Armenia Wins Gold again in Chess Olympiad

By Tatevik Lazarian, and Harry Tamrazian

DRESDEN, Germany (RFE/RL) — The Armenian Men’s Chess Team repeated its win of two years ago at the biannual World Chess Olympiad on November 25.

The news sparked celebrations among chess fans in Yerevan and throughout Armenia.

Many fans had followed live the final-round action between Armenia and China in a closely-packed Chess House in central Yerevan. The long-awaited victory was met with prolonged jubilations.

Armenia’s men’s chess team, who won the previous World Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy, in 2006, beat China 2.5-1.5 in the 11th and final round of the tournament to secure an overall victory in Dresden.

Grandmaster Levon Aronian, Armenia’s current No. 1, drew with China’s Wang Yu on the top board, with Vladimir Hakobian, Gabriel Sargsian and Tigran L. Petrosian finishing the job, respectively, against Bu Xiangzhi, Ni Hua and Li Chao B. Armenia’s only winning point, however, came from Petrosian on the fourth board.

Armenian Chess Federation Deputy President Vanik Zakarian described the win as fantastic for a small country like Armenia.

“It is a very amazing result, a fantastic result,” he commented.

President Serge Sargisian, who also heads Armenia’s Chess Federation, has been in Dresden since Monday to encourage the team before the crucial match against China.

According to Zakarian, Sargisian had made the symbolic first move for Aronian, who played with black pieces. Before that, World Chess Federation (FIDE) President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov did the same on behalf of Aronian’s Chinese opponent.

“Our team had been seeded as ninth at this Olympiad. But there is no other team among the Olympiad participants that would have the same solidarity and level of organization. The victory comes very natural,” Zakarian added.

Armenians have traditionally excelled in chess, which is one of the most popular sports in the country.

The FIDE general assembly announced Monday that the 2012 Olympiad would be held in Istanbul, Turkey. The 2010 Olympiad is scheduled to take place in Khanty-Maniysk, Russia.