IM Nino Khurtsidze, 1975-2018
Nino Khurtsidze at the world championship in Tehran. | Photo: David Llada.

IM Nino Khurtsidze, 1975-2018

| 78 | Chess Players

The world of chess is in grief as IM Nino Khurtsidze, one of the most talented players of her generation, succumbed to illness. She died yesterday at the age of 42.

Khurtsidze's first success came at the age of 13 when she played in the first league of the Soviet championship and became the champion of Georgia among women for the first time.

This early start was followed by two victories at the world championships for girls U20 in 1993 and 1995 and the WGM title earned at the interzonal in Jakarta (1993). Her finish at the world championship for girls U20 in Halle 1995 was exceptionally strong: 10.5/13 and a full point ahead of Corina Peptan, Zhu Chen, Elina Danielian, Almira Skripchenko, Monika Socko and others.

In 1998 she set a unique achievement, winning the Georgian championship in the open section, ahead of Giorgi Kacheishvili, Mikheil Mchedlishvili, Gennadi Zaichik and several other GMs. Overall, she was a six-fold champion of Georgia: five times among women (in 1989, 1993, 2005, 2006 and 2013) and once in the open section.

Georgia has always been the land of mighty chess amazons: Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Chiburdanidze, Nana Ioseliani, Ketevan Arakhamia, Nana Dzagnidze—these superb rivals were a beacon to follow, but their presence also meant that the competition at home was extreme. Already a very strong player, Khurtsidze made her debut in the Georgian team only in 1997, to play vs the world's strongest GMs at the world team championship. 

Khurtsidze was a formidable team player, supporting Georgia at five Chess Olympiads (one team silver and one bronze), three world team championships (one bronze) and seven European team championships (two silver and one bronze). In 2000 in Istanbul, Khurtsidze was in an outstanding shape scoring 11 out of 13 on board three and her team took silver medals. Defeating the Russian squad 2.5-0.5 was instrumental in that success.

In 2001, Khurtsidze successfully passed through the first three rounds of the women's world championship in Moscow and was eliminated only on tiebreak by Zhu Chen, the future champion. In the second round, Anna Zatonskih fell to a nice trap. 

Five years later, she knocked out rising star Hou Yifan in the first round, but later fell to the future finalist, Alisa Galliamova.


Nino Khurtsidze at the 2013 European team championship in Warsaw. | Photo by Przemyslav Yahr/Wikipedia.

Over the board, Khurtsidze was remarkable for her active style, seeking for the initiative and attack, and fine positional sense.

The following trademark game was chosen by GMs and voted as one of the best in 2010.

GM Nikita Vitiugov: "Such games prove that the difference between men and women in chess is illusory. The boldness required to pursue the chosen plan is truly amazing."

In 2017, a few months before her tragic disease had been discovered, Khurtsidze remained a very tough opponent as she eliminated two higher-rated GMs at the women's world championship in Tehran. 

The tumor was diagnosed in 2017 and a fundraising campaign endorsed by many famous people was launched in chess media. The treatment against cancer started but it was impossible to overturn the course of the disease.

Nino Khurtsidze left behind a husband, who also plays chess, and a seven-year-old son.

Three Georgian players, colleagues and friends commented to about Khurtsidze:

Sopiko Guramishvili:

It was with a great sense of loss when I heard of Nino Khurtsidze’s death on 22 April 2018. My heart is truly saddened by her tragic death. Nino was more than just a wonderful person; she was a loving wife and mother. She loved life and loved people.

Nino was always so kind and considerate to us that we always welcomed seeing her at every opportunity. It would be difficult to measure the impact she has had on the many people’s lives she touched, personally and professionally. Her passing will not only leave a void in our lives, but in the hearts of all those who knew her. Nino will always remain within my heart.

Nino Maisuradze:

We are all deeply shocked by this loss. She fought the cancer, but lost the battle. She was a very kind-hearted, positive person that everybody loved.

An exceptional human being, a very talented chess player, and she was a mother as well.

No words can describe how sorry we feel for her loss. I am sending the deepest condolences to her family.

Bela Khotenashvili:

It’s very hard to talk about her in the past tense. I knew that her situation was very difficult but I had a big hope that she could live, because of her fighting spirit. She was one of those distinguished persons whom I have known in my life. She was very attentive and kind, with a strong Christian spirit. Even when she was very ill, she was still caring about other people. It’s a big loss for her family, friends and for the Georgian chess community.

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