Radjabov’s victory a tribute to Azerbaijan’s chess legacy

By | Rachel Brooks

January 5, 2021

Above image: Azerbaijan squares off with Croatia, one of the many chess matches of Azerbaijan’s rich chess sport legacy. “Croatia Azerbaijan” by karpidis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Teimour Radjabov, an Azerbaijani grand chess master, has taken home the champion title for the first round of finals at the Airthings Masters Championship, on Sunday, January 3. Radjabov, who is a 33-year-old Baku-born Azerbaijani, has led his country to many gold medals in professional chess. He won the tournament on January 3, granting him the $60,000 grand prize. Radjabov is a high-ranking member of the Azerbaijani chess champion family, ranked at number 12 in the International Chess Federation listing by 2015, as was stated by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Education. 

Azerbaijan celebrates a rich chess player culture. Radjabov’s recent victory highlights a pre-existing national pride the Azerbaijani people have in their chess prowess. 

The Radjabov victory made headlines and even received attention from the nation’s government. Ilham Aliyev and his wife made a public announcement regarding the Radjabov champion win. The statement by the president and his first lady was published in AzerNews on January 4, 2021. 

“Dear Teymur,

We cordially congratulate you as you won the Airthings Masters Chess Tour. 

Your convincing victory during this competition by demonstrating professionalism, will, and perseverance, made the people of Azerbaijan happy. 

This success of yours is also a clear indication of the high intellectual potential of our people. 

We extend to you our best wishes, and wish you future successes and new chess peaks,” the statement read. 

Chess has been an organized sport in Azerbaijan since shortly after the formation of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920. The game soon became a widespread sport, shortly after its introduction. 

In 1920, a chess column appeared in the national newspaper Bakinsky Rabochy. As chess gained greater popularity in Azerbaijan, champions flourished in the sport. By 1923, the brothers Vladimir and Mikhail Makogonov won the first Baku championship. 

As Azerbaijan integrated more into the international community, it has stressed the importance of its chess culture. In 2015, Education Misir Mardanov noted the importance of the fact that the 2002 European Youth Chess Championship was hosted in Baku. The World Chess Championship was held in 2003 in Nakhchivan. Mardanov cited these events as important for the international relationship between Azerbaijan and Europe. 

This trend continued, as in 2016, Baku hosted the 42nd World Chess Olympiad. This event led ardent fans of chess to start calling Azerbaijan “one of the powerful nations of chess.” 

Azerbaijan has been both a powerhouse in chess dynamics as well as a progressive leader. The chess and other like sports club blog Mindmentorz noted that Azerbaijan was one of the first nations to recognize women’s chess tournaments.

Azerbaijan’s history in chess is a sign of its inclusive culture, and its constant development as a nation. This most recent victory lends to the legacy of that tradition.