Mountaintop celebrations in Tblisi

by Maria Emelianova
3/22/2014 – Grandmaster Zurab Azmaiparashvili is something of a rock star in his native Georgia. His birthday celebrations are usually quite lavish. This year they were held in a restaurant atop Mount Mtatsminda, overlooking the city. And there were a number of prominent guests, including the former Georgian Prime Minister (and chess lover) Bidzina Ivanishvili, who played a friendly game against Judit Polgar.

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Mountaintop birthday celebrations in Tblisi

Zurab Azmaiparashvili is first and foremost a chess player – he won the European Chess Championship in 2003 and was the senior second in Kasparov’s World Championship victories in 1987, 1990 and 1993. But in this election year, especially, we are seeing the adage repeated: "Old chess players don’t just fade away ... they run for political office."

Zurab has dabbled in politics before – President of the Georgian Chess Federation, Vice President of FIDE – but he always kept close to the chessboard. When the Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, offered him high position in the government of Georgia two years ago, he declined: it wasn’t enough about chess. They compromised and he became Deputy Minister of Sports so he could continue developing chess in schools and prepare his future support for chess.

Former Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili with Zurab Azmaiparashvili

In Georgia Zurab is something of a rock star. That explains the long list of ministers, businessman, artists and journalists along with personalities from the international chess world, gathered on a mountaintop above Tbilisi last week afternoon to celebrate Zurab's 54th birthday.

Tbilisi is located in the South Caucasus in Eastern Georgia on both banks of the Mtkvari River. The elevation of the city ranges from 380–770 meters (1246–1968 ft) above sea level and has the shape of an amphitheatre surrounded by mountains on three sides.

The reception took place in the Funicular restaurant,
which can be reached from the above base station...

... by a cable railway which takes you to the top of Mount Mtatsminda...

... where you have a truly spectacular view of the Georgian capital.

The birthday reception in the Funicular restaurant

An exposition of pictures in the mountain-top restaurant

A second birthday person: Monaco Chess Federation President Jean-Michel Rapaire

A chess legend: former Women's World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze,
above with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Georgia punches above its weight in many fields of human endeavour and chess is one of them. The country has produced two Women World Champions, who, combined, held that title for a period of almost 30 years. In 1962 Nona Gaprindashvili became the sixth women's world chess champion and the world's first female grandmaster. She was succeeded by Maia Chiburdanidze, who held the title from 1978, when she became the seventh and youngest Champion in history, until 1991, when she lost her crown to Xie Jun of China.

Another great female chess player – the strongest in history: Judit Polgar

A friendly game between former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili,
a billionaire chess lover and a good friend of Zurab (standing in the background)

Naturally the media interest in this game was especially high

An ear-shattering Georgian a capella choir entertains the guests

Zurab's daughter Elena and his grandchildren

Judit cannot get enough of the beautiful Georgian children...

... and shows them her chess teaching system

Zurab Azmaiparashvili is currently running for President of the European Chess Union. The elections take place this summer during the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, and a campaign web site is in preparation.

To conclude this article, all that is left for me to do is wish Zurab a happy 54th birthday, hopefully an auspicious number as there are 54 federations in the ECU!

See also

Festivities in Tbilisi for Zurab's fiftieth
3/27/2010 – Last week GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili, President of the Georgian Chess Federation and Vice President of FIDE, turned fifty. Many dignitaries and old friends turned up for the occasion in the capital Tbilisi – amongst them FIDE President Ilyumzhinov and former World Champion and buddy Garry Kasparov. We bring you a big pictorial report of the birthday celebrations.




WFM Maria Emelianova is 26 years old, born in Ekaterinburg, Russia, Women FIDE Master, with a 2113 Elo rating.
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