Reports | October 09, 2010 17:57

Update on the Gashimov saga

Update on the Gashimov sagaPerhaps the most significant story in the run-up to this year’s Olympiad was the Azerbaijan team’s decision to leave out Vugar Gashimov. They paid the price at the chess board (finishing 12th), but there were also more problems between the team and captain during the event, and conflict continues to rage now it’s over.

By Colin McGourty | This article is cross-posted from Chess in Translation.

The latest development was the resignation of team captain, Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who, in a strange twist of fate, called for Gashimov’s reinstatement and talked of how his association with Kasparov hindered his chances of remaining a FIDE Vice President. Before getting to that, however, it’s worth recounting the whole course of events since the story was last reported here

Back then one of the main reasons the sports hierarchy gave for Gashimov being left out was that he played for the Kasparov-Marcote team in the Spanish Championship. As pointed out, if the Kasparov name itself was a problem it was strange that Azmaiparashvili was a close friend of Kasparov’s, who was present at his birthday this year. Shortly afterwards, in a rather uncomfortable interview, Azmaiparashvili tried to both defend Kasparov and criticise Gashimov’s actions (in the comments he responds to say he was proud Kasparov was at his birthday):

But, taking into account the situation, when such a player as Gashimov doesn’t play in the Azerbaijan team but plays in Spain’s internal championship for the Kasparov team, then here, of course, there’s a political subtext, and it was necessary to think it over a hundred times before taking such a decision.

Azmaiparashvili implies that Gashimov chose not to play for his national team, and this was the dominant theme of a press conference held in Baku on 14 September. Elman Rustamov, President of the Azerbaijan Chess Federation, was quoted as saying:

We didn’t expell Gashimov from the team - he decided not to play himself. Our doors were open to him, but he had to come and make peace with all the members of the team and admit his mistake.

It was claimed that Gashimov was sent an invitation to play in the President’s Cup (which he says he never received), and Azmaiparashvili criticised Gashimov for failing to obey team orders in the Team World Championship in Bursa. The most remarkable criticism, however, again came from Rustamov:

In my opinion in the current situation we can talk about a “star illness”. After the European Championship Vugar Gashimov fell ill with exactly this “star illness”.

The strange thing about this “star illness” (getting “too big for his boots”), is that no-one outside of the upper echelons of the ACF seems to have noticed it. The German grandmaster Jan Gustafsson, for instance, writes in his blog that Gashimov would always invite his Kasparov-Marcote teammates for tea and help out with preparation. Similarly, the repeated idea that Gashimov needed to apologise to his Azerbaijan teammates is certainly not true for two of them.

European Team Champions: Azmaiparashvili, Mamedyarov, Radjabov, Mamedov, Gashimov, Guseinov | photo:

Rauf Mamedov posted at Facebook: “Azerbaijan team without Gashimov, Azerbaijan team without heart!” While Gadir Guseinov gave an interview published the day after the press conference: “It’s a great loss for the team as he’s a wonderful chess player”.

There was no reprieve and the Azerbaijan team left for Khanty Mansiysk without Gashimov. Their performance there was reasonable, with all the players performing at around their rating, except for Gashimov’s replacement, Eltaj Safarli (rating 2607, rating performance 2498). If Rauf Mamedov had converted a winning position in the last round they could have finished 5th, but in any case, as expected, without Gashimov they failed to challenge for a medal.

During the event Gashimov gave an interview to Telman Amiraslanov of Vesti.Az. He wishes the team well, mentions he doesn’t know the real reason for his being left out and denies suffering from a “star illness” (the journalist backs him up saying he’s never noticed any arrogance from Gashimov). It’s relevant (given what happened at this year’s Olympiad) to quote Gashimov’s response to one question in full:

What’s behind the conflict between Vugar Gashimov and Zurab Azmaiparashvili, which the press is gossiping about so much?

