ISTANBUL and YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow) — Armenian chess players returned home to a heroes’ welcome after winning the 40th World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday.
President Serge Sargisian personally went to the airport on Monday to meet the chess players who won Armenia’s third Olympic gold, matching the result so far achieved by only two nations in the world — the Soviet Union (which does not exist anymore) and its legal successor, Russia.
Speaking at a ceremony organized at his residence in honor of the team, Sargisian said that this latest chess victory once again shows that while Armenians can be strong individually, they can also be strong as a team.
“This is a message to all of us as to how each of us should be working in their own place,” said Sargisian, who also heads the Armenian Chess Federation.
For their “brilliant victory” at the World Chess Olympiad and promoting the image of Armenia abroad, the five members of the team and its coach received awards from the president.
Armenia’s coach Arshak Petrosyan and leading Grandmaster Levon Aronian were awarded with St. Mesrop Mashtots Orders, while Grandmasters Vladimir Akopian, Sergei Movsesian, Tigran Petrosian and Gabriel Sargissian received Orders of Honor. A number of chess officials also received medals from the president for promoting the sport in Armenia.
In a short speech Aronian, speaking on behalf of the team, said they were humbled by the warm feelings towards them from the people and state officials and thanked the president personally for his support and promotion of chess.
Sargisian replied, “The best way for you to thank me will be winning the world champion’s title.”
Aronian, who is currently ranked second in the world by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), will engage in an eight-man tournament in London next March to determine the challenger of the reigning World Chess Champion from India, Viswanathan Anand, in the match for the chess crown later in 2013.
About 150 nations competed in the championship in Turkey. The organizers of the 40th World Chess Olympiad raised the Armenian flag and played the Armenian anthem as the Armenian men’s team stood on the podium having accepted the trophy from FIDE President Kirlan Ilyumzhinov.
This is the third Olympic win for Armenia that first won the Olympic gold in Turin, Italy, in 2006 and then repeated the success two years later in Dresden, Germany.
The tournament in Istanbul began well for the Armenian team as Aronian and his teammates gained five victories in the first five rounds of the tournament. Days 6 and 7 proved the toughest for the team as they first had to work hard to achieve a draw against the strong Russian quartet and then dropped the match against China. Those eventually proved the only points missed during the whole Olympiad. Having beaten Hungary in the 11th and final round of the competition Armenia gained 19 points (same as Russia) and was declared the winner due to having better additional performance showings than the Russians.
Aronian and Akopian also took gold and silver medals, respectively, for their individual performances on boards #1 and #3.
Aronian shared his joy with fans through his Twitter account.
“We won the Olympiad !! So proud to be a part of a team like this! Hurray hurray hurray! Armenia rules !!!!” Aronian wrote.
The Armenian women’s chess team, meanwhile, finished sixth among 126 nations. They placed 11th at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, two years ago.