the cleverest nation on earth
Armenia, a tiny, poor country of around three million people, has won the chess
Olympics twice in a row. In so doing, it has triumphed over giants like Russia,
China and the US. Chess is pursued fanatically in many parts of the world, but
nowhere more so than Armenia, where its over-the-board stars have become national
But how has little Armenia created a nation of chess geniuses; is there something
in the water? Assignment investigates.
Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Armenia today is a unitary, multiparty,
democratic nation-state in a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus
region of Eurasia. Situated at the juncture of Western Asia and Eastern Europe,
it is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Azerbaijani
exclave of Nakhchivan to the south.
Armenia has an ancient and historic cultural heritage. The Kingdom of Armenia
was the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion in the early years
of the 4th century. The modern Republic recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church
as the national church of Armenia, although the republic has separation of church
The top player today in Armenia is Levon Aronian, who turns 28 just after the
Chess Olympiad in Khanty Mansiysk (6th October is his birthday. His current
Elo rating is 2783, making him number four behind Carlsen, Topalov and Anand.
Aronian won the
FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2009, qualifying him for the Candidates tournament
for the World Chess Championship 2012.
Lev visiting our ChessBase office last year
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, June 17, 1929 – August 13, 1984, was World
Chess Champion from 1963 to 1969. He was nicknamed "Iron Tigran" due
to his playing style because of his almost impenetrable defence, which emphasised
safety above all else. He was a Candidate for the World Championship eight times:
1953, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1971, 1974, 1977 and 1980, winning the title in 1963
against Botvinnik and successfully defending it in 1966 against Spassky, against
whom he lost it in 1969. Petrosian was arguably the hardest player to beat in
the history of chess.
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