Nona Gaprindashvili – the legendary fifth world champion

by ChessBase
5/3/2006 – In 1962 a 21-year-old Georgian player defeated the reigning women's world champion to capture the title, and went on to retain it for 16 years, defending it successfully four times. Nona Gaprindashvili was also a frequent (and successful) participant men's tournaments. In 1978 she became the first woman to be earn the male GM title. Today Nona turns 65.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Nona Gaprindashvili was born May 3rd, 1941, in Zugdidi, Georgia. She was the greatest female player of her generation and in 1962 became the fifth women's world chess champion in the history of the game. She retained her title for 16 years. She frequently played in men's tournaments, winning (amongst others) Hastings in 1963/4 and tying for first place at Lone Pine in 1977. In 1978 she became the first woman to be earn the (until then exclusively male) title of International Grandmaster.

The path to the world championship title began in 1961, when Gaprindashvili won the women's Candidates Tournament at the age 20, setting her up as the challenger of the reigning Russian world champion Elisabeth Bykova. She won the match effortlessly with a 9:2 score (+7 –0 =4). In the following years she defended her title successfully four times: three times against Alla Kushnir (1965: 10:6; 1969: 12:7; 1972: 12:11) and once against fellow Georgian Nana Alexandria (1975: 9:4). In 1978 she finally lost her crown to another Georgian, 17-year-old Maia Chiburdanidze, by the score of 11:13 (+2 –4 =9).

Gaprindashvili won five world championship matches and eleven Chess Olympiads. She is considered the greatest sportswomen in Georgia in the 20th century. In 1975 she had a perfume named after her.

Picture gallery by Fred Lucas

Nona at the BDO tournament in Haarlem 2005

In full concentration during the game

In a game against GM Harmen Jonkman

With her friend Cathy van der Meije

Chatting with her opponent before the start of a game

Talking to Cathy after a losing a game

Nona with IM and chess trainer Yochanan Afek

Showing us a book that was published for her 60th birthday

Skeptical about a Dutch display shoe

With a print of a photo by Fred Lucas

Nona Gaprindashvili, legendary fifth women's world champion from Georgia

The photographer

"My relation with chess is simple," says Fred Lucas. "I'm a photographer who is very fond of the game, loves the atmosphere at tournaments – it's if you can really feel all the ideas coming up on all those boards – and I love to make pictures, especially with available light. What I like most when photographing chess players is to get their emotions that are otherwise hard to see, because life immediately proceeds to the next moment. Before the start of a game most players are busy with themselves, concentrating and some give you the impression that they really don't want to pay attention to anything else than the game to come."


Retrospect of the Women's World Champions

There have been eleven women's world champions in the history of the game

1. Vera Menchik
Born in Moscow of Czechoslavakian-British extraction, Vera Menchik was easily the strongest female player of her time, having at one time or other beaten most of the strongest players in the world (the defeated became members of the "Vera Menchik Club"). In 1927 she won the first Women's World Championship tournament with a score of 10.5 out of 11. She defended her title with ease in Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.
2. Ludmila Rudenko
Ludmila Rudenko from Ukraine started her career by winning the women's champion of Moscow in 1928. She went on to win the Women's World Championship tournament in 1949, with a score of 11.5 out of 15. She held the title until 1953. She was also the Odessa swimming champion in the 400m breaststroke.
3. Elizaveta Bykova
Elizaveta Bykova was coincidentally born in a town called Bogolyubovo in Russia. In 1938 she became women's champion of Moscow, which she subsequently won a number of times. She was first the USSR Championships of 1947, 1948 and 1950. In 1953 she wrested the women's world championship title from Rudenko in a very hard-fought match.
4. Olga Rubtsova
At 17 Olga won the first USSR Women's Championship. That was in 1927. After that she won a great number of tournaments, including the USSR Women's Championships of 1931, 1937 and 1949 and the Moscow Championships of 1953 and 1954. In 1956 she defeated Elizaveta Bykova to become the fourth women's world champion.
5. Nona Gaprindashvili
She was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, and was the greatest female player of her generation. She won the world championship title in 1962 and defended it three times. Gaprindashvili played in men's tournaments, winning amongst others Hastings 1963/64 and and tied for first at Lone Price 1977. In 1978 she came second and earned a full male GM title.
6. Maya Chiburdanidze
The Georgian was one of the first women chess prodigies, becoming the youngest WIM in the history of the game (in 1974 at the age of 13). Her best results were first at Brasov 1974, =1st at Tbilisi 1975 and most impressive of all, second in the 1976 Tbilisi Women's Interzonal and thus qualifying for the 1977 Candidates, wherein, she defeated Alla Kushnir in the final. In 1978, she became Women World Champion by winning a match against Nona Gaprindashvili by 8.5-6.5.
7. Xie Jun
The Chinese player won the World Women's Champion title a total of four times: in 1991 against Chiburdanize, 1993 against Ioseliani, 1999 against Galliamova and 2000 against Qin Kanying in the first FIDE knock-out championship. Xie Jun was directly responsible for a dramatic increase in popularity of chess in China.
8. Zsuzsa Polgar
The oldest of the famous Polgar sisters initially refused to play in women's tournaments, becoming a male grandmaster in 1991 at the age of 21. In 1993 she decided to play for the women's world championship, but did not win the title after a 12-12 tie against Nana Ioseliani. In 1996 she became world champion after beating Xie Jun, and lost the title in 1999 when she refused to play under FIDE's unfair and illegal rules. Susan has also won the Women’s World Chess Championship titles in rapid and blitz chess (both in 1992). [More]

9. Zhu Chen
The Chinese player Zhu Chen became Women's World Champion in the FIDE knock-out event in Moscow 2001, beating Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk in the process. In the recent world championship in Elista Zhu failed to participate due to pregnancy and attached scheduling problems.

10. Anoatneta Stefanova
The 2004 women's world champion was the top Bulgarian female player who won the title in the FIDE knock-out championship in Elista, Kalmykia, defeating Russian WGM Ekaterina Kovalevskaya in the final. [More]

11. Xu Yuhua
Chinese WGM Xu Yuhua took the title at the Women's World Chess Championship in March 2006 by defeating her opponent, IM Alisa Galliamova of Russia in the finals. [

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register