Road to Samarkand

An article by: Francesco Lovati

Nodirbek Abdusattorov was born on June 18, 2004 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He was one of the youngest players to ever become Grandmaster (at the age of 13), and by then he had won the “rapid” world championship, a silver medal, and a team gold medal at the Chess Olympiad.

At the age of just 9, he already amazed with his assurance and talent, winning the home open tournament in Tashkent where he was able to beat two grandmasters

Warsaw, December 2021. Nodirbek Abdusattorov has defeated Magnus Carlsen, the undisputed number one in chess, and Ian Nepomnyaschiy, effectively winning the world rapid chess championship.

“Abdu,” an Uzbek from Tashkent, is just 17 years old, but he already has the International Grandmaster title since 2017, when he was only 13. Thus, Uzbekistan witnessed the renaissance of its chess school, which throughout these years has raised champions like Georgiy Agzamov, Shamsiddin Vokhidov, Rustam Kasymzhanov.

But talks about Abdusattorov were going on for a while, as at the age of 9 he amazed with his assurance and talent, winning the home open tournament in Tashkent where he was able to beat two grandmasters. Later, in 2012, he became world champion among youngsters, and in 2021, as mentioned earlier, he achieved victory in Warsaw in the “rapid” category (competition with 60 minutes per game time limit). The final consecration took place at the 2022 Olympiad in Chennai (India), where team Uzbekistan won the silver medal in individual competition and the gold for the team.

Today, at the age of 19, he ranks 21 on the world rating chart. Year 2023 started with another victory over Magnus Calrsen, the undisputed number one in the world for a whole decade. This performance made observers and enthusiasts discuss this discipline for a long time.

Javokhir Sindarov, Nodirbek Yakubboev, Shamsiddin Vokhidov, other Olympic champions – all were born after 2000

Generation of Phenomena

Chess has strongly taken root in Uzbekistan, a country where 3 players are among the world’s top 100: in addition to Abdusattorov, there are Rustam Kasymdzhanov and Javokhir Sindarov, another very young player (born in 2005).

But Abdusattorov is just the tip of the iceberg in the Uzbek chess movement. Javokhir Sindarov, Nodirbek Yakubboev, Shamsiddin Vokhidov, other Olympiad gold-medal winners – all were born after 2000. The state places high stakes on chess, which is evidenced by the programs launched for propagating this discipline in the country and by the investments aimed at supporting the chess movement, including hiring experienced coach Ivan Sokolov, a Bosnian with a huge chess background who is also a brilliant coach – he was the one who helped to raise Alireza Firouzja, a 10-year-old Iranian who today plays under the French flag and is ranked second on the international rating chart.

The chess team could be called a mirror of Uzbekistan, a young country with a good demographic and economic advance, which is preparing to play an increasingly important role in the economic roadmap of the future.

The primitive version of chess was played on this land as early as the 2nd century.

Passion that Stems from Far Away

In Tashkent, this “game” is taken very seriously; chess is a part of the country’s history and traditions, and the 2026 chess Olympiad will be hosted here. But this story comes from far away, very far away in time.

During the 1972 excavation in Dalvarzintep (Surkhandar Region), archeologists found chess pieces dated back to the Kushan period (1st-2nd centuries), and in 1977 in Afrosiab (Samarkand), they found 7 chess pieces dated 7th-8th centuries. Other discoveries related to this noble and ancient game were made in the 1990’s. So, basically, back in the second century, the primitive version of chess was played on this land. Instead of today’s pieces we find a chevalier, a shah, and other ancestors of our king, queen, bishop, knight, rook… It is from Samarkand, Bukhara, and other cities of Central Asia, along the Silk Road that the goods, knowledge, and culture used to pass in ancient times and where chess evolved and started spreading. Previously, the game was called Shatranj, as systematized by the Persian player and scholar al-Adli in the treatise Kitab ash-shatranj. This was in the 9th century, and al-Adli indicates Central Asia as the birthplace of this game, the basic culture of which very much resembles its today’s version. Evidence also exists of tournaments played particularly in Samarkand, and later they continue up to the Tamerlane era who, in turn, was an experienced player and whose name was used for the medieval version of the game – essentially “Tamerlane’s Chess”.

The 46th chess Olympiad will take place in 2026 in Uzbekistan

Tashkent 2026

“Our outstanding victory is the clear result of great care and attention devoted in our country to raising a sustainable generation, to popularizing physical education and sports, including chess”, explained President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoev to the young heroes of the 2022 Olympiad in Chennai. “I’m sure that our chess players will perform well and achieve high sporting goals at the 46th World Chess Olympiad that will take place in 2026 in Uzbekistan”.

It is during the tournament that the International Federation actually selected the candidate city Tashkent. Chess will return “home”, so Abdusattorov and his teammates will be prepared.


Francesco Lovati