January 11, 2014 12:42

Vugar Gashimov dies at 27

The chess world is shocked today by the death of one Azerbaijan's top players, Vugar Gashimov. The 27-year-old grandmaster from Baku had been ill for a long time and was under treatment for the last 1.5 years in Berlin, Germany where he passed away last night. GM Teimour Radjabov, compatriot, colleague and friend, tweeted the sad news, which was also reported by several Azeri media.

With deep sadness I write these lines as Vugar was one of the nicest personalities in the chess world I ever met. He came to me at the Grand Prix in Baku in the spring of 2008, where I was reading a book while having lunch. "What are you reading?" he asked, joined me at the table and a very nice conversation followed. Later that day I was surprised that a super grandmaster like him just walked to me and introduced himself as the most natural thing in the world.

Later I would learn that it was simply his character: an extremely nice and friendly guy, who had a laugh with all his colleagues everywhere and any time. He enjoyed the Amber tournament immensely, and especially the fussball (table football) sessions in the evenings - calling my way of playing "Doggystyle". And guess with which word he greeted me, ten months later, just before the first round of the 2012 Tata tournament!

Vugar analyzing with Magnus at the Amber tournament

Soon after that, Vugar had to cancel tournaments as he needed treatment in the hospital. At a younger age he had suffered a tumor in his head, and doctors also diagnosed epilepsy. In 2012 it became clear that the tumor had returned, and Gashimov was under treatment in Heidelberg, Germany for a long time. His family decided to keep everything quiet, but today it became clear that he lost the fight.

In the mid-90s Gashimov, born July 24, 1986 started to become known in Azerbaijan as a big talent. He won several Youth Championships and in 1996 he finished second in the World U10, behind Pentala Harikrishna. In 2008 his breakthrough to the world elite started; he won the Cappelle la Grande tournament and participated in the first FIDE Grand Prix Series in 2008-2010. He immediately shared first place with Wang Yue and Magnus Carlsen in the very first Grand Prix in Baku, now six years ago.

Gashimov played for the Azerbaijan Olympic team four times (2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008) and his total score was 28.5 point out of 41 games (+18 , =17 , -6). His highest position in the world rankings was #6, in November 2009. He was also known as a very strong online blitz player.

He had to decline his participation in the second Grand Prix Series because he needed treatment again. The 2012 Tata Steel Chess Tournament was his last tournament.

Gashimov at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Tata Steel tournament, which would be his last ever

In August last year, when Vugar was visited in the hospital by his brother Sarkhan, the two brothers reached out to me on Skype. Sarkhan said: Vugar is just next to me is saying "hi". They had just heard about the passing of WIM Vesna Rozic, and were sad about it. Vugar himself was under a very aggressive tumor treatment at that point, but he was also trying to keep up with chess as much as possible. He was watching the games of the World Cup, because there was nothing wrong with his mind!

Vugar's interview after the last round in Wijk aan Zee in 2012

Vugar was highly talented and had an attractive, dynamic style. I also remember that he once explained to me why he was one of the few top players who dared to play the Benoni as Black, and got away with it. "The computer assesses many standard positions at 0.30 or even 0.40 and so may white players will overestimate their chances. Computers don't see the compensation, but I do!"

Below are reactions on Twitter and a selection of games.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Jay's picture


Sir Schratz's picture

this is a sad day, indeed ....

i remember a video interview gashimov gave when playing for bremen in the german bundesliga - what a wonderful, friendly and funny person! and aren't there also video-interviews from wijk? i may be mistaken but i have a hunch that there are some with this great player!

i think one would have to dig very deep ever to find even a scrap of anything negative about gashimov -

and his chess was dynamite ....and it is here to stay!

all he best for him!!

Big Alex's picture

Sad news...Does anybody know what was his disease?

Anonymous's picture

wikipedia.org says he died of brain cancer. Very sad and disturbing to learn of his death. RIP Vugar.

The fake Real S3's picture

Brain tumor.

Jan's picture

This is incredibly sad news...shit stuff does happen to good people...RIP

Saji Soman's picture

Very Very Sad news

Henk's picture

I understood the brain cancer came up suddenly and that before this he was ready to start playing chess again this year. Ik think Tata 2012 were his last games.

Soud Seif's picture

His last interview after Wijk 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhdv6SW4MWk

Anonymous's picture


Daniel's picture

Such an amazing player! So sad, RIP Vugar

Aravind's picture

RIP Vaghur......sad news......we miss a truly gifted player and a wonderful human being

KingTal's picture

R.I.P. Vugar, you won´t be forgotten. ;(

Morley's picture

What terrible news. A great, friendly player, my condolences to his family and the Azerbaijan team. A true loss for the chess community :-(

Anonymous's picture

R.I.P Vugar Gashimov, you will be missed.

Ben's picture

My condolences, this makes me very sad. I won't forget his wonderful fighting games.

BentLarsen's picture

What was so impressive: His pieces, like Tal's, were always lively. His games felt like fresh air and on his face you could see this charming smile. I will never forget Vugar Gashimov, who played like i wanted to play.

eric's picture

very sad news! such a positive, nice person dies at 27!? it made me smile watching him smiling on that wijk-2012 interview! rest in peace Vugar!

Niima's picture

What a shock. Reminds of other attacking greats who died before their time, like Morphy and Stein.

Anonymous's picture

At least Morphy died almost 25 years after quitting chess and Stein when he was at least a dozen years older than Gashimov, can't recall any other top player (recent top ten) dying so young for a very long time.

