such a profitable streak for therefore lengthy? Gaprindashvili jokes that the key is “sunny climate and nice wine”.

For the reason that twelfth century, it has been conventional for Georgian brides to obtain a chess set and a duplicate of Shota Rustaveli’s poetry as a marriage reward

However the reply may very well be rooted in historical past. For the reason that twelfth century, it has been conventional for Georgian brides to obtain a chess set and a duplicate of Shota Rustaveli’s poetry as a marriage reward. Gaprindashvili herself acquired a helpful chess set as a present on changing into girls’s champion.

The story of Georgia’s famend feminine gamers is now the topic of the movie, Glory to the Queen, which premiered at first of September and was the viewers award winner on the Free Zone Pageant in Serbia.



The administrators of Glory to the Queen, Tatia Skhirtladze and Anna Khazaradze, say that Gaprindashvili stood out amongst her friends. Skhirtladze describes her as assured, robust, and full of life: “Nona is type of unstoppable. There’s no likelihood you’re not beneath her affect.”

“Whereas others have been nervous and making ready [for their games], she would watch soccer the nights earlier than the tournaments,” Khazaradze provides. And, of the 4 girls who made up Georgia’s feminine chess druzhina, Gaprindashvili is the one one who continues to be collaborating in tournaments.

Greater than 50 years since her first title win, Gaprindashvili’s legacy continues. The six-time World Ladies’s Senior Chess Champion — most not too long ago final 12 months in Bucharest — has the principle Tbilisi Chess Palace named after her. There may be even a devoted Nona Gaprindashvili Cup, awarded by FIDE, the worldwide chess organisation. The cup is exclusive in that it’s awarded to the nation with the best mixed complete factors throughout each female and male gamers.

Georgian girls stay strongly represented amongst prime chess gamers at the moment, with Nana Dzagnidze — named after Georgian chess legend Nana Alexandria — ranked ninth amongst girls globally. She not too long ago received an important match in Lausanne, which might imply a step nearer to difficult the Ladies’s Champion in 2022.

In the meantime, Gaprindashvili hopes that reveals like The Queen’s Gambit will proceed to boost chess’ profile. “I hope the collection will convey extra consideration and curiosity in chess, simply as my first victories did again within the day,” she says. “Most significantly, for anybody simply getting began, it’s essential to dedicate your self as a lot as you possibly can and to not again down if you face difficulties as this can be a complicated recreation. It requires lots of consideration.”

For now, the one factor to cease Gaprindashvili competing has been the pandemic. When it’s over, she plans to renew tournaments as soon as once more.

“In any case, chess is what fills my life with vitality.”

Supply: calvertjournal.com