Author: Sanan SHAFIZADE
The first mention of chess in Azerbaijan dates back to the 9th century. First prominent Azerbaijani chess players were Jalaladdin Nakhchivani and Khoja Ali Tabrizi, known for their wonderful chess game in Central Asia.
In the modern era, we can name Salimkhanov, who was famous in the 1930s, and Khalilbeyli, who left an indelible mark in the history of Azerbaijani chess in the 1950s. Starting from the 70s of the 20th century, Azerbaijan began to pay special attention to chess. Thanks to the state support, almost 60 youth chess schools were created.
The attention and care that the national leader Heydar Aliyev showed to chess continued by President Ilham Aliyev. Among nearly 180 FIDE member countries, Azerbaijan has entered its name in history as the first country where a special State Program for the Development of Chess was adopted. Over the years of independence, Azerbaijan has nurtured and brought to the world chess arena such athletes as Aynur Sofiyeva, Teymur Rajabov, Shahriyar Mammadyarov, Vugar Hashimov, Zeynab and Turkan Mammadyarovs and others. In recent years, the sports community has complained about the lack of new names among chess players. And some coaches were even shy of optimistic forecasts about the future of the Azerbaijani team.
R+ decided to talk about the new Azerbaijani chess star Aydin Suleymanli, who inscribed his name in chess history with his recent achievements. Aydin Suleymanli is the only chess player with a rating below 2500 points who won in the international tournament Aeroflot Open 2020 at the age of 14. Demonstrating a great game against his rivals (all with a rating of 2600+), Suleymanli achieved another success. In 2019, in India, Aydin won the title of world champion among chess players of 14 years. At the same time, as part of our youth team, he was awarded a gold medal at the World Chess Olympiad. Now the young chess player, who will be 15 years old the other day, must continue to work hard to become a member of the national team of Azerbaijan in the future.
We met with Aydin Suleimanli and talked with him about plans for the future.
"Congratulations! Can you tell us about the Aeroflot Open 2020 tournament?"
"It was both interesting and difficult. I used to play in competitions with older people. But it was the strongest competition that I have ever played in before. The Aeroflot Open 2020 is held as a festival. Participants are distributed by age and rating for tournaments A, B, C. Since I was 14 years old, the organisers did not allow me to participate in the main tournament. This became possible only after the official written appeal of the Azerbaijan Chess Federation.
"To perform at the tournament among the strongest was a huge responsibility. I did not expect to win. Just joined the competition for a higher rank after a series of victories."
"Which game was the most difficult?"
"The one with a higher-ranking representative of India Rameshbabu Pragnanandha in the third round. I competed with him playing white and made a draw."
"In the fifth round, you met with the Armenian chess player Hayk Martirosyan. Was there any kind of principle in the game with this opponent?"
"I would not say that. My main goal was to win my rivals. I played with white pieces, and recorded a draw. Although I was not among the favourites of the tournament, with each round the rivals took me more seriously. I am happy that I won the tournament."
"In the last game, you played against a member of the Azerbaijani national team, European champion Rauf Mammadov. How difficult was the game?"
"Before the start of the game, both of us were extremely excited. I would become the winner even if we tied. Rauf had an advantage because he played with white pieces. Mammadov immediately rushed to the attack. I defended myself. It turned out pretty well. Seeing that we were on an equal footing, he offered a draw. I agreed."
"Perhaps Rauf tried to encourage you?"
"No. Everyone dreams of victory. After the game, he congratulated me with my victory."
"Last year in India you became the world champion among juniors. In Turkey, you also became the winner of the World Chess Olympiad among juniors. After winning the Aeroflot Open 2020, can we expect that now we will see you in adult competitions as well?"
"I will try. I will take part in the national championship among men. This time the tournament will be held in a circular system."
"How did you find the congratulatory message from President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva after winning the gold medal at the Junior World Championships in India?"
"I cannot express my feelings in words. After the competition, I received many congratulations. Congratulations from Mr. President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva further increased my responsibility. In Azerbaijan, chess players have always enjoyed attention and care. This congratulation is a special event for me. This means that the head of state is interested in my game, watching the competition. I will try in the future to justify my hopes. Seizing this opportunity, I would like to express gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva for their attention."
"Who are your main idols in chess?"
"Norwegian Magnus Carlsen and Shahriyar Mammadyarov. I have not met with Carlsen yet, but I lost to Mammadyarov at one of the tournaments. Both are among the strongest chess players in the world."
"What is your next goal?"
"I want to become a world champion. But this will not be possible soon. I need time, and I have to try even harder."
"Thank you for the interview."