Person of day   -  17 JANUARY 2021

MAIA CHIBURDANIDZE

MAIA CHIBURDANIDZE

At the mere age of 13, she made her debut in the women’s international tournament in Brasov. In this competition, the “miracle girl” won first place and fulfilled the requirements for an international master. Two years later, Chiburdanidze became the champion of the USSR among junior women and a year later, she won the adult women’s championship.

Chiburdanidze joined the fight for the women’s world championship in 1976 and immediately split 2nd-3rd places in the inter-zonal tournament in Tbilisi, thus winning the right to play in candidates’ matches. Few believed that the 15 year-old chess player, though undoubtedly talented, could pass the candidates’ tournament at first attempt, but Chiburdanidze managed to do it, albeit after a rigorous struggle. In the quarter-final, she won against her compatriot, Nana Alexandria, 5,4:4,5, in the semi-final against Elena Akhmilovskaya (6,5:5,5) and, finally, in the final she defeated the experienced Alla Kushnir by a score of 7,5:6,5.

After this, Chiburdanidze played for the world crown against the celebrated Nona Gaprindashvili. At this time, Nona had carried the title of world champion for 16 years and was used to winning. Despite the fact that her opponent was 20 years older, the 17 year-old Maia came to the tournament in Pitsunda without a trace of fear. The first three matches finished as draws. After winning the two subsequent matches, Chiburdanidze took the lead and maintained it for the rest of the match, despite Gaprindashvili’s attempts to retake the initiative. Winning by a score of 8:6, Maia Chiburdanidze became the youngest world champion in chess history.

In subsequent years- from 1981 to 1986- she retained her title in matches against Alexandria (8:8), Levitina (8,5:5,5) and Akhmilovskaya (8,5:5,5). Only after 14 years did Chiburdanidze lose the title of chess queen to Chinese player Xie Jun.

Chiburdanidze was always noted for her fighting character, talent at combinations, cold-bloodedness in defending difficult positions and absolute calm during play- not for nothing was she called “the female Fischer”. Opponents could not find the keys to her arsenal for many wears. Nana Alexandria, recalling Chiburdanidze’s strong suits, noted her “fast and accurate calculation of variants, extreme practicality in solving chess problems, a faultless technique and a lack of big mistakes.”

In the last few years, Maia Chiburdanidze has participated in tournaments rarely. She has mostly played in team tournaments- after the collapse of the USSR, Chiburdanidze represents Georgia. As a member of that national team, the former world champion won four gold Olympic medals and she has nine in total, including ones that she won with the USSR team! That is an impressive record, but only one of many in her spectacular career.