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Georgian chess players, national heroines

There are very few countries where chess is among the most popular sports. And there is only one, Georgia, whose players – more than men – are national heroines. Although the tradition that explains this phenomenon dates back to the 11th century, the royal wishbone was its first world champion, Nona Gaprindashvili, a living legend, who has just sued Netflix for falsifying her life in the series Lady’s domain. Georgia aspires to the podium in the Women’s World Cup for Nations in Sitges after finishing first in the group today in the initial phase.

“Chess, and especially women’s chess, is part of the national culture in Georgia. Everyone knows the best players ”, highlights the Hispanic-Georgian coach Elizbar Ubilava, who has lived in Collado Mediano (Madrid) for many years. “That creates a great unity in the team, which feels the responsibility of having a whole country behind it. The girls are performing very well here despite the fact that at the last minute we suffered the loss of our champion, Bela Khotenashvili, who is in splendid shape, due to a serious health problem with her seven-month-old baby ”, she emphasizes.

The Georgian bridal dowry included a chess board in the Middle Ages (some sources say from the 11th century). Perhaps also influencing that the most charismatic of the monarchs of ancient Georgia in its golden age was a woman, Tamar, in the twelfth. But the true golden age of Georgian women’s chess came in the sixties, seventies and eighties of the 20th, since Gaprindashvili was the world champion for the first time, in 1961, at the age of 20. He retained the crown until 1978, when he was succeeded by his compatriot Maia Chiburdanidze. Other Georgians, such as Nana Alexandria or Nana Ioseliani, were also among the top ten in the world.

Their dominance was so overwhelming that the Soviet team used to be almost 100% Georgian at the time, raising some blisters among Russian nationalist bureaucrats in Moscow. “In 1978, when we were traveling to the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, the Soviet Federation ordered the replacement of Ioseliani by a Russian one an hour before the plane left. It was not the only similar case and, obviously, those things did not happen by chance ”, remembers Alexandria.

FIDE President Dvórkovich discusses a position with former world champions Maia Chiburdanidze and Nona Gaprindashvili, both heroic Georgian nationals, at Batumi 2018
FIDE President Dvórkovich discusses a position with former world champions Maia Chiburdanidze and Nona Gaprindashvili, both heroic Georgian nationals, at Batumi 2018LG

“At that time, many girls were called Nona, Maia or Nana,” recalls Sophie Nikoladze, public relations for the Georgian Federation in honor of heroine chess players. For all this, he adds: “It is not an exaggeration to say that chess is in our blood.” The author of this chronicle was able to personally verify in the late 1990s that quoting the line-up of the Georgian women’s chess team from memory was enough to get the police to give you the green light at the abundant roadblocks.

Gaprindashvili is 80 years old today and is very angry with Netflix (the lawsuit is for five million dollars, 4.26 million euros) for a line of the script in which it is stated: “Nona Gaprindashvili […] she is the women’s world champion and has never faced men ”. The latter is flatly false, and she calls it a “blatant and deliberate lie.” But the Georgian chess matriarch is likely to be happy today: her girls have won Group B in Sitges, and will meet Azerbaijan in the quarterfinals. The other duels will be: Russia-FIDE America, India-Kazakhstan and Ukraine-Armenia. The teams eliminated in the first phase are France, Spain, Poland and Germany.

Faith of errors: The breast implant company Motiva is not part of the sponsorship of the Women’s World Cup of Nations in Sitges, financed by the Catalan Federation (60%) and the Sitges City Council (40%), as was erroneously indicated here in the chronicle of Monday. Although it does sponsor the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

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