At the Team World Championship this year in Bursa, after a series of unsuccessful games, I asked for a day’s rest when we were playing a weak team (Egypt), so that I could recover and then re-enter the fight. That was the first time I’d asked Azmaiparashvili for a rest. I’d played 13 games without a rest and in the whole of 2009 I’d only lost once, while here I had a bad series of results and had lost two games. I was, to use boxing terminology, knocked down and, knowing that we were playing the weak Egypt, I mentioned my condition in the team meeting. The guys supported me, agreeing I needed a rest, but the next day I discovered that I was still playing – the captain had ignored my request. I was shocked! I also lost to Egypt, and was completely knocked out, after which, to my great regret, I wasn’t in any condition to continue at the tournament, however much I wanted to.

This time round something very similar happened with Gadir Guseinov. As he commented at a forum:

After 7 matches in a row and meant to play white I asked for a rest and said something like: I’m as tired as a dog, I’ve got no energy left. And I asked 10 times. I was totally ignored: hence my result in the game with Hungary, so there you have the role of the captain!?  

After his loss against Hungary Guseinov only played, and lost, one more game, which contributed to the team’s weak performance in the final straight. Azmaiparashvili later admitted to his mistake (in the interview discussed at the end of this report), but added the twist, “At first I agreed, but then, having listened to the guys, I changed my decision.” Which again has echoes of Bursa (where a reason given for Gashimov not being allowed to rest was that Radjabov would have to play black twice in a row).

Azerbaijan-Armenia, with Azmaiparashvili looking on | photo:

Another source of tension surrounds the one great success story for Azerbaijan at the Olympiad, beating their rivals, Armenia. That was, you’d think, down to Guseinov winning the only game of the match, but chose to run with the headline: “Teimur Radjabov fixed [confirmed] victory over Armenia for Azerbaijan”. His game was the last to finish, but it’s still a strange spin to put on the story. Guseinov commented (while also mentioning that like Gashimov he wasn’t picked for the Azerbaijan SOCAR team that’s playing in the upcoming team event in Bulgaria):

When in Serbia I lost a won position in the match against Armenia they would often remind me about it. In general the press wrote about it 10 times more than they now write about my revenge. Then they wrote that we’d lost because of me. While now they write that someone had fixed a victory over the Armenians. That’s all off-topic, but there’s simply no objectivity and most likely never will be any.

After the event was over Mair Mamedov, Vice President of the ACF, tried to claim, in obvious contrast to reality, that without Gashimov there was perfect harmony in the team:

Maybe some role in everything finishing so unexpectedly was played by the fact that one of the main members of our team, Vugar Gashimov, wasn’t taken to Russia…

I would unequivocally say no i.e. the fact that Gashimov didn’t travel in no way affected the result, because the internal relationships in the team and its cohesion abroad are a whole lot more important.

The most remarkable statement by Mamedov, however, came in an Azerbaijani interview (I’m relying on a Russian translation posted at ChessPro, and Google Translate):

There are rumours that Teimur Radjabov has special status in the team. At events held overseas in contrast to the rest of his teammates he lives in a more prestigious hotel…

Beating Kasparov at 15 years old instead of playing in his club. Do you see the difference?

Although the whole situation within Azerbaijan chess is hard to comprehend for an outsider it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the general opinion on forums seems to be that favouritism for Radjabov, in particular, is the main explanation for the recent treatment of Gashimov, and that Mair Mamedov is the driving force behind it.

Rauf Mamedov, meanwhile, gave an interview where he rated the team performance in Khanty Mansiysk:

I think you can assess it as normal. At 4 out of 5. I realise that back home they expected a lot from us but the reality was that this was the maximum we could count on.


Because Vugar Gashimov wasn’t in our team.

That’s the main reason we finished outside the top-10?

Well, that and the team captain Zurab Azmaiparashvili not being able to be with us for the whole tournament. He was putting himself forward for the post of FIDE Vice President and had things to do.

Finally (I hear some sighs of relief!), Zurab Azmaiparashvili also gave an interview to Azerisport, where far from denying the above he went even further, claiming he hadn’t wanted the job, revealing his feelings on losing his position as FIDE Vice President, and asking for Gashimov’s reinstatement:

Let’s start with the Olympiad. You agree that you didn’t give the team enough attention?

