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.

18147 reads 137 comments
10 votes


  • 5 years ago


    I think Mr. Aronian should also question his own country's policies in terms of world peace. It is indeed a shame that a chess master cannot exhibit his talents peacefully because of states hostile situations but; what if the Candidates Tournament had been held in Armenia? Would he be happy for exclusion of Radjabov? He should be acting like a professional, I think.

  • 5 years ago


    Hold the match in Argentina or Norway...There is a history of bad blood between the azeris and Armenians and the Turks and Armenians...It has not abated if history is any indication...

  • 5 years ago


    Ah, the good old times when Stalin would put a quick end to such petty disputes between soviet brothers. Lol!

  • 5 years ago


    So, consider this as an olive branch from an Armenian, and may the game of chess prosper :) 

  • 5 years ago


    Dear  edward_glyver. Aremnopedia doesn't matter. You can read the outside references there - all of them are independent sources.  While, the material generally condemns Armenians, and definitely the loss of civilian life should be condemned under any circumstances, however reading the material anyone, at least the ones who love chess, can discern that the civilians were used as human shield.

    All I can add on the subject is, I feel sorry for these people and their loved ones. 

    As to the Azerbaijani government making Aronian feel home, well... the onus is on the Azerbaijani government.  Want to bet a bottle of good wine that it won't happen? ;) 

  • 5 years ago


    @MJermak, Armenia took part in the Khojaly massacre, why would you think that armeniapedia.org would offer proper/neutral sources/references? Anyway, blaming the Armenians of our time or hating an Armenian (e.g. Levon) because of the Khojaly masssacre is like blaming the contemporary Germans for what Hitler did. I, for one, have huge respect for Levon and would be pleased to see him playing chess in Azerbaijan. The politics are usually (and especially in this case) despicable and shouldn't stay in the way of chess. I think the tournament should be held in Azerbaijan and Levon should be convinced to go. The Azerbaijani government should take the responsibility to make Levon feel at home.


    P.S. You're right about the president of Azerbaijan. You might be right, that any Azeri of good will is welcome in Azerbaijan, but same is true for Armenians. My family interacts with a lot of Armenians, in Azerbaijan, Russia and even the Netherlands. Except for the government and some nationalists, the people of Azerbaijan have nothing against contemporary Armenians. It's the government that wants to keep the animosities alive and I beg you not to judge the people of Azerbaijan by what its government does. I'd say we Azeris hate our government even more than Armenians do, for a lot of things.

  • 5 years ago


    as long as the live coverage in the right time zone anything else is ok Innocent

  • 5 years ago


    why not stage the tournament in the Phiippines, it's more fun hereCool

  • 5 years ago


    Actually, if one has to discuss Khodjaly Massacre even at a chess board, this gives one a little taste of what awaits Aronian in Baku. 

    As to Khodjalu, undoubtedly a human tragedy, perhaps a bit more neutral information, with proper references, is suitable: 


    War is ugly in the first place. But using your own people as human shield is several times uglier...

    P.S. @Edward Glyver I share your sentiment on ending the animosity. Many of us, Armenians do. But it is redundant today to talk about it, if resumption of war is a daily treat from the mouth of the president of Azerbaijan. While I am not entitled to extending invitation on behalf of others, I know for sure that any Azeri of good will is welcome to visit Armenia – be it for chess or any other noble endeavor. I wish the situation was analogous with Azerbaijan. This forum is about chess and the conversation is about Aronian not feeling safe – be it psychologically or otherwise – to attend a tournament in Baku. I think this forum  should not be denigrated to the level of dissemination of mutual hate speeches, or become an extension of an unfortunate war. 

  • 5 years ago


    (God I hate to do this)

    @All Armenians on this website who claim Azeris are dangerous savages, take a look at what Armenians have done:








    You are no saints either, but I think pointing with the finger and accusing the others is stupid. I'm an Azeri and I disapprove the wars, even tensions between the two countries. There is no reason Armenians and Azeris should remain enemies, they were just puppets in the political plays of Russia who pursued an unstable Karabakh region. I think the only reasonable thing is a peace (war is obsolete & medieval), for which such chess tournaments can constitute the foundation. Unfortunately I can't do anything for Levon, but if I were able I'd do anything to receive them friendly and provide them with favourable and psychologically adequate atmosphere in Azerbaijan. The animosity between the Azeris and the Armenians should end!


  • 5 years ago


    @cemsavas: interesting how someone from Turkey can speak about "One of the most prominent massacres of Armenians"...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide says enough I think?

  • 5 years ago


    Maybe Lithuania? With little prize fond 10 000 000 EUROS,but You, Lev (LION must play vs Magnus (KING of rating)....I will play vs WINNER .Go on !

  • 5 years ago


    20% of Azerbaijan land is invaded by Armenia, Armenia has no right to occupy another country's land in the first place besides Armenians have committed great atrocities in Azerbaijan killing thousands of innocent civilians:

    One of the most prominent massacres of Armenians took place in Khojaly if anyone is interested link is below: 


  • 5 years ago


    Why not have the Candidates at a neutral European country or Russia or US for that matter?

  • 5 years ago


    Instead of wild speculation, and a few Americans proudly showing their ignorance of the matter at hand, I recommend this link, which shines some light into the matter.


    The following link is also quite interesting, as it shows some light between the sporting relations, and what kind of a welcome Aronian could expect.


  • 5 years ago


    Radjabov will be the Azerbaijan player?

  • 5 years ago


    In order to find more information why Azerbaijan is dengerous place (at least for armenians) you can just search "baku 1988"  or "sumgayit 1988" in your favorite serach system..

    Libia, Afganistan or Burkina Faso would be better choice for Aronian....

  • 5 years ago


    I think that Aronian could't say, obviosly, that he wouldn't play in his country (can have a player from Azerbaijan; someone say, Radjabov), but any country where it evolve any conflict wouldn't be candidates to Tournements of so importance (like Egipt and many others). To me, and the game of chess need this, all international tornements would be like a trophy to countrys who live in peace.

  • 5 years ago


    How Aronian can play in a country where a lot of Armenians were killed recently (Sumgait 1988).Even now they havn't stopped. Hey world open your eyes........please! We need your help people of this planet.

  • 5 years ago


    BTW: Ivanchuk has been in Nagorno Karabakh and its forbidden to him enter Azerbayjan according the low they have..
    Any person hwo visited Nagorno Karabakh is persona non grata in Azerbaijan 

    they are funny :)

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