By Laman Ismayilova
Chess for centuries has been a popular game in Azerbaijan with ancient roots closely related to traditions. The country could preserve these traditions as the chess remains to be a crucially popular sports for now.
The first references to chess in Azerbaijan can be found in the works of 12th century such great poets as Khaqani and Nizami as well as in the works of one of the nation’s most respected literary personalities Fuzuli.
Later, writer and philosopher Mirza Fatali Akhundov explained the rules of chess in his 1864 poem "The Game of Shatranj", an old form of chess which came to the Western world by the Persians and Greeks.
To popularize this original game Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, who is also the chairman of the National Olympic Committee, signed in 2009 an executive order initiating a state-supported chess development program, covering the years 2009-2014.
The first World Chess Olympiad in Azerbaijan will be arranged at the Baku Crystal Hall, a multipurpose sports and concert arena. The chess tournament will host about 2,000 chess masters from 175 countries. The number of guests is expected to reach up to 3,000.
The World Chess Olympiad will be a new chapter in the history of Azerbaijani sports.
Notably, the active development of chess in Azerbaijan began in the 1950s. Sports clubs such as Neftchi, Spartak, Nauka, Iskra and others had active chess departments. Azerbaijan women's championships has been held regularly since 1960.
Azerbaijan Chess Federation was founded in 1920. Elman Rustamov is the President of National Chess Federation since 2007.
The national chess players have always been taking high places at top-ranked tournaments.
National chess player Teymur Radjabov has an Elo rating of 2,738, making him No. 1 in Azerbaijan and 22nd in the world.
GM Eltaj Safarli won the Azerbaijan Championships in 2010 and 2016. Safarli played in the silver medal-winning Azerbaijani team at the European Team Chess Championship in Porto Carras in 2011. alongside Shakriyar Mammadyarov, Teymur Rajabov, Vugar Gashimov and Qadir Huseynov, previously winning bronze medal in 2007 and gold in 2009.
Legendary chess player Vugar Gashimov drew party with an Italian chess player Fabiano Caruana at FIDE Grand Prix 2009, while Shahriyar Mammadyarov defeated his Czech opponent.
Despite his short life, Vugar Gashimov had made a remarkable contribution to the chess history of Azerbaijan.
He played for Azerbaijan's national team in the Chess Olympiads in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.
Gashimov won a bronze medal in the European Team Championship in 2007, and became the European Champion with the national team in 2009. He was the European vice-champion in the national team in 2011, and the winner of the Reggio Emilia tournament in 2010-2011.
In 2011, Gashimov’s health took a fatal downturn and he suddenly lost consciousness during a match against the French national team in the European Championship. One of the leading chess players passed in 2014 from brain tumor. He was just 27.
The Moscow house of nationalities (MOS) hosted International Chess Tournament dedicated to Azerbaijan’s chess grandmaster on April 30.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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