By Laman Ismayilova
The Azerbaijani team has won a bronze medal at the European Club Cup among male chess players in Struga, Macedonia.
In the 7th round, the team "Vugar Hashimov" defeated the Macedonian "Alkaloid". As a result, the national chess players scored 11 points and ranked third at European Club Cup.
The 36th European Club Cup was held in 7 rounds, played in the Swiss system in accordance with the ECU Tournament Rules. According to FIDE and ECU rules, the time control was 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move, starting from move one.
Aound 38 teams participated in the men's competition held as part of the European Club Cup.
Chess for centuries has been a popular game in Azerbaijan with ancient roots closely related to traditions. The country could preserve these traditions as chess remains to be a crucially popular sport for now.
The first references to chess in Azerbaijan can be found in the works of the 12th century poets such as Khaqani and Nizami as well as in the works of one of the nation’s most respected literary personalities Fuzuli.
The 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku is an excellent example of the great attention paid to the development of chess games in the country.
Nearly 2,000 chess players from 175 countries took part in the tournament.
The national chess players have always been taking high places at top-ranked tournaments.
Shahriyar Mammadyarov is a three-fold European Team Champion (2009, 2013 and 2017) and gold medalist at the 2012 Chess Olympiad on the third board.
He won the World Junior Chess Championship in 2003 and repeated his victory in 2005, becoming the only two-time champion, achieving a 2,953 performance rating after eight rounds. After winning the Essent Tournament in 2006, Shahriyar achieved world fame.
In June 2016, Mammadyarov won the 3rd Shamkir Chess Tournament, the Vugar Gashimov Memorial. He defeated Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri in the last two rounds, which put him in a tiebreak situation with Caruana. He defeated Caruana in the tiebreak, thus giving him tournament victory.
In 2021, Mammadyarov defeated the 13-time world champion Garry Kasparov at the Grand Chess Tour in Zagreb (Croatia).
Another Azerbaijani grandmaster Teymour Rajabov defeated Kasparov back in 2003.
Teymur Rajabov earned the title of Grandmaster at the age of 14, making him the second-youngest grandmaster in history at the time. In 2003, Rajabov gained international attention after beating the then world No. 1 Garry Kasparov in the Linares tournament, followed by victories over former world champions Viswanathan Anand and Ruslan Ponomariov all in the same year.
He also won the European Team Chess Championship with Azerbaijan in 2009, 2013 and 2017. His major individual achievements include joint first place at 2008 Elista Grand Prix, 2017 Geneva Grand Prix and 2019 FIDE World Cup.
GM Eltaj Safarli won the Azerbaijan Championships in 2010 and 2016. Safarli played in the silver medal-winning Azerbaijani team at the European Team Chess Championship in Porto Carras in 2011 alongside Shahriyar Mammadyarov, Teymur Rajabov, Vugar Hashimov and Qadir Huseynov, previously winning a bronze medal in 2007 and gold in 2009.
Despite his short life, Vugar Hashimov had made a remarkable contribution to the chess history of Azerbaijan.
He played for Azerbaijan's national team in the Chess Olympiads in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.
Hashimov won a bronze medal in the European Team Championship in 2007 and became the European Champion with the national team in 2009. He was the European vice-champion in the national team in 2011, and the winner of the Reggio Emilia tournament in 2010-2011.