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Radjabov, Old Salt

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Perusing Baku Today, as I am wont to do, turned up this brevity on Teimour Radjabov being named a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for Azerbaijan. His focus will be on universal iodization of salt, still a big issue in many nations. Always good to see a top player getting involved with something outside of the chess world. Karpov has long been affiliated with UNICEF.

I'm always curious about how famous chessplayers are in their home countries, although this is a non-issue in most places. Countries that cover chess results in the sports pages are in a different category. Any time a country not used to the limelight produces a world-class star in any field they usually become a big hero at home, even if there is typically little national interest in what the person does. More rarely this happens in major nations, e.g. Fischer and Anand, who have booms named after them.


I love the term "major nations." Much of the world is obviously minor, of course, which is clear from the majorest nation of all, Canada.

Meaning countries used to the limelight for various things, including sports.

I just had a conversation the other day in which we concluded Keres was probably the most famous Estonian ever.

Unless, of course, it's Ireland and the sport/game is checkers. Patricia Breen is the World Ladies Champion, but nobody here knows her. There have been a couple of short articles in the county newspaper where she grew up. That's it.

The composer Arvo Part perhaps? Not as established as Keres of course, but his fame seems to be rising quickly.

I have to ask you to confirm that your esteemed conversation partners were a) Estonian b) not chess players.

You of course know that Estonians won the most prestigious cross-country races (both Men's and Women's) in Turin Olympics.

Wasn't Mart Poom a keeper for Arsenal at one point?

Anyway, I agree about Keres, but then I am severely biased here. What if I were a painter (like Kramnik)?

Here is the web page with all the famous estonias to choose from for the title of the most famous: http://shaan.typepad.com/shaanou/2004/08/famous_estonian.html

On the matter of actually asking Estonians... I suspect most people around the world would consider Stalin or Lenin to be the most famous Russians, with Ivan the Terrible or Tolstoy (or even Gorbachov ???) also in the running. A Russian would object that wasn't even Stalin (Dzhugashvili) or even russian. Lenin wasn't even Lenin (Ulianov) and Gorbachov is just a provincial peasant who got lucky. Instead, Peter the Great or Pushkin would be worthy cadidates.

See here: http://shaan.typepad.com/shaanou/2004/08/famous_estonian.html for other Estonians to choose from. Of course the answer should be clear for all of us here...It's the Estonian girls band Vanilla Ninja! (I kid you not).

Wikipedia has a good list, but it's "notable" Estonians and so much longer. Much, much longer.


An Estonian was present, and not a chessplayer. Also three Russians. He certainly didn't take it as something bad to have Keres as #1. There are certainly dozens of countries that have never produced anyone of similar global renown.

Wikipedia list of Latvians
has three chess players. Outnumbered by hockey players (4), though, but more than soccer players (2) :)
None of them would probably qualify for the Most Famous Latvian Ever.

Congratulations to Radjabov! Being a UNICEF representative at his age requires a lot of responsibility and will probably teach him how to conduct himself with the ease and dignity of a real celebrity, which, sadly, is not a common trait among chessplayers. I wish him all the best in his new occupation!

Yeah, Kasparov could have benefited from a tour of duty on UNICEF or some comparable character-building venture. Just look up on Chessbase or elsewhere how Kasparov behaved in public 3 years ago after Radjabov's defeat of him got awarded a prize for the best game in Linares. Russell Crowe, Dennis Rodman or Michael Jackson would have been hard-pressed to outdo Garry. "The ease and dignity of a real celebrity??" Yeah, right.

Isn't Keres the only chessplayer whose face appears on his country's currency? That won't likely be matched for a while.

Yah, the 5 krooni note. Shirov gave me one years ago; I still have it. A pic of one here:


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 9, 2006 6:29 PM.

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