Niima's picture

@ Anonymous

Didn't say they were the same - only that this sad news reminds of others who died before their time.

Thomas Richter's picture

The only example coming to my mind (long ago, way before my own lifetime) is German Klaus Junge dying at the age of 21 shortly before the end of World War II - hard to say how strong he exactly was, but Alekhine considered him a potential future world champion.

RIP Vugar Gashimov. The news was announced before the start of today's round in Wijk aan Zee and a minute of silence was observed - a semi-noisy environment (hundreds of amateur players before their and the GM games started) suddenly being completely quiet ... .

Niima's picture

Hi Thomas,

Another less known one is Rudolf Charousek who died at 26 from tuberculosis. Pillsbury is another.

PeterV's picture

So sad. R.I.P.

DirkBredemeier's picture

R.I.P. Vugar.
Hope you are now in a better world.

Dirk's picture

Vugar is playing blitz games with Fischer in the giant server in the sky. R.I.P.

Sarunas's picture

Shedding tear with no fear. Rest in peace, Vugar!

Dr. Wolfgang J. Berghorn = Bobby1972's picture

Maybe chess in eternity will solve the enigma of early death, great talent and fate, who knows?! Astrocytoma WHO Grade III probably, the illness?!

Septimus's picture

A sad day indeed. My condolences to Vugar's family. I had no idea he was so seriously ill.

Aditya's picture

R.I.P Vugar, you played a kind of chess that many of us only dream to behold and admire.

The Real RG13's picture

Gashimov was a class act; I remember him best for the slight smile he allowed himself (at 0:33) only after leaving the board where he had just foiled a cheating attempt by his opponent http://youtu.be/n5QnEfVfKxw
R.I.P. GM Gashimov!

Anonymous's picture

You are really a class act RG

Leo's picture

Very sad to hear of the untimely passing of GM Vugar Gashimov, a great player.
And also to see that some people, even as they offer their condolences for one player, cannot overcome their bizarre compulsion to denigrate another. A "class act" indeed.

Anonymous's picture

RG - That was a totally disgraceful thing to write and to also post a link to a video like that was awful. You are a sick and twisted person to do that when everyone here is focusing totally on the very sad passing of Vugar. I hope that Magnus Carlsen or someone who knows him sees this comment and the link to the video and takes you to court you evil little swine! Peter should leave that comment of yours here for all to see, you're a disgrace to every good natured chess player past and present! Peter I hope to God you block and ban RG for life!!

The Real RG13's picture

My post was one of genuine admiration for someone who acted very classy in a situation that Bobby Fischer might not have. If you disagree with something in my post then you can either respond without ad hominem attacks or ignore it altogether. Your over-the-top reaction however speaks very clearly as to who is out of control.

Leo's picture

Please. Everyone is well aware of your tireless efforts to defame a certain player, a behaviour which frankly borders on obsession. As if these posts weren't annoying enough in other contexts where they don't belong, you have now demonstrated that even the passing of a talented master in the prime of his life means nothing more to you than another opportunity to push your agenda down everyone's throat, and that you have no sense of shame or decency whatsoever.

The Real RG13's picture

So I am not allowed to mention an incident that illustrated how well Gashimov handled a stressful situation because it incidentally shows your idol in a bad light? o.k. then

Leo's picture

"Incidentally". Right. As if you didn't do that in every single post, whatever the topic. Well, this time it happened to be even more disgustingly inappropriate than usual. Just own up to it.

Leo's picture

I won't make any more comments on this here; this thread should be about honouring Gashimov's memory and nothing else, but something had to be said. My apologies to all who are paying their respects. R.I.P. Vugar.

Zeblakop's picture

@The Real RG13, right. Well spotted !!!
R.I.P Gashimov.

Remco G's picture

Hard to accept that life can be like this. Next time an opponent plays 1.d4, I'll play the Benoni for Gashimov.

Bronkenstein's picture

+1, I might also dust off my old Benoni for Vugar.

Bronkenstein's picture

Attractive,sharp,creative player, I always enjoyed watching him play... I especially learned a lot about Snake Benoni from his games. It wasn´t so much about specific lines, but rather few interesting manoeuvres, and the fact that I was watching ´refuted´ opening magically turning into a dangerous weapon in front of my eyes.

Rest in peace, Vugar.

RS's picture

RIP Vugar.

"Computers don't see the compensation, but I do!"

This is what makes you great Vugar!! We all need to learn from you.

harami's picture

RIP Vugar Gashimov. Very sad and shocking to hear this news. The Chess world lost a great player and human being.

Ian.A's picture

Very sad day :(


Kema Goryaeva's picture

Still can't believe Vugar has passed away. When you hear about illness of someone you know, you still believe he will fight it and survive. You do hope that it will not happen, and when it does - you are sooo shocked! I just can't imagine what's going on with vugar's parents! Omg! Let them try to live normal life further! RIP, Vugar, you will be missed!

The Real RG13's picture

It is a parent's worst nightmare to survive their children. Hopefully they can somehow find solace.

Ana Millán's picture

Rest in peace. We lost a great player

Michael Lubin's picture

This is so shocking, so sad--he was so young. And although perhaps not so well-known in the West, he wasn't just "one Azerbaijan's top players," he was one of the WORLD'S top players. Just two years ago he was #10 in the FIDE rating list at 2761, and although no longer on the active list he is still listed at #21 among all players. And it's obvious from the video that he was a very sweet fella.


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