I knew that I’d be short on time, as the FIDE Congress was taking place here. Therefore I tried to delicately decline the captaincy. Many thought that it was because I’d fallen out with someone on the team, but that wasn’t it. I felt that I couldn’t put my whole heart into the guys at the tournament. I gathered the team together in the evening, then in the morning gave them instructions. But it’s clear that because of the elections I had lots of other meetings. Our team showed its character at the Olympiad.

Did the absence of Vugar Gashimov have a serious effect on the result?

It wasn’t only Vugar Gashimov who wasn’t in the team. Zurab Azmaiparashvili wasn’t there either. Taking that all into account the result can be considered normal. The team was also unlucky, we didn’t take our chances in the match against Italy. In the last round Rauf Mamedov should have won. In that case we’d have been in the top 5.

When did you decide that it was time to go?

Even before the last round at a team meeting I told the guys that I was seeing them as a captain for the last time. I maintained friendly relations with everyone, but I’m going. In addition I told them I’d do everything I could so that in the next major tournament Vugar Gashimov would play with them.

Your resignation is connected to the result?

Yes. The fact that Gashimov wasn’t in the team was wrong. With him the result would be different. [...]

Who do you see as your replacement?

You can always find a captain. There are a lot of good captains in the world, but players are few, so Azerbaijan can’t afford to lose one of them.

From now on you won’t be FIDE Vice President? Why?

I knew that I was going to be in a vote for that position, but I didn’t feel any support from Ilyumzhinov’s team. I don’t know what the reason was. Most likely it was connected to the name of Garry Kasparov. Everyone in FIDE knows perfectly well about my relations with Garry. No doubt the fact that he supported Karpov played a role.

The other thing was that in the ECU elections I was a supporter of Silvio Danailov, while FIDE was supporting Ali Nihat Yazici.

Before the elections you said that some countries were supporting you.

They simply worked against me. I don’t think that it was an order from Ilyumzhinov. But I do know that some people who’d promised me their vote were “worked upon” by others.

Did you talk about it with the FIDE President?

I told him I won’t agree to any propositions and I’m not planning on taking up any positions. Ilyumzhinov named five FIDE Vice Presidents, although the rules only allow him to name two. As a delegate of Georgia, I’ll do everything I can to put right that breaking of the rules. So I’ll sue them and demand justice. I can even tell you that in the near future Kutin, Gelfer and Yazici will lose their FIDE posts.

Perhaps Zurab Ashmaiparashvili’s departure (though his resignation is yet to be accepted) will free the way for Gashimov to return to the Azerbaijan team? Though, as the above should have made abundantly clear, the problems in Azerbaijan chess go a lot deeper than a dispute between a chess player and his captain.

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Anonymous's picture
Author: Anonymous


sir schratz's picture

azmaiparashvili is a functionary... he is interested in his power and time and again has to show his testosterone-driven rudeness... sorry, but he would kick out anybody if he thought it contributed to his (azmai's) status of the strong man...

and this seems to me a promising application for a high post in the ilyumshinov-danailov world of crim... i mean, chess

Turkchess's picture

It happened in 2008 with Adana Truva team. There is an interview of the captain GM Esen on this incident:

Gashimov demands more money telling that he passed 2700 elo.

By the way comparing with Azmaiparashvili, Gashimov should be like an angel.

Maybe 15-20 years ago 4 people organised a 7 round robbin tournament in Yugoslavia on paper. One of them was Azmaiparashvili and he won 70-80 elo and reaching 2690. Of course not a single game played in reality.

What i remember it was all told in New in Chess. Most interesting thing after years Azmai was the head of a comitte for searching such cheatings.

Another of his scandals is taking back his move against Malakhov in Europe Championship 2003 (which he won). Actually he both took back move and made a move for his opponent in front of a dozen spectators. As black he first plays 24...Rh1+ 25.Rd1Be5 and notices that his rook is hanging on h1 and instantly changing his move plays 2 extra moves for himself and opponent (!) ...Rxd1, Kxd1 so that now his rook isnt hanging. I personally listened about this from an eyewitness.

