Maia Chiburdanidze A Georgian Chess Player
She has been honoured many times by her country and several postage stamps have even been designed to celebrate her chess achievements. Mongolia issued a commemorative stamp in 1986 which illustrates a position in one of her games from the 1984 world championship match against Irina Levitina.
No one is quite sure why one of the smallest republics of the former Soviet Union should produce so many world beaters in women's chess-it may be that chess is taken much more seriously in Georgian schools than in other countries or it could be due to better training methods. Maia Chiburdanidze is one of several women from the country who have excelled at the highest levels of chess. She won the world title from another Georgian, Nona Gaprindashvili, in 1978 and defended it several times against other players from her home country during the 1980s.
She was born in Kutaisi (Georgia) in January 1961 and started playing the chess around the age of 8. She became the USSR Girl's champion in 1976 and a year later she won the women's title. In 1977 she was awarded the title of International Women's Grandmaster.
She won outright on her debut at the Brasov women's international tournament of 1974 when she was only 13 years old and went on to win another tournament in Tbilisi in 1975 before entering the women's world championship cycle of 1976/77.
Chiburdanidze showed she was a serious contender for the world title by finishing 2nd in the Tbilisi Women's Interzonal (1976), thereby qualifying for the 1977 candidates matches. She surprised all the other contenders by going all the way through to the Candidates Final where she beat Alla Kushnir by 7.5-6.5 to set up a world title match in Bichvinta, Georgia with Nona Gaprindashvili, the reigning women's world champion.
Chiburdanidze beat the world champion by 8.5-6.5 and stunned the world of women's chess. She proved to be a formidable champion even at such a young age as she successfully defended her title on no fewer than four occasions. In 1981 she drew 8-8 in a tough match against Nana Alexandria, which was held in Borjomi/Tbilisi, but kept the title as Champion. Three years later she played Irina Levitina in Volgograd, Russia and this time she won convincingly by 8-5.
The next challenge came from Elena Akhmilovskaya in 1986 and Chiburdanidze won the match in Sofia by 8.5-5.5. In 1988 she retained her title yet again by narrowly winning a match in Telavi, Georgia against Nana Ioseliani by 8.5-7.5.
By the 1990s a new threat to Maia Chiburdanidze's title had emerged from the Far East. Xie Jun of China won the right to challenge the world champion in February 1991 and, against all expectation, Chiburdanidze lost her crown to the young Chinese player in Manila by 8.5-6.5 - a new force had arrived in women's chess to challenge Georgian supremacy. Her reign is the third longest at 14 years, only behind that of the first women's champion, Vera Menchik, who reigned for 18 years from 1927 until her death in 1944 and that of Gaprindashvili's 16 years.
Chiburdanidze, like many of the top women players, is not too impressed with 'women's chess' in general and she prefers to play chess with men. She has played extensively in men's tournaments around the world and her best form was seen in the 1980s and early 1990s. She was 1st in tournaments in New Delhi (1984) and Banja Luka (1985) and in the next decade she finished 1st in Belgrade (1992), Vienna (1993) and in Lippstadt (1995).
She has attempted to win back the world title but, with the rise of the Chinese women and the formidable Polgar sisters, this has proved difficult and her best performance since 1991 has been 1st in the Tilburg Candidates tournament of 1994. However she lost the playoff to Zsuzsa Polgár by 5.5-1.5. Subsequently, despite not approving of the knockout format, she has entered the world championships of recent years. She reached the semi-finals in 2001, only to be knocked out by Zhu Chen of China who went on to win the title. In 2004 she again reached the semi-finals where she lost to Antoaneta Stefanova who went on to win the title.
Chiburdanidze does play against other women in the Olympiads and she won gold medals for Georgia in 1992, 1994, and 1996. She also played in the European Team Championships of 1997 when Georgia won the gold medal and in the 1st Europe v Asia Intercontinental rapidplay match which was held in Batumi (Georgia) in September 2001. Asia won the women's section by 21.5-10.5 with Maia contributing 3.5.
At one point she was one of only two women in the world to hold a men's GM title, which they were awarded by FIDE on the basis of having been the Women's World Champion. (Later Zsuzsa Polgar of Hungary would become the first woman to earn the Grandmaster title through the norm system.) She has helped to further boost the standing of the game in her country, where she, and the other top Georgian women, are fêted like filmstars.
Her style of play is solid, but aggressive and well grounded in classical principles which one would expect from a player who was coached in her early career by Eduard Gufeld, a top Soviet trainer.
Chiburdanidze's FIDE Elo rating in the April 2005 list was 2509, making her the 4th highest rated female player in the world.
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