Sport or art? - Georgia’s queen of chess on gender, modern technologies in chess and her passion for other sports
25 January, 2016
Sport or art? - Georgia’s queen of chess on gender, modern technologies in chess and her passion for other sports
Nona Gaprindashvili, a 5 time world champion, has earned 11 team and 9 individual Olympic gold medals. Nevertheless, her last achievement created particular excitement. Last November, the 74-year-old legend of Georgian chess once again became world champion among seniors (chess players above 65 years of age) and…

‘When one of the TV presenters announced that after 40 years, I became world champion again, my telephone went mad. This happened in spite of my explanation that it was only among seniors’, Nona Gaprindashvili says.

If you are interested why she did not play pool with Yuri Gagarin, who she considers to be the best football player in the world, what she thinks of modern chess players and why she takes part in seniors’ tournament, read this interview.

- I have won numerous medals at senior tournaments so far and I always feel some kind of a positive energy afterwards, even when I do not manage to win anything.

- If I remember correctly, the first seniors’ tournament you took part in was among men.

- I was the president of Georgian National Olympic Committee then and in spite of the fact that many great players participated in that tournament, I was very close to winning it all. My rivals played against each other and drew. As for me, I was on the verge of winning my match against Spasov, but I lost at the end.

- You raised the issue of gender equality, when you proved that a woman could compete with a man…

- I have played with men many times and have won some of the matches. 1977 is the year I remember with pleasure. It was Lawn Pine tournament, where only men played and I was the only woman among them. I was leading during the most part of the tournament and finally four people accumulated the same amount of points. I was among them.

- Do women find it harder to play chess?

- Usually, the match takes a lot of time and a lot of nerves. And it is difficult to fully recover in a short period of time. Together with talent and hard work, you also need strong character and patience. You have to be best in all those components. Otherwise, you cannot achieve success. Apart from physical priorities, men have stronger nervous system and that is why they are better than women. Nowadays, women achieve master title very easily and to
tell you the truth, this title has lost its value a little bit. Years ago, the normatives were a lot harder. Even men found them very difficult. Now everything is younger. They teach chess at schools, in lower grades while I began to study when I was 13 years old.
Nona Gaprindashvili in 1969

- You said chess became younger, but did it change along with the development of technology?

- It became more large-scale, but did not change. Computers make it worse, deteriorate the depth of thinking. Computers create theory from previously played games. This is not bad if we talk about collecting information, about technique, but you cannot fully trust computers. You have to move your hand on a chessboard, think. Your thinking has to be beyond theory and that will create the depth as well as originality that any chess player needs. That was what made difference between the players in my time. I do not prepare before the tournament. Often I only know who is my rival, when the match is about to begin. Others prepare using computers, I prepare using my head.

- Is or was there any chess player you wanted to play against but never did.

- I regret nothing when it comes to chess. But I regret not using my chance when I had an opportunity to play pool against Yuri Gagarin. I was staying in Moscow’s Yunost hotel, where Gagarin often came to play pool. When I knew that, I asked the then Georgia’s Youth Communist Party first secretary, Otar Cherkezia to organize the pool match between me and the first cosmonaut. He promised to do that but couldn’t… Gagarin did not come over. Later, Cherkezia told me it was his own fault. It turned out that Gagarin asked him, how good I was at pool and Cherkezia told him: ‘she is better than me’. The fact is Gagarin and Cherkezia played on the same level and that is why Gagarin responded: ‘If she is better than you, then she is better than me too. So, why should I want to lose?’

- Do you consider chess to be sport or a form of art?

- Some great matches have been played throughout the history and that is why we sometimes call it a form of art, but I think it is a sport. Because, anything that involves winning or losing is a sport. However, there is no doubt that chess is a different, intellectual kind. The same goes about Bridge that, apart from other card games, involves thinking. I played pool and tennis quite well too. Not on a professional level, but I have defeated many men. There were moments when some of them even broke the cue in front of me. I like snooker the most. I watched it many times and I know it looks very much like chess. It is built on a strategy and that is the case in chess as well. I always know beforehand, what the snooker player will do next.

- I know you love football too. How so?

- When I lived in Zugdidi, all our neighbors came to our place to watch the games and then, in the evening, I played along with the boys. Sometimes we also played volleyball, pool… We even organized chess championships. I like many kinds of sports but football is the best for me. I always relax when I watch it.

- Did you ever meet any famous footballer?

- Once, me and Ketevan Arakhamia (another famous Georgian chess player – editor’s note) were at the Moscow airport, getting ready to depart for France and Oleg Blokhin and Genadi Logofet were on the same plane. Before we boarded the plane, we talked a lot and Logofet got interested whether I really knew Football as well as people said I did. He asked me lots of questions and was so surprised that he bought me a little present then and there. He told me I had the same thinking as him.

- Which is the footballer do you like the most?

- I and my son have always had the same interests in football. Platini and Zidane were our most beloved players and that is why we’ve always cheered for France. Now I like Arsenal and Barcelona. The Catalonians have fabulous attacking trio and Messi is the best among them. He, Suarez and Neymar are the best players in the world and I think it would be better if they were rivals, playing for different teams. But look how they always help each other when playing. Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player too, but he does not have what Barcelona’s trio has. I also pay a particular attention to the character of a player. If Messi changed and became arrogant, I would still watch his playing but I would not have any sympathy towards him. That is why I do not like Jose Mourinho and his teams. First of all I do not like his character and how he behaves. Besides, it does not matter how good his players are, his team never plays beautiful game. And the football is about beauty of the game. That is why I like it.

By Rati Shelegia

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