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Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona Gaprindashvili (born 3 May 1941) is a Georgian chess player, the sixth women's world chess champion (1962–1978), and first female Grandmaster. Born in Zugdidi, Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union), she was the strongest female player of her generation.

In 1961, aged 20, Gaprindashvili won the fourth women's Candidates Tournament, setting up a title match against Russian world champion Elisabeth Bykova. She won the match easily, with a final score of 9-2 (+7−0=4), and went on to defend her title successfully four times: three times against Alla Kushnir (1965: 10–6; 1969: 12–7; 1972: 12–11) and once against fellow Georgian Nana Alexandria (1975: 9–4). She finally lost her crown in 1978 to another Georgian, 17-year-old Maia Chiburdanidze, by a score of 6½–8½ (+2−4=9).

Gaprindashvili played for Soviet Union in the Chess Olympiads of 1963, 1966, 1969, 1972, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1990, and for Georgia in 1992. She was one of the contributing players of the USSR team that dominated the women's Olympiads of the 1980s. She won as many as 25 medals, among which 11 team gold medals and 9 individual gold medals. At the olympiad of Dubai 1986 she won all the ten games she played.

She was a five-times winner of the Women's Soviet Championship: in 1964, 1973, 1981, 1983, and 1985.

During her career Gaprindashvili successfully competed in men's tournaments, winning (amongst others) the Hastings Challengers tournament in 1963/4 and tying for first place at Lone Pine in 1977, earning a grandmaster norm.

In 1978 Gaprindashvili became the first woman to be awarded the Grandmaster title. She was awarded the title after scoring two Grandmaster 'norms' totaling 23 games, the last of which was winning Lone Pine 1977 against a field of 45 players, mostly grandmasters. Although she did not meet the technical requirements for the GM title, which required 24 games, by exceeding the GM 'norm' requirement in Lone Pine, FIDE found her results equivalent to 24 games and made her the first woman Grandmaster. Not until Zsuzsa Polgar did another woman achieve the Grandmaster title through regular tournament play.

Pal Benko wrote in Chess Life & Review (January 1979):

    ...Of course (Nona) had earned the "woman grandmaster" title awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), as have some two dozen other women. But she also earned the (men's) international master title, becoming the first woman ever to have done so (Vera Menchik was probably strong enough to have earned this title, but she died in 1943 (sic), long before the modern title system was adopted), and in Buenos Aires in November 1978 FIDE bestowed upon Nona Gaprindashvili the (men's) international grandmaster title. Not only is she the only woman ever to have received this title, she is the only woman ever to have deserved it.

It is regrettable, therefore, that she did not actually earn the title in the regular way: FIDE requires that to earn the grandmaster title a player must achieve certain minimum scores in tournaments consisting of at least twenty-four games in aggregate, and Nona was two or three games short. Yet the FIDE Qualifications Commission voted to give her the title. In my opinion, this historic occasion should not have been allowed to carry even this slight tarnish.

In 1975 she had a perfume named after her.

In 2009 she won in Condino, Italy the World Senior Championship for women.

View Nona Gaprindashvili's Games

Posted: Sat 16 Apr 2011


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