Lev Aronian: I Won't Play In Azerbaijan

  • SonofPearl
  • on 2/2/12, 2:40 PM.

Armenian GM Lev Aronian, currently ranked #2 in the world and recent winner of the 2012 Tata Steel tournament has issued an open letter to FIDE making it clear that if Azerbaijan is chosen as the host country for the 2012 Candidates tournament, he feels unable to participate due to continuing tensions between the two countries.

So there is certainly a possibility that for the second candidates series in a row, a major player with winning ambitions will be absent from the event.

To: FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
FIDE Presidential Board Members

Dear Mr. President
Dear Presidential Board Members

I learnt from the media, that the Chess Federations of Azerbaijan and Bulgaria had submitted an application on holding the Candidates Tournament of World Championship.

I’d like to inform you that general atmosphere in Azerbaijan and continuous tensions between our countries make my participation in such high ranked tournament in Azerbaijan impossible. A responsible and important event, such as the Candidates Tournament, requires peace of mind and special concentration. No circumstances, if they are not chess-related, should prevent the grandmaster from demonstrating all of his skills.

Unfortunately, at this moment no Armenian can find favorable or adequate psychological atmosphere in Azerbaijan, whereas that is something absolutely necessary. In my opinion, all the participants should be in equal conditions, which is impossible in case of holding the tournament in Azerbaijan. Security guaranties and any kind of additional support cannot be a remedy.

Taking into account the above-mentioned considerations, I inform you that I would be delighted to take part in Candidates Tournament any other country, but my participation in the candidates tournament in Azerbaijan has to be excluded.

I hope you will take into account these considerations while discussing the issue of the tournament venue at the Presidential Board Meeting.

Thank you in advance and best regards,

GM Levon Aronian

The eight players expected to take part in the 2012 Candidates tournament are:

  • The loser of the Vishy Anand v Boris Gelfand world title match in 2012
  • The top 3 in the 2011 World Cup (Peter Svidler, Alexander Grischuk, Vassily Ivanchuk)
  • The top 3 players not already qualified (Magnus Carlsen, Lev Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik)
  • A nominee from the hosts (minimum 2700 Elo on the Jan 2012 list)

If the event is awarded to Azerbaijan and Lev Aronian declines to participate then his place will be taken by the player with the next highest average rating on the July 2011 and January 2012 rating lists, which appears to be Sergey Karjakin.


Photo by Fred Lucas.

18144 reads 137 comments
10 votes


  • 5 years ago


    Hey Bakuu Aronian is written with capital A.

  • 5 years ago


    I like Levon-he is absolutely RIGHT.Yes,of course.he is professional,but NOT SLAVE of Kirsan,and , of course ,he is MAN !

  • 5 years ago


    St. Louis, perfect site.

  • 5 years ago


    Ivanchuk cannot and will not be a wild card... he's already qualified lol

  • 5 years ago


    aronian is just a player not a professional , cause prof can take a play in every time and in everywhere. 

  • 5 years ago


    Aronian has no personal issues with Azeri chess professionals, he is on good terms with Radjabov, "Shak", and, I suppose, even Kasparov. One must also look back on the FIDE blunder of holding the "World Cup" in Libya, thus disqualifying players from Israel (according to Qaddafi, they had no intention of welcoming the "zionists") and creating a hostile environment for Jewish players who did participate. It is understandable that Aronian would not consider Azerbaijan as a place where he could give full effort and concentration. If Bulgaria is chosen, Topalov will be the FIDE wild card (although Karjakin, Ivanchuk, or Morozevich would be good choices, as well). So far, I like the cruise option the best as far as alternatives :) Seriously, Russia is a good choice as a neutral location (Yay Kalmakia...). The weird part is that I'm being both cynical and practical simultaneously...

  • 5 years ago


    +1 on cruise ship. Excellent idea!

  • 5 years ago


    There's no risk that Aronian will drop out of the cycle, remember the previous Candidates where Azerbaijan already had won the bidding and Aronian declared that he wouldn't play there. FIDE just switched the venue after the bidding was done and gave the event to Russia instead, so they won't give it to Azerbaijan this time either, now that they haven't even won the bidding yet and Aronian once again has made his position clear, in advance this time.

  • 5 years ago


    How about St. Loius? :)

    Okay wishful thinking... don't think we've reached that point yet but I hope eventually something like this can be held here.

  • 5 years ago


    I really don't like Aronian, however, he does have a point.  While it may be very difficult to find a venue that is equally fair to all the candidates it is unfair to ask Aronian to participate in an event where he is afraid for his well being.  Whether this fear is real or only perceived Aronian believes that his well being might be in danger and that in itself will affect his play.  

  • 5 years ago


    Two words: Cruise ship.

    Carnival Cruises, which is by far the largest cruise operator, has a black eye now because of its Italian ship debacle. 

    They could sponsor this for the publicity, and run it on one of their ships, spending most of the time in international waters.  Carnival has a huge advertising budget and this would be a tiny expense -- plus it has a lot of PR value.

  • 5 years ago


    Really it seems that Australia is the only neutral place everyone will be happy in.  (plus they will all be nice and warm).

  • 5 years ago


    Can't blame him. What other countries have applied?

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    I bet Bulgaria will get it and Topalov will be nominated.

  • 5 years ago


    I see sports as a way for two countries at odds to find common ground and foster respect and trust, to bring a human face to your enemy, but I do understand his point of view. I would not play a chess tournament in say North Korea or Iran both because of saftey and as a political statement. 

  • 5 years ago


    Aronian reminds me of Bobby Fisher when he was always complaining about where tournaments were to be held, he claimed he  would never be beaten in Greenland. But Aronian makes a good point that in order for the tournament to be fair it should be in a neutral as posible environment for all players, which it clearly is not, based on his strong feelings toward the tournamnet not being in Azerbaijan. Like the way he stood up for himself there, he's an hororable guy.

  • 5 years ago


    I heard from azerbaijani people that they hate Armenians. Actually Aronian is Armenian and there is no reason to go to Azerbaijan if there are so many beautiful countries in the world. 

  • 5 years ago


    Why can't the world be in peace?

  • 5 years ago


    I can appreciate Aronian's point, I'm avoiding going to the north pole and any desert, I can't stand large increases/decreases in temperature. Any country that is currently having a war in its own borders.

    I am suprised FIDE didn't wait until 2013 for the next canidates tournament, I thought they held them in the year in-between world title matches. Last time Magnus Carlsen opted out of the canidates matches, this time Aronian, is there a secret rule that one of the canidates cannot play? And perhaps they roll the dice to see who has to abstain from the match.

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