The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Maia Chiburdanidze

Maia Chiburdanidze
Full name
Maia Chiburdanidze
Jan 17, 1961 (age 63)‎
Place of birth
Kutaisi, Georgia



Maia Chiburdanidze is a Georgian (formerly Soviet Union) grandmaster and became the sixth Women’s World Chess Champion at the age of 17. She then held the most prestigious title in women’s chess for 13 years.

Easily one of the top female chess players in history, Chiburdanidze has won 14 gold medals from the Women’s Chess Olympiads, took the USSR Women’s Chess Championship when 16 years old, and, overall, has put together an illustrious career.

Early Chess Career (1969 To 1977)

Chiburdanidze began playing chess when she was about eight years old.

She won an international women’s tournament in 1974 at Brasov, Romania, and then tied for second at the Tbilisi Interzonal tournament in 1976, which qualified her for the women’s world championship cycle. The same year, Chiburdanidze became the USSR girls’ champion before winning the women’s title a year later in 1977. Her Women’s Soviet Chess Championship came at the age of 16. Chiburdanidze earned her WIM title in 1974 and her WGM title in 1977.

Women’s World Chess Champion (1978 To 1991)

After placing in second at the Tbilisi Interzonal tournament in 1976, Chiburdanidze qualified for the Candidates matches that took place in 1977 and 1978. She won all three matches narrowly, pitting the 17-year-old prodigy against GM Nona Gaprindashvili, who held the women’s world title for one year less (16 years) than her opponent’s age.

Chiburdanidze won two consecutive games in the match, then went on to defeat Gaprindashvili 8.5-6.5. Chiburdanidze became the youngest Women’s World Chess Champion in history. (Her record was later broken by GM Hou Yifan in 2010.)

Chiburdanidze would hold the title for 13 years. That’s longer than any other women’s world champion in history except for Vera Menchik (17 years) and Gaprindashvili (16 years).

Maia Chiburdanidze at the 1984 Chess Olympiad
Maia Chiburdanidze at the 1984 Chess Olympiad. Photo: GFHund, CC 3.0.

After earning her IM title in 1978, in 1984 Chiburdanidze became the second woman in history (after Gaprindashvili) to be awarded the GM title. Another major accomplishment during this time was beginning her career in Women’s Chess Olympiad events. Chiburdanidze started in 1978 by leading the Soviet Union to gold (while earning individual gold) on board one. That was the first of five consecutive team gold medals, and Chiburdanidze lost just one game (out of 76) between 1978 and 1990 as part of the Soviet Union team.

Later Chess Career (1992 To 2011)

Chiburdanidze was unable to earn her world title back after losing it to Xie Jun in 1991. She tied with GM Susan Polgar in the 1994-95 Candidates Tournament, losing to the future world champion in the final. In the 2001 and 2004 knockout format for the women’s world championship, Chiburdanidze made it to the semifinals of both events.

In 1992, now part of the Georgian team at the Women’s Chess Olympiads, Chiburdanidze went undefeated on board one, winning 10 out of 13 games and capturing gold. She also won individual gold and a medal for performance rating (2692). She helped Georgia win three additional team gold medals, all on board one. Overall, from 1978 to 2008 (with the exception of 2006, when she did not participate), Chiburdanidze won nine team gold medals and five individual gold medals, with 89 wins, 73 draws, and five losses.

Maia Chiburdanidze in 2007
Maia Chiburdanidze in 2007. Photo: karpidis, CC 2.0.

At the time of publishing, Chiburdanidze is inactive. She last played a classical game in 2011 but has played some rapid and blitz in recent years (like at the 2019 European Women’s Rapid & Blitz Championship).

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