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!"