Person of day - 26 APRIL 2021
Rauf Mamedov was born on 26thApril 1988 in Baku. He learned to play chess when he was seven and success in juniors’ chess followed soon after. Following his success at the children’s world championship in 1999, Mamedov became a FIDE master. For a short time, the talented young player stood still, but he then went on a rapid surge. In 2003, the Azerbaijani’s rating neared 2500 and a year later, the multi-time winner of European and world youth championships became a grandmaster.
Rauf Mamedov became one of his country’s strongest players and won the Azerbaijani national championships in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2015. He was included in his country’s Olympic team in Calvia in 2004. The young chess player quickly became a strong team player: he came first at the Turkish championship with Istanbul’s Eczacibasi SK and he won two silver medals at the European club cup with SOCAR super-club.
In 2007, Rauf split 1stplace at in juniors’ super tournament in Kirishi with Ian Nepomniachtchi, Parimarjan Negi and Zaven Andriasian and qualified for the World Cup from the European championship for the first time. In Khanty-Mansiysk, Mamedov lost to Evgeny Tomashevsky in a closely-fought tie-break, but he showed himself to be a fighter who was ready for great things. In those years, Rauf was primarily known as an online blitz player who had one of the highest rating on ICC website.
His first experience at the elite level came in 2009, at the Azerbaijan vs Rest of the World Match, where Rauf lost to Vishy Anand 0.5:1.5. In that same year, the Azerbaijani team won the European championship. The team also won this competition in 2013 and Rauf won a medal in the individual table. A large role contribution to the team’s and Mamedov’s success came from Alexander Khalifman, a celebrated trainer who won the FIDE world championship in 1999.
“Alexander Khalifman is a fantastic coach. We first had Azmaiparashvili, then Tukmanov…but now, I think we’ve found a perfect leader because….when Khalifman first arrived in 2013, we went to the European championship. And we drew against Sweden in the first round. No one had any hopes for us. And why would they? We were rated sixth and we had a mediocre team.
After our draw in the first round, we jokingly asked ourselves why we even came here. And by the end, we were European champions who didn’t lose a single match. How he prepared us…I never saw anything like it. Because it was simple…for example, in the match against France, I remember he showed me some “clever” line, and it turned out to be a very important match and a vital victory.
And the Olympiad after that, which we played in Tromso…we had never achieved results like that. We were rated fourth but we came sixth. I think we came twelfth in Khanty-Mansiysk and tenth in Istanbul. And here we came fifth but shared second-fifth. And we fought for a medal until the final round and we led for seventh rounds, playing only at the first board. So we are very happy with our current leader and I think we are very lucky in that regard.” (R. Mamedov)
Mamedov achieved further success at the inter-city team world championship in 2012. Baku’s fearsome team of Eltaj Safarli, Gadir Guseinov, Rauf Mamedov, Nijat Mammadov and Vasif Durarbayli came second, only behind Hoogovens’ team of Anish Giri, Ivan Sokolov, Sergey Tivyakov and Jan Smeets.
In 2015, the Azerbaijani embarked on another career rise. He performed successfully at a super-tournament- the Vugar Gashimov Memorial- won the European blitz championship and the World Mind Sports Games in blitz. A year later, Rauf was a prize-winner of the European rapid championship.
The friendly, amicable Azerbaijani grandmaster is known among his peers for his creative openings.
“Since childhood, I have played bishop g7 black in nearly every line. Everyone considers it so-so, except when in Gruenfeld, not a particularly strong one…I remember, once during preparation, I was told that a renowned chess player said that the King’s Indian Defence was an incorrect opening, although it had not yet been proven. So I’ve been playing the King’s Indian for most of my life. I like playing the Dragon variation, so…but I think that my games should not be seen as an example, because my openings aren’t in good condition at the moment. And the opening is very important nowadays.” (R. Mamedov)
In 2017, Rauf Mamedov became European champion as a member of the Azerbaijani national team again, and his rating surpassed the 2700 mark. Their collaboration with Alexander Khalifman helped him strengthen the opening phase, and, in general, his play has become more solid and harmonious.