Lela Javakhishvili wins "Lela and Bela Cup"

by Nino Maisuradze
9/19/2018 – The Republic of Georgia will soon be the focus of the chess world's attention with the start of the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi this weekend. But on the other side of the country, NINO MAISURADZE reports on a prestigious women's rapid tournament, traditionally held in Telavi, Georgia, the hometown of many top Georgian women today. | Pictured: Players outside the Telavi Museum | Photo: Lela and Bela Cup organisers

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Tela-where? Not Tel Aviv! Telavi!

Telavi is the administrative centre and the main town of Georgia’s eastern province of Khaheti, a famous wine region. It used to be the capital of “the Kingdom of Kakheti” in the medieval era. This town of about 20,000 inhabitants, full of history, is proud to present its history through a museum of archaeological objects from the bronze age, which the players visited during their stay.

Telavi, the hometown of the famous monarch Heraclius II, the king of Kakheti in the 18th century, is also the hometown of the chess stars Lela Javakhishvili and Bela Khotenashvili. Surprisingly, this town seems to hold a magic recipe for producing both amazing wines and famous international women grandmasters. Two other participants, the Georgian-Spanish champion WGM Ana Matnadze and WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili are both from Telavi as well. It's no exaggeration to call Telavi a "cradle of the wines and WGMs".

Telavi is about 95 kilometres by car from Tbilisi

Lela and Bela

Lela Javakhishvili, born April 23, 1984, in Kakheti, is a Georgian chess player who holds the WGM and IM titles. She has had two major success with the national team of Georgia: becoming the Olympic Champions in 2008 in Dresden and winning the World Team Championship in 2015 in China.

Bela draws number 7

Individually, she was a European Champion in her childhood and has won many medals during her career as well as four Georgian Women's Championships. She continues to rank among the top 20 women in the world.

Bela Khotenashvili (pictured), born June 1st, 1988, in Telavi, is one of the rare female players in the world to have obtained the highest title of GM. She was also on the Georgian team that won the World Team Championship in 2015 and has countless individual medals and awards to her name, notably World Junior Champion for Girls under 16, and two-time Georgian Women's Champion.

She achieved her best international ranking in June 2013, with an Elo rating of 2531, putting her among the World’s top ten female players.

The elite participants

Quality over quantity is the usual idea of the closed tournaments, and women-only tournaments don't often get much stronger than this with eight out of the ten participants holding international Grandmaster or International Master titles, while only two sport the easier-to-achieve WGM title. It was like a wonderland were girls rule!

Players starting rank

No. Name Rtg
7 Khotenashvili Bela 2494
8 Arabidze Meri 2399
9 Batsiashvili Nino 2394
6 Matnadze Ana 2379
5 Javakhishvili Lela 2347
2 Zhukova Natalia 2317
1 Melia Salome 2307
10 Maisuradze Nino 2302
4 Khukhashvili Sopiko 2301
3 Tsatsalashvili Keti 2264

The field full members of the Georgian Olympic team was completed by the two-time European Women's Champion Natalia Zhukova from Ukraine and Spanish Women's Champion Ana Matnadze and me (Nino, the two-time Women's Champion of France).

Three days of friendship and fighting

The competition was held amid a great friendly ambience in a beautiful garden of the Tsinandali, a location 19th-century cultural gatherings.

The very same garden was frequented by renowned artists such as Alexander Dumas Sr. and Alexander Pushkin, as well as virtually every Georgian poet of the period.

Maisuradze vs Melia

Maisuradze vs Melia in Round 1

My tournament started very well, beating the GM Natalia Zhukova and IM Ana Matnadze on my first day, but later it became harder to score points. After the sixth round, it was Keti Tsatsalashvili who managed to take the lead. Despite her low rating compared to other participants, Keti is definitely not to be underestimated! This ex-European Champion in under-18 age category has already won the Lela & Bela Cup in the past. But towards the end of the tournament, she faltered, while Lela Javakhishvili continued to win her games, including their seventh-round direct encounter.

Here is a nice short game played by Lela in 8th round:


Telavi Mayor with Lela

Telavi Mayor Shota Nareklishvili with the winner of the tournament Lela Javakhishvili

Lela Javakhishvili finally managed to win her and Bela’s Cup! Keti Tsatsalashvili ended up in second place while the third place was shared by Ana Matnadze and Sopiko Khukhashvili. Matnadze, having the better tiebreak, completed the podium nicely. The three Telavian girls made their hometown proud! 

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Javakhishvili Lela 6,5 28,50
2 Tsatsalashvili Keti 6,0 24,00
3 Matnadze Ana 5,0 22,00
4 Khukhashvili Sopiko 5,0 20,00
5 Batsiashvili Nino 4,5 19,00
6 Arabidze Meri 4,5 17,75
7 Zhukova Natalia 3,5 17,25
8 Maisuradze Nino 3,5 15,50
9 Khotenashvili Bela 3,5 13,00
10 Melia Salome 3,0 13,50
Additional highlights (annotated by WGM Nino Maisuradze)

Click or tap a game in the game list to switch

Behind the curtain, sponsors and creators

The new Mayor of Telavi, Shota Nareklishvili with a dynamic creative team at the Sport Clubs Union of Telavi (Papuna Khrikuli, Zurab Teimurazishvili) and the CEO of the famous Georgian wine and spirits company “GWS”, Philippe Lespy, together made this event possible.

Keti, Bela, Sopiko, Salome with one of the organizers Zurab Teimurazishvili from Telavi Sports Clubs Union

Keti, Bela, Sopiko, Salome with one of the organisers Zurab Teimurazishvili from Telavi Sports Clubs Union

Philippe Lespy, a Frenchman living at the feet of Caucasus mountains, who previously worked for Bordeaux winemaker Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, moved from the South of France to Telavi six years ago and now is a philanthropist in the Kakheti region.

Of course, this tournament would not be possible without its creator Jimsher Javakhia, which passed away the last year but gained the place forever in the hearts of the Kakhetian chess players.

The participants and organizers at the famous local restaurant 'Badia'

Front (L to R): Salome Siradze, Meri Arabidze, Papuna Khrikuli, Sopiko Khukhashvili, Keti Tsatsalashvili, Nino Batsiashvili, Bela Khotenashvili, Salome Melia, Natalia Zhukova, Lela Javakhishvili, Pikria Kushitashvili
Back (L to R): Zurab Teimurazishvili, Nino Maisuradze, mayor house staff, Mayor Shota Nareklishvili, Iantbelidze Vano, additional staff

Do you know how to say “cheers” in one of the oldest languages of the world?        

Wine tasting at GWS

Say “Gaumarjos!” with us!

strange piano

Have you ever seen such a piano? That's how GWS creates art for their bottles!


Nino is a French-Georgian international Woman Grandmaster. A multiple champion of France (in classical and rapid), she speaks five languages (French, Georgian, English, Russian, Portuguese), and holds a Masters Degree in International Law.


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