Woman's Chess in the Republic of Georgia

Sam Sloan
One Campus Place
Brooklyn NY 11208

(718) 827-7422

October 24, 2000

Anna Campione
Consular Associate
United States Embassy
Tbilisi, Georgia

Re: Sophio Soziashvili

Dear Ms. Campione,

I am writing you in support of request for a visitor's visa for Sophio Soziashvili. Sophio Soziashvili is presently an intern in the field of dentistry, having completed schooling in dental colleges in Germany and the Republic of Georgia. She previously visited America on a tourist visa, having arrived in America on July 31, 1998, and she returned to Georgia within the period of time allotted.

However, I know Sophio Soziashvili in her capacity as a chess player and I would like to say something about that.

The Republic of Georgia is famous for its female chess players. Nobody can agree on the reason for this, but Georgian women have dominated the top ranks of women's chess for decades. Every two years, the Soviet Union sent a woman's team to the World Chess Olympiad. Invariably, all or almost all the women on the team were Georgian. The Georgian women won the world chess championship every two years until they were finally defeated by a team consisting of three Polgar sisters from Hungary in 1988. However, they came back again, winning the Woman's World Chess Olympiad in 1992, 1994 and 1996, but playing as a Georgian team, not as a USSR team.

For a period of 30 years, the title of Woman's World Chess Champion was held by a Georgian woman. Nona Gaprindashvili held the title from 1962 until 1978, when she was finally defeated by 17-year-old Maya Chiburdanidze, who held the title until 1991.

Not only that, but almost all of the top contenders for that title were also Georgian women. The world champion had to defend her title in a match every two years. Most of these World Championship matches were held in Tbilisi, for the simple reason that usually both the title-holder and the official challenger were from there. Nana Alexandria, another Georgian woman, played two matches for the woman's world championship, but lost both times. Other Georgian women who won the right to play matches for the world championship were Elena Akhmilovskaya and Nana Ioseliani.

I am presently here in Tbilisi, Georgia as a chess journalist. I have written numerous articles on woman's chess and of course my articles have of necessity always mentioned Georgia, since the Georgian women have dominated woman's chess for so many years.

I am presently here in Tbilisi for just one week. I am on my way to the World Chess Olympiad which will take place in Istanbul, Turkey from October 28 to November 12.

This year, for the first time, the Georgian women are not the top ranked women in the world. The Chinese have taken over that spot. If you will look at the Internet at the web site at http://www.worldfide.com/fide/html/top50women.html you will see that among the top 50 ranked women chess players in the world, only six are Georgian whereas ten are Chinese. There are also six Russian women, but in general the Russian women are ranked much lower on the list than the Georgians, and there are five Ukrainians and five Yugoslavs. Only one USA woman is on the list, and she is 49th out of 50.

However, most of these Chinese girls are newcomers to the top-50 list and have never played in a chess tournament outside of China. There is doubt as to whether they are really as strong as their ratings indicate, especially since a Georgian woman, Nino Khurtsidze, just won the World Cup in Beijing, China a few weeks ago, finishing ahead of all of the Chinese women, and Nino Khurtsidze is only ranked number four among women in Georgia.

You will be able to find out more about Woman's Chess in Georgia on the web site at http://www1.worldfide.com/batumi/georgia.html

The reason I know Sophio Soziashvili is that she was a top ranked woman in her age group. At the age of only nine years old, she achieved the ranking of first category. When she was fourteen, she won the title of candidate master of chess. However unlike other Georgian women who have become full time professional chess players, she decided to continue her schooling. As a result, she is no where near to being on the Georgian Woman's Team, which is an all-grandmaster team.

Nevertheless, she is a brilliant and talented young woman.

I am well aware that the standard to be applied in visa applications is whether the individual will return to her country after a visit to the United States. I am confident that she will return within whatever time is allotted, for the following reasons:

1. She went to America before and came back.

2. She has completed schooling in dentistry, but she still needs one year more of internship until she becomes a qualified dentist. It would be foolish for her to abandon her years of training as a dentist by overstaying her visa in the USA.

3. She is well aware that if she overstays her visa, it will not only hurt her personally but will hurt other Georgian chess players who might be applying for a USA visa in the future.

For myself, I will say that I would not be willing to help her obtain a USA visa if I were not confident that she would return to Georgia, because that would adversely hurt other persons in the future that I might be trying to help.

I have already purchased a round trip airplane ticket for Sophio Soziashvili to fly to America and back. A photocopy is enclosed. She will be accompanying me to the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. The ticket provides the following itinerary:

Leave Tbilisi, Turkish Airlines flight 1387Y on 28 October 2000. Arrives Istanbul at 6:35 the same day.

Leave Istanbul, Turkish Airlines flight 1Y on 12 November 2000. Arrives New York JFK Airport the same day.

Leave New York Turkish Airlines flight 2Y 28 November 2000. Arrives Istanbul the same day.

Leave Istanbul Turkish Airlines flight 1386Y on 28 November 2000. Arrives Tbilisi the same day.

Frankly, I purchased this ticket before I realized that it is becoming extremely difficult for Georgian nationals to obtain a USA visa. I did not think that there would be a problem, because I recently helped two other young male Georgian players, both of whom are International Masters of Chess, when they arrived in New York last June. Their names are Valerian Gaprindishvili and Giorgi Bakhtadze and both of them have since returned, although one of them is playing in Europe. I did not help them obtain a visa, as I did not even know them until they arrived in the USA, but I did help them gain entry into chess tournaments.

Therefore, I hope and believe that you will see fit to grant Sophio Soziashvili a tourist visa to visit the USA.

Very Truly Yours,

Sam Sloan

FIDE List of 50 Top Ranked Woman Chess Players contains players from the following countries:

China 10, Georgia 6, Russia 6, Ukraine 5, Yugoslavia 5, Hungary 3, Romania 2, Germany 2, Poland 2, Sweden, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Moldova, England, Netherlands, India, Bosnia, USA one each

Here are links:
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