IM (1998 – aged 12 years and 5 months); GM (2002 – aged 15 years 11 months).
Vugar Gashimov (Vüqar Həşimov) was born in Baku and learned the game from his father, a retired Army colonel and a candidate master, at the age of 6. He was one of several highly talented young grandmasters from Azerbaijan who came to prominence in world chess in recent years. Ill health, including epilepsy, brain tumors and high blood pressure, dogged him from 2000 onwards,forcing him out of competitive chess after Tata 2012, held at the beginning of that year. He passed away on 10 January 2014, aged 27.
<Age>: Gashimov was runner-up to Pentala Harikrishna at the World U10 championship in 1996 and also runner-up at the European U18 Championship 2001 with 7.5/11, a point behind Zviad Izoria. Two years later, he placed =3rd with 8.5/13 at the World Junior Championships (2003) behind Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergei Azarov and two years after that, he was outright 3rd behind Mamedyarov and Ferenc Berkes at the World Junior Championship (Boys) (2005).
<National>: FIDE reported that Gashimov won the Azerbaijan national championships of 1995, 1996 and 1998, (1) but these are likely to have been youth championships given his age at the time of these events. In 2001, he was =2nd behind Mamedyarov.
<Continental>: Gashimov’s inaugural participation in the European Individual Chess Championship (EICC) was auspicious, and as it turns out, his best effort in that event. The 15 year-old IM placed =6th at the EICC in 2002 with a stunning 8.5/13, including victories against Baadur Jobava and Levon Aronian. He also played in the 2003 EICC, scoring 7/13, and then went on with a solid 8/13 in the 5th Individual European Chess Championship (2004), a modest 5/10 at the 7th European Individual Championship (2006) and a reasonably strong 7/11 at the European Individual Championships (2007), which was the last time he played in this continental tournament.
<World>: As a nominee of one of the host cities, Baku, Gashimov participated in the inaugural FIDE Grand Prix cycle. In the Baku Grand Prix (2008), Gashimov finished undefeated with 8/13 and tied with Magnus Carlsen and Wang Yue for first place, winning nominal first place on tiebreak. His second effort at the FIDE Grand Prix (2008) in Sochi was not as successful, scoring 6.5/13 and placing =8th alongside Vassily Ivanchuk. His third GP participation in the series - Elista Grand Prix (2008) - was more successful, scoring 7.5/13 to place outright 4th. His final event in the 2008-10 Grand Prix series was FIDE Grand Prix (2010), where his 6.5/13 was sufficient for =7th. Overall, he scored 333.3 GP points for his best three results (Baku, Sochi and Astrakhan), placing 6th overall in the Grand Prix series which was insufficient for Gashimov to qualify for the next stage as only the first two places qualified for the World Championship Candidates (2011).
The World Cup (2009) was held during the Grand Prix series. He overcame Walaa Sarwat, Zhou Jianchao, Li Chao and Fabiano Caruana but lost in the tiebreaker of the quarter final to eventual finalist Ruslan Ponomariov. By reason of his rating, Gashimov qualified for the World Cup (2011), where he defeated Canadian IM Eric Hansen, Sergei Azarov, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Peter Heine Nielsen in the early rounds, but again lost in the quarter final to eventual finalist Ruslan Ponomariov.
He qualified to play in the 2012-13 Grand Prix series, but withdrew from competitive chess due to ill health. Gata Kamsky replaced him in the Grand Prix.
Gashimov’s first significant tournament success was to win the U16 Kasparov Cup in 1999, which he did with a round to spare. In 2002, the 15-year old IM earned his first GM norm when he won the category 7 Alushtinskaja Spring International held in Alushta, Ukraine, with 9.5/12, 2.5 points clear of the joint runners up, Russian GM Viktor Varavin and former Russian Champion, GM Veniamen Shtyrenkov. A few months later, in March 2002, he earned his 2nd GM norm when he won the category 9 Puchko Memorial, also held in Alushta, with 11/13, a full point ahead of fellow up-and-coming 15year-old Alexander Areshchenko. He won his 3rd GM norm at the 2002 EICC (see above).
The 19 year-old GM took clear first place at Acropolis 2005 with 6.5/9. In 2006, he was =2nd with 7/9, half a point behind Alexander Moiseenko, at the Cappelle la Grande (2006), and went one better in terms of placements in the following two editions of that event when he scored joint first places at the Cappelle la Grande (2007) and the Cappelle la Grande of 2008, both years with 7/9. He also won the 16th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival in August 2006.
More good results followed over the next five years. He came =2nd with Leinier Dominguez Perez at the category 15 Capablanca Memorial (2007) on 5.5/9, 2 points behind Ivanchuk, 1st at the International Open at Pontevedra in Spain 2007 with 7/9, =2nd with Carlsen and Kjetil A Lie with 7/9, half a point behind Moiseenko at the Arctic Chess Challenge (2007) in Tromso, Norway in August 2007; =3rd with 5.5/9 at the Casino de Barcelona (2007) in October behind Hikaru Nakamura and Dominguez, =2nd at the category 16 Reggio Emilio (2007) with 5.5/9, half a point behind Zoltan Almasi. =1st at the category 18 Karpov International (2008) with 5.5/9, =3rd at the Gibraltar Masters in 2009 with 7.5/10, half a point behind the co-leaders Vadim Milov and Peter Svidler, 2nd at the category 18 10th Karpov Tournament (2009) with 6/9, a point behind Alexander Motylev. He was somewhat less successful at Linares (2010) (4/10) and Nanjing Pearl Spring Tournament (2010) (4.5/10 (-1 =9)).
