Two key members of Armenia’s national chess team expressed confidence on Tuesday that it will retain its dominant positions in the game in the years to come after winning three of the last four world chess Olympiads.
Speaking at RFE/RL’s studio in Yerevan, Grandmasters Levon Aronian and Gabriel Sargsian pointed to their and their teammates’ young age and a younger generation of Armenian chess players doing well in international tournaments.
“There might be some changes in the team but the team will do very well for many years,” said Sargsian.
“I think the team is doing very well and we have no problems with age,” agreed Aronian, the team leader and the world’s second highest ranked chess player.
Aronian and Sargsian were only 23 years old when they helped to earn Armenia its first Olympic chess title in Turin in 2006. They both were part of the mostly unchanged teams that won two more Olympiads in Dresden, Germany in 2008 and in Istanbul on Sunday.
Vladimir Akopian, a 40-year-old native of Baku, is the oldest member of the current Armenian men’s team. Its two other players, Tigran Petrosian and Tbilisi-born Sergei Movsesian, are 28 and 33 respectively.
The five players and their coach Arshak Petrosian received a hero’s welcome on their return to Yerevan late on Monday. Hundreds of people gathered in the city’s Liberty Square to celebrate Armenia’s latest success in the ancient game.
Asked about the reasons for this spectacular winning streak, Aronian said, “First of all our team is strong, and we get stronger every year. Another reason is our friendship.”
Sargsian attributed the success to three individuals: Aronian, Arshak Petrosian and President Serzh Sarkisian, who heads the Armenian Chess Federation. “I really think that if one of them was not involved, we would not have achieved all this,” he said.
“He is being too modest,” countered Aronian, praising Sargsian’s contribution to the victories.
The Armenian team narrowly won the Istanbul tournament despite gaining as many points as Russia, a traditional chess heavyweight. It clinched the title thanks to additional coefficients tied to the individual records of its players.
“We knew that we needed a victory on the final day, but when we felt what we are winning [the last match with Hungary] we didn’t know the additional figures yet,” Aronian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “So I went back to the room and checked my phone. I had seven or eight missed phone calls and messages and immediately realized that whole Armenia has already calculated those coefficients and that we have won the Olympiad.”