Nana: 45 years ago I began to participate in chess championship of USSR. During my long carrier I participated in 8 world championship cycles, became twice World vice champion, 9 times World Chess Olympiad Gold medalist and twice – European Cup holder. It is notable that my international career outside Georgia started in 1967 when I encountered the first Mongolian International master Khandsuren from Mongolia. She is a remarkable player who played also with M.Chiburdanidze and N.Gaprindashvili and during games she always wore Mongolian national dress. She is the author of series of chess essays “From the homeland of Nona and Nana”. Though I knew her well, I never have been to Mongolia and it is for the first time I am here.
I never will forget my match for world crown with M.Chiburdanidze. That match ended 8 – 8 points and she retained her world title. Before that match I easily won match with Ioseliani by 6.5 – 2.5 points. I have to note that Chiburdanidze is an outstanding player who as a wunderkind became the first World champion at the age of 17. My overall record of games with Chiburdanidze at world championships stands as 16 – 16 points, just like there are 16 figures of chess board on each side.
Q: Comparing the level of women’s chess then and now, what do you emphasize?
Nana: I can confidently say the level of women’s chess increased since my youth. At that time, Nona Gaprindashvili became the first woman to be bestowed with Grandmaster title in men’s category after sharing 1 – 4 places at Long Island tournament. Now at this tournament alone we have 9 Grandmasters and 4 world champions. The importance of theoretical work greatly expanded in women chess as well.
Q: We all know how much you did accomplish for development of Women’s chess…
Nana: I had been working as Chairman of Women’s Commission of FIDE for 16 years and I think that I strived hard for chess development and always tried to introduce new ways. For example, I managed to realize European Cup tournament after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was elected FIDE President in 1995. Though clubs were against that idea, not least from financial issues; they were reluctant to allocate finances for women’s tournaments. Also I organized children’s tournaments; at that time there were tournaments in junior category, but no children’s competitions, but thanks to then FIDE President Campomanes’ support everything went well – among both categories: boys and girls.
Besides that I had an idea to include the winner of Women World Chess Olympics in World Chess Olympics. I suggested to increase the number of boards in each team from 3 to 4 (plus 1 replacement player), which allowed to equalize the quantity of White color.
There were setbacks in my professional career, too. The idea of Grand Prix tournaments was first forwarded by me in 1990-ies, but at that time no sponsors could be found. Now I am happy the idea was finally realized.
Since there is a stereotype that women should be only beautiful and need no wisdom, I proposed to organize in Singapore a tournament called “Brain and Beauty” to prove that women can be beautiful and wise at the same time. Frenchmen even have a proverb: «Be beautiful but shut up». The players should have worn elegant evening dresses and fans elected not only the best player but also the most beautiful lady. Unfortunately, nothing came out of this.
Q: Georgian chessplayers are traditionally very strong and successful. How do they achieve such results?
Nana: First of all, there are strong chess traditions in Georgia from Middle Ages. When a Georgian woman got married chess board was always included in dowry as embodiment of beauty and wisdom. Secondly, great Georgian players like Gaprindashvili always served as psychological factor, an inspiration and model for waking up the potential of younger generation who thought “If she can, why not me?”
Q: There is a Nana Alexandria Cup tournament in Georgia. Whose idea it was?
Nana: My hometown is Poti city which lays on Black Sea and city leadership organizes this Cup to commemorate my achievements. This tournament is played in various age categories, between city officials, journalists, artists and so on. There are also Nona Gaprindashvili Cup, Maia Chiburdanidze Cup and Tigran Petrosian Memorial organized in Georgia. Though late World champion Tigran Petrosian was an Armenian he was raised in Georgia.
We have also a chess club named «NTN» in Georgia, which means Nona, Tigran and Nana, and it won twice the European Cup.
Q: I have heard that “Nona & Nana” perfume was produced in USSR…
Nana: And not only perfume but also textile with similar name existed. I was presented with a coat made from this textile. As of perfume – there were 2 bottles of perfume in it. “Nona” was made in the form of Queen and “Nana” is in the form of pawn. So when Nona Gaprindashvili protested, she was told it was not just a pawn – it was a passed pawn.
Q: Let’s pass to the tournament. Who do you think is a favorite to win?
Nana: There are several favorites in my view. Stefanova is in good form and she has good chances. Also Koneru and Chiburdanidze are displaying strong play. Zhao is also a favorite and so far she has been lucky. Of course, everyone here is rooting for Munguntuul and I wish her success. As a Georgian, I support Chiburdanidze, and also I wish good luck to Nana Dzagnidze, who won the previous stage and leading Women Grand Prix series.
Q: I have heard that she was named in your honour?
Nana: Yes, the farther of Nana Dzagnidze named his daughter Nana after me and Ioseliani. Since older two Nanas did not become world champions, we hope that the third Nana will become one.
Q: How did disintegration of USSR affect chess and how is technical progress influencing modern chess?
Nana: I am a person of the XX century. Computers are greatly influencing modern chess, especially openings. I remember one of the first chess computers – Swiss computer Mephisto, and I also remember the first prominent victim of computer play – Bent Larser. During the last 5 years chess computers have made phenomenal progress; even Kasparov had tremendous difficulties playing against modern computers. In my view, players should be allowed to use minicomputers while playing against machines, that at least in opening they will have even chances, since computers have stored all variations of openings and they do not get tired and do not commit blunders.
I remember seeing a chess computer in Budapest. It was amusing to see the iron hand of that computer and how it utters funny sounds when it could an opponent’s piece. It was called Kaissa.
Q: Thank you for the interview.
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