Nona Gaprindashvili was born in 1941 in Zugdidi, Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union). An unstoppable force from a young age, she convincingly defeated Elizaveta Bykova 9-2 (7 wins, 4 draws) in 1962 to become the 5th Women’s World Champion.
She earned no less than 20 gold medals (individual and team) across 12 Women’s Olympiads from 1963 through 1992, and competed successfully in “men’s” international tournaments.
In 1978, she was the first woman to be awarded the International Grandmaster (GM) title by FIDE. Unfortunately for Nona, this would be the year she lost her Women’s World Championship title to countrywoman Maia Chiburdanidze. Gaprindashvili’s 16-year reign nearly matched that of Vera Menchik (1927-1944, the year of her death).
Since 2004, the country that scores the most total points in the Open and Women’s Olympiad wins the Gaprindashvili Cup.
Russia won in 2004, 2010 and 2012; China won in 2006, 2014 and 2018; and Ukraine won in 2008 and 2016.
I mention all of this because I came across a very nice Rossolimo played by Gaprindashvili in 1964 against Lyubov Idelchyk (1936-2006), Ukrainian Women’s Champion in 1963 and 1969 who later immigrated to the USA.
How did Gaprindashvili conclude her attack? White to play.
Boris Spassky (born 1937) was the tenth World Chess Champion (1969-1972). Before that, however, he was one of the greatest prodigies of early modern professional chess.
Born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Spassky defeated Mikhail Botvinnik in a simul as a ten-year-old in 1947, a year before Botvinnik became World Champion.
With a third-place finish in his very first USSR Championship, Spassky qualified for the 1955 Gothenburg Interzonal. At Antwerp he captured the World Junior Championship a point ahead of Edmar Mednis. He next qualified for the 1956 Amsterdam Candidates Tournament — earning an automatic Grandmaster title.
At 18 years old, Spassky became the youngest GM ever, eclipsing Tigran Petrosian‘s record by five years.
He established himself as a top player in the early 1960s. Highlights include the 29th USSR Championship (Fall 1961) and the 1964 Moscow zonal.
Spassky battled through the World Championship cycle to earn a title match with Petrosian in 1966. The match went the full 24 games, but Iron Tigran narrowly retained his title.
Undeterred, Spassky immediately won the Second Piatigorsky Cup. In the next Championship cycle he defeated Petrosian in June 1969 to become the new Champion.
Why he is underrated
Unfortunately, Spassky was outshone by two meteors: first Tal, then Fischer.
Mikhail Talwas born less than three months before Spassky. He won back-to-back USSR Championships, an Interzonal, a Candidates Tournament, and a World Championship match within four years! Just 23 years old, he shattered the record for youngest World Champion ever.
Bobby Fischer broke Spassky’s youngest-ever GM record by three years. Later, he won 20 consecutive games en-route to victory in the 1970 Interzonal and 1971 Candidates series with tallies of 6-0, 6-0, and 6½-2½. Then he took Spassky’s World Championship title in 1972.
This is a loss for chess! The casual fans who only know Spassky as “the guy who lost to Fischer” should play through some of his best games — they are as enjoyable and imaginative as those of any player in chess history, full stop.
After losing his title, Spassky won probably the strongest-ever USSR Championship, the 41st, in October 1973. The field included established stars like Lev Polugaevsky, Viktor Kortschnoj, Efim Geller, Paul Keres, and Mark Taimanov, youngsters Evgeny Sveshnikov and Alexander Beliavsky … and four other World Champions — Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, and Karpov.