Monday, April 21, 2014

Vugar Gashimov- The game of his life!

The date was 30th october 2009. It was the final round (9th) of the European team championships that were being held in Novi Sad, Serbia. The atmosphere was charged up with excitement. Going into the final round Russia and Azerbaijan were tied at 13 points a piece.
The Russian team had Spain as their opposition and The Azerbaijani team had been paired against Netherlands. The following was the pairing.

Russia vs Spain
Svidler -           Shirov
Morozevich -    Vallejo
Jakovenko -      Illescas
Alekseev -         Salgado Lopez.

Azerbaijan vs Netherlands 
Radjabov -      Smeets
Gashimov -     Stellwagen
Mamedyarov - L'Ami
Mamedov -      Ernst

The team Azerbaijan against Netherlands in their last round encounter.

Two of Russia's games between Svidler- Shirov and Jakovenko-Illescas ended in a draw. The magic of Moro had worked. He had beaten Vallejo to give Russia a lead of 2-1. At the same time Azerbaijan had not been successful in making any breakthrough. Radjabov, Mamedyarov and Mamedov had all drawn their game. The score between Azerbaijan and Netherlands stood at 1.5-1.5. The entire onus was on Gashimov's shoulders now.

Gashimov who now carried the expectations of an entire nation.

The first good news for the Azerbaijan fans came from different quarters. Ivan Salgado Lopez had dismantled the Winawer of Evgenvy Alekseev and had equalised the Russia-Spain match. Russians had ended their journey on 14 points. 
Everything was crystal clear now. Gashimov had to win. In case of a draw, Azerbaijan too would end on 14 and Russia would take the gold due to their better tiebreaks.

Vugar did just what the doctor ordered. He built up a winning position against Stellwagen and went into a winning Rook endgame. But as they say, No one alive has really mastered the Rook endgames! Below is Gashimov's game upto the critical point which he has annotated himself.

It was Stellwagen's (black) turn to play.
Gashimov in his annotations mentions that he has missed the win but doesn't give the way for black to draw. I think it has to do with the fact that the draw for black is very easy to achieve.

Stellwagen under tremendous pressure played the move 70... Rf4?? which was a horrible blunder.
The right was for black to draw was to start with 70...Rb4!

Stellwagen made the final blunder and Gashimov gave him no more chances. Here is how the game ended.

Azerbaijan had become the European Champions and Vugar Gashimov played the biggest role in their victory. The moment the game was over, the entire Azerbaijani squad jumped over to Vugar, hugged him, kissed him and just went all over him!

You must see this video which contains all this last round action. Watch it from the start upto 2 mins 20 secs.


The Azerbaijani team after winning the gold at European Team Championshop 2009.

I am sure your heart was touched after seeing this video. The way the team mates ran over to Gashimov I think is a dream that every chess player would like to live one day! Imagine having the expectations of not only the entire team on your shoulders but of the entire nation and then delivering! Wow! I would play chess for my entire life, for only such a moment!
The only thought that comes to my mind after writing all this and watching the video is why did Vugar Gashimov have to go away so soon. 
Immediately I go to the homepage of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial tournament that is being held in the town of Shamkir in the memory of this great player, I see the following picture:

I read these words with a heavy heart and I realize, some people just enjoy the journey of life. It doesn't matter if the journey is short or long, they just make the most of what they have. 

In the town of Shamkir where Gashimov's grave lies, a fitting tribute has been given to this great chess genius.

The grave is like a chess board in the colour of grey and brown and nearby you can see all the chess pieces.

Above the grave you can see is the position where Stellwagen made the grave blunder of Rf4?? 

The board encaptions within itself all the emotions of joy and ecstacy which no words or pictures could ever have. Whenever Radjabov or Mamedyarov or Mamedov would see the position, the first thought that would come to their mind would be of utter joy of winning the championship and then the sadness of losing their dear friend would dawn onto them. Giving people reasons to smile even after you are gone, is a sign of greatness.
The genius from Baku has left us. But in the 27 years that he lived on this planet he has created a rich legacy of his games and annotations that will keep enthralling us. 
Vugar Gashimov, You shall always live forever in the heart of every chess lover!

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