Women World Vice-Champion, FIDE Technical Adviser, the numerous winner of the international tournaments Nana Alexandria has given to the tournament press-centre an interview.
Nana: 46 years ago at the age of 15 there was my chess debut in the USSR women’s championship. After 10 rounds I shared the 1st place together with the World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili and got a remarkable present from legendary Mikhail Tal - a big doll.
There is one record that will never be broken - at the age of 20, I was 3 time USSR women’s champion. During my long career I participated in 8 world championship cycles: twice became World vice-champion, twice Bronze medalist. I am 9 time World chess Olympiad gold medalist and holder of the European champions’ cup. It is my first coming to Mongolia, and it is notable that during my first international tournament outside Georgia I encountered the first Mongolian woman International master Khandsuren. She had played also with M.Chiburdanidze and N.Garprindashvili. It is remarkable that during games the always wore Mongolian national dress. It was nice to meet her in Ulaanbaatar. She told me that the article from Tbilisi she entitled “Chess report from the city of Nona and Nana”.
The top of my career was the match for the world crown with Maia Chiburdanidze. This match ended 8:8, the only world championship match in the history of women’s chess which ended in equal score. Before the match with Maia I easily won candidates final match against Nana Ioseliani 6.5-2.5.
I am proud that the total score with the youngest ever World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze is equal 16-16! (a sort of chess number, considering the number of chess pieces on the board).
Q: Comparing the level of women’s chess then and now, what do you emphasize?
Nana: It is clear that the level of women’s chess increased since my youth. I must note that Gaprindashvili started a new era in women’s chess by becoming the first woman to be awarded a man Grandmaster title (she shared 1-4 places in strong Long Pine tournament). Now at this tournament alone we have 9 Grandmasters. The importance of theoretical knowledge greatly expanded in women’s 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 Club Cup. Though clubs were against that idea, not least from financial issues; they were reluctant to allocate finances for women’s tournaments. I persuaded organizers of traditional open tournaments to add women’s prizes. Also I pushed organization of children’s age-group European and World championships. There were only cadets’ and juniors’ championships, but not among girls. Thanks to then FIDE President Campomanes’ support everything went well both among boys and girls.
Besides, FIDE accepted my idea to include the winner team of Women’s World Chess Olympiad into men’s World Team Championship. Starting from 1992 I was suggesting to increase the number of women’s boards from 3 to 4 (plus 1 replacement) in the Chess Olympiad 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 I could find sponsors for only two tournaments. 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 and 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 wisdom. Secondly, example of 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 chess festival "Nana Alexandria Cup" 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 festival 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 Club Cup.
Q: I have heard that "Nona" and "Nana" perfumes were 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 "Nana". As of perfume: “Nona” was made in the form of Queen and “Nana” - 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 father of Nana Dzagnidze named his daughter Nana after me. Since older two Nanas - Alexandria and Ioseliani - 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. Computers do not get tired and do not commit blunders.
I remember seeing a chess computer in Budapest in 70-es. It was amusing to see the iron hand of that computer and how it utters funny sounds when opponent made a mistake and computer could take a piece. I remember games of the first world computer champion “Kaissa”.
Q: Thank you for the interview.