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In Memoriam – Georgy Agzamov

4/19/2007 – He was the first ever Uzbek, and thus arguably the first ever Asian grandmaster. Born in 1954 Georgy Agzamov was not just a strong player – the nightmare of top GMs – he was also a great ambassador for chess. At the age of 32 Georgy died in a mountaineering accident. In March a memorial tournament was held for him in Taskent. Spectacular photo report by Jamshid Begmatov.
 

In Memoriam – Georgy Agzamov

A report by Jamshid Begmatov

The Agzamov Memorial took place in March 2007 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It was the first international tournament to commemorate Georgy Agzamov – the first ever Uzbek, and arguably the first Asian Grandmaster. Not only was he a very strong player, nicknamed “the nightmare of top GMs” in the Soviet Union, he also did a lot to promote chess in his native Uzbekistan and beyond, in such remote locations as Cuba, United Arab Emirates, India and many other countries where he worked or volunteered as a chess coach and tournament organizer.

Georgy Agzamov was born on 6th September 1954 in a small town of Almalyk in the province of Tashkent, into a family of doctors. He started his chess career quite early by that time’s standards. At 12 he already won the championship of his town with outstanding result – 16 out 18. In 1984 he was awarded the title of International Grandmaster. I didn’t follow this up, but some still argue that this was the first time the title was awarded to a player from Asia.

[Addendum: a number of readers have pointed out that the Philippines was able to produce two grandmasters in 70's, Eugene Torre (1974) and Rosendo Balinas (1976). "Furthermore," writes GM Zaw Win Lay of Myanmar, "although geographically Uzbekistan is inside Asia, in 1984 Uzbekistan was stiil part of USSR, which is part of Europe. So theorically, Georgy Agzamov was a European. He was really strong player – I played him once before."]


Georgy Agzamov in a game against Mikhail Tal...


... and against Tigran Petrosian

At the age of 32, just in the heyday of his glory, Georgy died in a tragic accident in the mountains of Sevastopol, the Crimea. There are controversial opinions as to how exactly the incident took place, but everybody knows the final detail – he fell from a mountain…

The memorial was a nine-round Swiss with a prize fund of over US $10,000. Not a big deal, some will say. But this surely is a serious amount for a chess tournament in a developing country like Uzbekistan. This all became possible thanks to the Communication and Information Agency of Uzbekistan, which recently took over the patronage over chess in the country, and personally to its Director General, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Mr. Abdullah Aripov who is also the President of the Chess Federation.


Abdullah Aripov delivering speech at the opening ceremony


The tournament was held in the newly refurbished Tashkent Chess Club. The club has a long history, and has hosted very strong tournaments including several championships of the former USSR.


Although he didn’t play in the tournament, the 2004 FIDE World Champ Rustam Kasimjanov attended the re-opening ceremony of the club after refurbishment. This is where Rustam made his first steps to the path of a World Champion.


The club is located in one of most spectacular and quiet areas of downtown Tashkent – in a park crossed by this beautiful river where you can see fishermen and divers twelve months a year.

Players included several GMs, IMs and national masters from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan and the United States. There was a lot of hard-edged, fighting chess. Here are the top ten winners:

No.

Name

Title

Country

Rating

Pts

Wins

1

Yurtaev, Leonid

GM

Kyrgyzstan

2476

7

6

2

Dzhumaev, Marat

GM

Uzbekistan

2526

7

6

3

Kayumov, Sergey

IM

Uzbekistan

2438

7

5

4

Fominyh, Alexander

GM

Russia

2513

6.5

5

5

Iuldachev, Saidali

GM

Uzbekistan

2518

6.5

4

6

Holmirzaev, Bahodir

 

Uzbekistan

2227

6.5

5

7

Khamrakulov, Dzhurabek

 

Uzbekistan

2322

6.5

5

8

Safin, Shukhrat

GM

Uzbekistan

2460

6.5

5

9

Filippov, Anton

IM

Uzbekistan

2486

6

5

10

Egin, Vladimir

IM

Uzbekistan

2437

6

5

More detailed round by round individual and final results can be found at the Uzbek Chess Federation’s website (in Russian).


What? Did I win?! – surprised joint winner of the tournament, Kyrgyzstan’s top GM Leonid Yurtaev, delivering speech at the closing ceremony.


Another joint winner GM Marat Dzhumaev. Just pronounce it Jumaev, or read about this weird combination of letters – dzh – in this article. Marat won the critical last round game against IM Anton Filippov with black, and joined the top.


The third top winner IM Sergey Kayumov.


There was a special prize for best female player, which was won by actually the youngest female of the tournament Hulkar Tahirjanova – a familiar face.

