Chess icon Nana Alexandria turns 70

by Elmer Dumlao Sangalang
10/13/2019 – She was the Women's World Championship Challenger twice, losing once and then drawing to the title holder. Before reaching the age of twenty she had won the national women's championship of the most powerful chess nation three times, and became one of the contributing players of the Soviet Union team that dominated the women's Olympiads in 1969, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1982 and 1986. Today Nana, now a FIDE administrator and general chess celebrity, turns seventy. We extend our heartfelt congratulations on an inspiring lifetime.

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Nana Alexandria - A Woman Chess Icon

On Sunday (October 13, 2019), Nana Alexandria celebrates her 70th birthday. It is an amazing achievement on her part to still be actively involved in chess. Her popularity among contemporary chess players seems to have remained undiminished when she was recently honored as the special guest of the Vienna Chess Open 2019 where the Nana Alexandria Prize Trophy was awarded to the tournament’s best woman player.

Nana Alexandria 1992, being interviewed by Elmer Dumlao Sangalang

Even more notable was her recent designation as Deputy Chief Arbiter of the 2018 World Chess Championship Match between Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Fabiano Caruana of the United States held in London, England. During the fifth game of this match, Nana’s prominence as a player was pleasantly remembered when the opening play by Caruana and Carlsen proceeded with the very same moves leading to the interesting sacrifice last seen in the Nana Alexandria-Valentina Borisenko game in the 1969 USSR Women’s Championship. It was amusingly remarked that the championship contenders were playing like the ladies did half a century ago.

Nana between Carlsen and Caruana at the London WCh match in 2018

Born in Poti, Georgia (part of the former USSR) Nana had taken formal lessons in chess when she was ten years old and would become the USSR Women’s Champion thrice by 1969, just ten years later [photo right from 1970 Bert/Anefo - Dutch National Archives, The Hague]. Twice she was the challenger for the Women’s World Championship which she lost to Nona Gaprindashvili in 1975 and tied with Maya Chiburdanidze in 1981. From 1969 to 1986, Nana was a member of the USSR Women’s Teams that played in six World Chess Olympiads winning the gold medal. She participated in three more World Chess Olympiads from 1992 to 1996, this time as captain of the victorious Women’s Teams of Georgia, now an independent republic.

1981 Women's World Championship Match Maia Chiburdanidze vs Nana Alexandria

When her competitive years were over (Woman International Master 1966, Woman Grandmaster 1976), Nana served as Chairperson of FIDE Women’s Commission from 1986 to 2001 during which time she advocated and successfully instituted reforms towards the achievement of equality among men and women chess players insofar as recognition and privileges were concerned.

Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili (centre),with World Championship Candidates Irina Levitina (left) and Nana Alexandria (right), Borjomi, 1974. [Photo credit: A. Saakov]

Nana earned the title of International Arbiter in 1995. Her skill, experience, objectivity and impartiality as over-the-board chess judge and referee qualified her as Chief Arbiter of the Georgian Women Championship in 2010 and 2011, Chief Arbiter of the World Women Rapid and Blitz Championship in 2012, Deputy Arbiter in the European Boys and Girls Championships in 2014, Deputy Chief Arbiter in European Women Championship in2015 and Chief Arbiter in Georgian Men Championship in 2019.

During the World Chess Olympiad in Batumi in 2018, Nana was the CEO of the Press Center, addressing the various requirements of media personnel and ensuring the Center’s harmonious and smooth operations.

There is an annual international chess festival in Poti, Georgia named after its most famous chess persona to commemorate her achievements. Now on its 14th edition this year, the Nana Alexandria Cup was inaugurated in 2006 by the leaders of the city of Poti. The various competitions feature chess among city officials, journalists, artists, children in different age groups and a top-class tournament among international titled players. Co-organizer of these events is the Nana Alexandria Chess School where Nana is a Director.

Nana with the Nana Alexandria Trophy

Alongside her chess activities, Nana found time to write interesting books in the course of her chess career. Two of these books are about her games: “8:8 – Victory and Defeat” wherein her games in the candidate and championship matches are featured and “150 Interesting Games and Events”. Later she published a unique book entitled “History in Pictures” that showcased non-game activities, episodes and highlights of her career. She included fond memories of and accounts about some of her most ardent fans and how their admiration for her inspired her to succeed.

Nana, on your 70th birthday, we thank you for your wonderful contributions to chess, and we wish you further successes in all your future endeavours on and off the chessboard!

Elmer Dumlao Sangalang studied engineering, taught mathematics and taught engineering courses at the university level, then entered the corporate world, becoming an actuarial specialist. Now retired, he performs consulting work in actuarial and applied mathematics. Elmer was one of the co-creators and consultants regarding FIDE's Elo rating system.


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