Alexander's picture

Which team was it and when did it happen?

vladimirOo's picture

Seriously, what's the fuss about Radjabov? All right, he beat Kasparov once, but he never really confirmed. Despite all the support he has, everytime he is engaged in a supertournament with the top players, he is a clear class under them!

I heard he is from a very rich and influent family? Is it true? To what extent, his family could have deep connections in Azer?

chessobserver's picture

The best thing Kasparov has done about chess politics is that Azmai was not elected vice president because of him!!! LOL

btw Radjabov is a great player

Turkchess's picture

Gashimov is a very greedy guy. Once he was playing for a team in Turkey and agreed for an amount of money. League was being played with two meetings. After first meeting he unethically asked for much more money suggesting that he raised his elo.

The team was counting on his existence and didnt have any right to transfer anyone else. They couldnt fulfill his demands and he didnt take part in the team.

Totally unethical guy. I dont give him any credit in this case too.

On the contrary Mamedyarov is a great guy and a real sportsman. One Mamedyarov is enough for missing Gashimov

vladimirOo's picture

Seems like, every azeri player has his dark side. Radjabov has got privileges, Gashimov is "greedy", Mamedyarov is a bad loser (remember Aeroflot against Kurnosov), Azmai is a functionary of the worst kind. What about the other players?

Thomas's picture

Gashimov in the Turkish League must be an old story: according to FIDE Elo pages he last played there in November 2006 scoring 8.5/11 - as other players have up to 16 games in the list, it's possible that he skipped the final rounds. This predates his significant rise in the Elo list, and actually might have been for a different (health) reason: was this (late 2006, early 2007) the period when he underwent brain surgery - successful at the third attempt?

In any case, even if "Turkchess" 's story is true, I am inclined to consider it "history". I would even forgive Mamedyarov for his cheating accusations, apparently it was an incident not a recurring pattern.

sir schratz's picture

it's about time people begin to face reality.... azmai is definitely one of those people you have got to be very careful with. the same goes with danailov - these are very dark men!

remember the journalist who asked rather unpleasant questions to ilyumshinov and wrote rather unpleasant articles about him.... shortly after she died in an accident.

killing journalists has become a normal way in russia to kill the truth and make it possible for dark people to stay in power....

Tony's picture

OK lets look at this with a bit of rationalism
Gashimov was born in 1986 so that make him 24
1)in 2008 he was 22 and in 2003 he was 17 so are we expecting players to behave perfectly as still essentially children (17) and very young men? We have adults in their 30-40's who behave childish at times and move on past these events.

2) as far as the Turkish team issue goes I would be very interested in knowing the details of the contract or unspoken agreements. I have heard often enough that players after reaching a certain title/rating are expected to earn a certain amount for playing.
If he was an IM then became a GM it would be expected that he would earn a greater fee for playing. 2700 does not have a title but it is an unofficial title and players expect greater compensation. While FIDE publishes ratings only occasionally it is well known what the rating will be. The 2008 Turkish league was held June 23 to July 3
Gashimov rating would have been Jul 2008 2717 assuming a contract 12-9 months ahead of time Oct 2007 2663 - Jul 2007 2655 Gashimov had been a pretty consistent 2650 player during the last few lists so he was probably given a contract based on this performance rating. My guess is that 1) it was an unspoken assumption that 2700 players get better compensation for playing than sub 2700 players. 2) that due to Gashimov lack of experience (he was 22) neglected to have this written into the agreement.

In any case this is in the past. I look at the situation now and the simple fact is that excluding Gashimov from playing on the team over hurt feelings was idiotic! The whole job of the team captain is to create an environment of cooperation between the players. Look at how Kasparov acted with Kramnik long ago demanding that he be included on the Russian team? Examine how Fischer acted during the world match and took the second board (ok he was paid the same as the first board)
team considerations are first.

Turkchess's picture

Correcting misunderstanding. It was Azmaiparashvili who played in an imaginary tournament and gained 70 elo points according to New in Chess report.

And also it is Azmai in 2003 who took back his move and won European Championship. It is very weird that Malakhov didnt do anything about that although there were at least dozen eye witnesses. Probably he was afraid of him.