On the free day between rounds five and six there was a big celebration of Navruz (or spelled Nowruz, Norouz, etc. in different countries) – the traditional new year holiday celebrated in Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, as well as among various Iranian and Turkic populations in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, India, Northwestern China, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and the Balkans.

Traditional music is indispensable at any celebration in Uzbekistan. From right to left: Surnay, Nogara, Doira and Karnay. Look at the cheeks of the man on the right – not everybody can blow this amazingly loud instrument.

Navruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (start of spring in northern hemisphere), which usually occurs on the March 21st or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed.

Another must at Navruz celebrations in Uzbekistan is Sumalak. Cooked only from wheat and water, without a smallest bit of sugar, Sumalak has a sweet taste and a pleasant flavour. This very special holiday meal is usually prepared in a very very traditional setup by a group of women. It takes about 14 hours of constant stirring, during which they talk to each other, tell stories and jokes, sing songs and dance. And are the men of any use? They provide wood for the oven and ensure there is constant moderate fire to boil the thing evenly.


End result: crushed wheat, snow-white at the beginning, turns into this rich brown mass after 14 hours of boiling, and it’s sweet without sugar. After tasting it, GM Fominyh from Russia asked me time after time, and I’m still not sure he believed me that this sweet taste comes with NO sugar. It does.


And of course, no celebration in Uzbeklistan could be imagined without Plov. The Cook is Alisher, father of Hulkar who won the best female prize.


Hulkar with her friend, washing rice for Dad’s plov.


Alisher also presented his special recipe to a TV audience. It was delicious.


A whole bunch of grandmasters at the holiday feast. Starting with the guy in blue, clockwise: GM Barsov, GM Fominyh, GM Yurtaev, IM Egin, Kasim’s manager Dilmurad Rahimov, Kasim himself, GM Safin, GM Iuldachev, GM Ziatdinov.

There was also a blitz tournament on the rest day. GM Yurtaev from Kyrgyzstan managed to win this one too, jointly with IM Anton Filippov.


IM Anton Filippov (left) vs GM Alexander Fominyh, the key last round game of the blitz tournament. I didn’t count, but Anton checkmated White in about 20 moves, thus joining the top.


The event was widely televised


Happy Anton calling Mom to tell he won the blitz tournament


Yurtaev the double winner


Georgy Agzamov’s elder brother Viacheslav


Young ladies of the tournament: Shahnoza Sabirova and Yulduz Hamrakulova – a fighting draw


It is really unforgivable, but unfortunately I do not know the names of all these
young Uzbek players. I just lined them up for the shot.


One of Uzbekistan’s young talents, Irina Gevorgian


Grandmaster Alexander Fominyh from Russia


An Uzbek GM who resides in the US: Rashet Ziatdinov


Grandmaster Shuhrat Safin


Our old friend GM Saidali Iuldachev.


It always interesting to watch post game analyses by grandmasters


The youngest player of the tournament, Rovshan Hamraev, 10


GM Rustam Kasimjanov, GM Saidali Iuldachev, and your obedient servant


About the author Jamshid Begmatov

I was born in 1974 in Andizhan, eastern-most city of Uzbekistan, into a family of university teachers. Nothing significant happened during my school years except, maybe, that I learnt to smoke, drink beer and vodka, and others useless things. But undoubtedly, one positive thing I gained from school is the knowledge that then allowed me to enter university, in the English Language Faculty. However, after completing the first year, I came to a conclusion that there was nothing left for me to study at this faculty, and I decided to change my field of study. In 1992 I entered the University of Istanbul, International Economy. Then, in 1994, for reasons unknown to me, almost all Uzbek students studying in Turkey were drawn back to Uzbekistan and placed in different local universities. So I had to transfer to Tashkent University of Economics, International Economic Relations, from which I graduated in 1997.

After graduation I tried several jobs as a civil servant, wasn't quite happy though. Then I just accidentally happened to participate in the Soros Foundation's competition for English-Uzbek translation of a university textbook on Sociology, which I won. I translated several books since, including Economics, Financial Management, Economics Teacher's Guide etc. At the present I work as an interpreter for Cambridge Education Consultants project in Tashkent. However, I view myself as an economist and since last year I'm conducting my PhD research in Economics. My thesis is "Economic Globalization and Its Impact on Free Trade Issues in Uzbekistan".

As a chess player I am not that strong, but I really love this game. My Elo rating is 2150 (according to Fritz). As I have no human opponents available when I have time, I love playing correspondence chess via email. Currently I have a number of opponents throughout the world and would be delighted to play some email games with ChessBase readers too.

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