Gashimov won the category 18 Reggio Emilia (2010) with 6/9 on count back from Francisco Vallejo-Pons. 2012 saw him play his last tournament, which was the Tata Steel (2012).
Gashimov was a renowned rapid and blitz player. His rating at the ICC as a blitz player peaked at 3639 in February 2008 (userid: Diadematus) and he was at one stage the 2nd highest rated player in blitz behind Radjabov, and ahead of Nakamura. In Playchess, he was number 1 in bullet chess.
<Olympiads>: Gashimov competed in the Bled Olympiad (2002), the 36th Olympiad (2004), the 37th Chess Olympiad (2006) and the Olympiad (2008), scoring an individual silver medal for board three at the last-mentioned. He didn’t compete in the Chess Olympiad (2010) due to being dropped from the national team because of a dispute involving the team coach, Zurab Azmaiparashvili. (2), (2a) He also didn’t compete in the Chess Olympiad (2012) due to poor health (see below).
<World Team Championship>: Played board 1 for Azerbaijan at the World Team Championship (2010) and board 2 in the 2011 edition of the event.
<European Team Championship>: Gashimov represented Azerbaijan at the European Team Championships of 2001, and at the 15th European Team Championship (2005), the European Team Chess Championships (2007), the 17th European Team Championship (2009) and the European Team Championship (2011), playing board 2 in 2001, 2009 and 2011, and board 3 in 2005 and 2007. He won team bronze in 2007, team gold and individual silver in 2009, and team silver and individual bronze in 2011.
<European Club Cup>: Gashimov's first taste of the continental club competition was in the 21st European Club Cup (2005), when he played for the Marmaisspor Club, winning individual silver for the top board. His next participation in this event was for the Ashdod City Club during 2008 and in the European Club Cup (2009), winning the gold medal for board 2 in 2009.
<National Club and Team Championships>: Gashimov was a prolific team player in national club championships throughout Europe during the latter half of the first decade, scoring a stunning 11/11 in the 2005 Turkish Super League and following up with 10/11 in the 2006 Turkish Super League. He also played in the French Top 16 competition in 2006, 2008 & 2010, the Aragon team championship of 2006; the Iranian Super League in 2006 and 2007, the Spanish League (CECLUB) from 2007 until 2010 inclusive, the Russian Team Championship in 2008, the Israel National League in 2010, the Croatian Team Championship in 2010, and in the German Bundesliga in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Rating and Ranking:
Gashimov's final standard rating was 2737 and at the time of his death, was rated number 20 in the world. He was unrated in rapid and blitz chess as he withdrew from competitive chess before the recent reintroduction by FIDE of ratings for the rapid forms of the game. His highest rating was achieved in January 2012 when he reached 2761 and was ranked number 10, while his peak rank was number 6 in the world in November 2009 when he was rated 2758.
Gashimov started experiencing significant health problems in early 2000 when he underwent several brain operations in Turkey aimed at preventing epileptic seizures. He was absent from chess since Tata Steel 2012, and he never resumed playing although he planned to recommence in 2014. (5) He reported on Twitter in June 2012 that: “I already stopped believing that, once I will return to play chess again...” (3)
The following was reported from an Azeri Minister on News.Az in November 2012: “Youth and Sports Minister Azad Rahimov has talked about the chess player of the Azerbaijani team, Vugar Gashimov, who is undergoing medical treatment. "Vugar is assisted by the state. Until recently, he was treated in Switzerland. At the initial treatment he was allocated EUR 35,000. Now he is in Hamburg, Germany. I think that in the future, Vugar will not be left without government support," the minister said.” (4)
Gashimov was being treated in a clinic in Heidelberg in Germany when he unexpectedly passed away on 10 January 2014. (5)
Gashimov's elder brother and manager was Sarkhan Gashimov.
Testimonial, Eulogy and memorial
"...one of the most talented & original players I've met. Always friendly with everyone." - extract from the eulogy by Magnus Carlsen (6)
Eulogy by Gashimov's girlfriend: http://en.chessbase.com/post/rememb...
Soon after Gashimov's death, the Azeri Chess Federation organised the Gashimov Memorial Tournament to be held in Shamkir in Azerbaijan in April 2014. It appears that the tournament will be a category 22 tournament that includes the World Champion Magnus Carlsen as well as Caruana, Nakamura, Karjakin, Mamedyarov, and Radjabov.
Sources and footnotes:
Wikipedia article: Gashimov; Live ratings: http://www.2700chess.com/; FIDE top list record of Gashimov: http://ratings.fide.com/top_files.p...; (1): http://grandprix.fide.com/vugar-gas...; (2): http://www.chessvibes.com/reports/u...; (2a) http://www.chessintranslation.com/2...; (3 ): https://twitter.com/dia_dematus/sta...; (4): http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com.au/...; (5) http://en.apa.az/news/205488; (6) https://twitter.com/intent/user?ori...