Nima's picture

Does anyone know if Mair Mamedov and Rauf Mamedov are related? Judging by their comments quoted in this article I assume that they are not.

CAL|Daniel's picture

Lets not call Mamedyarov ethical, an angel, a good person or any sort of high praise. Remember Aerflot and his rancid cheating accusations.

Brian Wall's picture

The "accusations" against the Azerbajain players are extremely minor which means they are all good guys. I played backgammon with all types in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass. I decided Eastern Europeans have a different sense of morality than Americans after one pondered for 10 minutes after a bad role in a backgammon tournament, made an illegal move and picked up the dice! That's why he was thinking so long, deciding which illegal move was best! I remember Shirov would not shake hands or speak to Azmaiparishvili for a while - don't know why.

brian carson's picture

We must remember that Zurab Ashmaiparashvili is a nightmare waiting to happen. He is conflict. He is not about solution. He is not resolution. Zurab Ashmaiparashvili is conflict. He is childish, abrasive, and impossible. He is always the PROBLEM.

gg's picture

"I decided Eastern Europeans have a different sense of morality than Americans after one..."

I could decide many things about Americans after reading one post like that :-)

chessobserver's picture

Good article chessvibes . . . you almost got to the crack of the matter!

Yes Teimur Radjabov's family is a very powerful Jewish family that sponsors/controls chess in Azerbaijan. As usual it is not enough to be reach, but they also want to be famous. Little Teimur was "destined" to bring them fame, but unfortunately for poor Gasmihov he is now seen as interfering with these grand plans. See the following article . . .

this is when the problems started. There is only one person in the Azerbaijan team that has been suffering and is still suffering of “star illness” and that is Teimur Radjabov. He is desperately trying to "mix" with the reach and famous . . . see following article

Every time he goes to the French Riviera he desperately tries to get photos for his marketting campaign . . . he just wants to be a Hollywood star and doesn't give a fig about Azerbaijan.

Vugar Gashimov's picture


First Turkchess you don't know me, And don't think that everybody just like you greedy guy.
About the Turkish league:
I played 3 times in Turkish league: twice for Marmaris in 2004 I made 11/11 2005 16/17 it was great seasons for me.
Last I played for Besiktas in 2006 and I have made 8.5/11
I had a contract for 8 games but I played 3 more games for free! Because i was the only foreign player I was the first board and I was the leader of team!
If you want check that, you can ask captain of "Besiktas JK" IM Umut Atakisi he is still the captain of Besiktas.

About Esen Baris who was the captain of Adana, He lies.

1) he played together with me in Besiktas and he knew that I have played 3 more games for free.
2) team president offered me more money to play, but I refused because I didn't want to play in team where, such guy a captain.

I speak with facts and I have everything in my mailbox!

Best regard's
Vugar Gashimov

Corinne's picture

Yes Radjabov is a very vain and arrogant player . . . not many people like him.

CAL|Daniel's picture

How one believe all this mistreatment of Gashimov by outsider is a result of Radjabov? Radjabov didn't even play first board at the olympiad!

And for the record, I have had little interaction with Gashiov but he always comes off nice in interviews. In particular, I played him in a simul on ICC, after he thrashed me, he stuck around and analyzed the game with me! How many GMs do that?!

Ianis's picture

Would be good if we focus on Chess and the injustice Vugar Gashimov was victim of (by being excluded from the Azeri team )

Because i see a couple of people posting negative things about human beings they probably never met and only know through newspaper stories

simaginfan's picture

Grandmaster Gashimov should be treated with more repect than for people outside the events to take unsubstantiated stories as truth. If he says that he wanted to play, and was not selected, then clearly someone has made a decision not based on chess considerations. To say that the harmony of the team was good due to his absence may or may not be true - one needs to ask all of the players, but it strikes me as a rather pathetic and unworthy atempt to slur him with the unproveable. Personally, I think that if grandmaster gashimov wished to play, and was not selected, then the whole team was done a great injustice. He is a true chess fighter, and as such, deserves our respect.

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