Home BEYOND THE LIMITS Nona Gaprindashvili- The champion who reigned the Chess world for two decades

Nona Gaprindashvili- The champion who reigned the Chess world for two decades


In our series World Champion Born On This Date, I am glad to take you around the success story of Nona Gaprindashvili- the champion who not only reigned for almost two decades, but also contributed to the society in various ways and has been awarded the Presidential Order of Excellence in her country.

Early days of Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona Gaprindashvili was born on 3rd May 1941 at Zugdidi in Georgia. Gaprindashvili first learnt to play Chess from her father while she was five years old and from watching her brother play. Once she accompanied her brother to a Chess tournament, and when he was unable to play, she played instead. There Gaprindashvili was noticed by Chess trainer Vakhtang Karseladze. Her training started and she was sent to live with her aunt at Tbilisi in 1954, so that she could train with Grandmasters.


Nona Gaprindashvili won the Women’s Candidates Tournament in 1961, making her eligible to challenge Elisaveta Bykova, for the Women’s World Championship in 1962. Gaprindashvili’s favourite football team, FC Dinamo Tbilisi attended the match as spectators to support her. Nona won the World Championship with a large victory of nine wins against Bykova’s two.

After this victory, Nona Gaprindashvili became a celebrity in Georgia. Her victory marked the beginning of a “Women’s Chess Revolution” in Georgia.

Nona Gaprindashvili went on to defend her title successfully three times against Alla Kushnir of Russia and thereafter against Nana Alexandria of Georgia.

During her career, Gaprindashvili successfully competed in tournaments that were traditionally played by men. She tied for first place at Lone Pine International in 1977 and also became the first woman ever to earn the title of International Grandmaster in 1978. However, the same year, she lost her World Championship crown to 17 year old Maia Chiburdanidze.

Nona Gaprindashvili played for the Soviet Union in the Women’s Chess Olympiads of 1963, 1966, 1969, 1972, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1990, and for Georgia in 1992. She won eleven team gold medals and nine individual gold medals. At the Olympiad of Dubai 1986 she won all ten games she played. 

Besides Chess, Gaprindashvili was also active politically, serving as a member of the Soviet Parliament of Georgia. She served as president of the Georgian National Olympic Committee from 1989 to 1996.

Awards of Nona Gaprindashvili

Gaprindashvili, who was has been noted for her competitiveness and aggressive playing style, was awarded the Presidential Order of Excellence in 2015 by President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili for her ‘outstanding contribution to the country and nation’ and ‘representing Georgia at International level’. In 2013, she was inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame.

Tbilisi’s Chess Palace is dedicated to Nona Gaprindashvili. The town of Zugdidi put up a statue in Gaprindashvili’s honour. FIDE has introduced ‘Gaprindashvili Cup’ in Chess Olympiads for the country which has the best combined performance in Open and  Women’s Olympiads.

I was fortunate to meet her for the first time at Champigny Sur Marne, France, in 1984 when I had accompanied Viswanathan Anand as the coach to World Cadet (U-15) championship. She was the probably the first Grandmaster to predict than Anand had an extremely bright future. 

Analysis of one of the matches of Nona Gaprindashvili

Today we shall see a game by Nona Gaprindashvili played in the attacking style of one of her most favourite players, Paul Morphy.

Nona Gaprindashvili – Alexander Blagidze [B23]              

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Bc4 Bg7 6.Nge2 e6 7.Nxd4 cxd4 8.Ne2 Qh4+ 9.Ng3

Young Nona gives up a Pawn for opening of the ‘f’ file and to get a few tempos.

9…Qxf4 10.d3 Qc7?

Perhaps after 10…Qf6! 11.Rf1 Qe7, White may not have passed the test of soundness.

11.0–0 Ne7 12.Bg5 Nc6?!


Alexander Blagidze

Nona Gaprindashvili

13.Nh5!! gxh5

Alexander Blagidze

Nona Gaprindashvili

White continued energetically with14.Rxf7!! There followed 14….Qe5?

Black completely overlooked White’s reply, or else he might have found the correct reply14…h6!! 15.Bf4 Be5!holding the game. For example, 16.Qxh5

Alexander Blagidze (Variation)

Nona Gaprindashvili (Variation)

16…Kd8! 17.Qh4+ Ke8 with a draw.

Of course, 14…Kxf7? was impossible due to 15.Qxh5+ Kg8 16.Qe8+ Bf8 17.Rf1.

Now, let us get back to the game. The game went

15.Rf5!! 1–0

Black resigned in view of15.Rf5 exf5 16.Qxh5+ Kf8 17.Qf7 #

Analysis of the most famous match of Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona Gaprindashvili – Rudolf Servaty[B39]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 Ng4!? 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1 e5!?

An extremely sharp option which became popular in 1970s due to the famous Bent Larsen Vs Tigran Petrosian, Santa Monica, 1966 in which Black lost badly with the Knight retreat 9 Ne6.

10.Nb5!? 0–0 11.Be2!

White rightly refrains from accepting the sacrificed Pawn. 11.Nxd4? is bad as it can be seen from Grandmaster O’Kelly D Galway Vs (Untitled) Pravin Mahadeo Thipsay, Tehran, 1978. The game went 11…exd4 12.Bxd4 Qa5+! 13.Ke2 Re8 14.f3 d5 15.Bxg7 Rxe4+! and Black soon won.

11 Qh4 12.Nxd4 exd4 13.Bxd4 Qxe4 14.Bxg7 Qxg2?

Rudolf Servaty

Nona Gaprindashvili

Better was 14…Kxg7 15.0–0 though White has a big positional advantage.

15.Qd4!! Qxh1+ 16.Kd2 Qxa1? Black confidently accepts the other Rook too, anticipating only 17.Bh6, f6! 18. Bxf8, Kxf8 19. Qxf6 ch with a draw. Better was 16…Qxh2 17.Bf3! Re8 18.Rh1 Qc7 though White wins with 19.Bh8! f6

Rudolf Servaty

Nona Gaprindashvili

20.Bd5+! The only way!

(But not 20.Qxf6? d5 21.Bxd5+ Be6=)

20…Re6 21.Qxf6 d6 22.Re1! h5 23.Rg1! Kh7 24.Bxe6 forcing a rapid mate.

In the game, after 16….Qxa1?, there followed

Rudolf Servaty

Nona Gaprindashvili


Black resigned as there is no defence to the threat of Bh6. For example 17.Qf6 d6 18.Bh6 Qxb2+ 19.Qxb2 f6 20.Bxf8 etc.         1–0

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Praveen Thipsay is one of the earliest Grandmasters and the first Indian to win the Commonwealth Chess Champion. He is a FIDE Senior Trainer who has been a coach to many promising Indian Chess players.


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