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.

18137 reads 137 comments
10 votes


  • 5 years ago


    Unfortunately, here it comes again: politics interferes with the most noble human activities.

    Aronian's position is definitely understandable and gets my empathy, especially as it's argumented seriousely and leaving politics aside.

    From the other hand, FIDE (GENS UNA SUMUS) can't conduct its activities based on political circumstances, and any sportsman has to know how to compete in more or less hostile environment (given his personal security is guaranteed by the organizers)

    Thus, I believe the best way is to take Aronian's letter to be one of - but definitely not the major - factor in taking decision where to hold the tournament.

  • 5 years ago



    Where from comes this conclusion ?
    " Is he suggesting that Azerbeijan should not be given the chance to host because there is tention between these two countries? "

     Please read attentively..
    He just sais that will not participate if it will be held in Azerbaijan.
    Just it! And he is doing great choice.
    You will judge in another way if as an Armenian will enter Azerbaijan.

  • 5 years ago


    Since Aronian sounds serious, I guess the real issue is whether or not FIDE wants to face the prospect of another WCC without a top ranked challenger. With all due respect to Mr. Gelfand, almost everybody is disappointed in the match-up for the upcoming WCC. Anyway, is it a real possibility that Azerbaijan will host this thing? BTW, if FIDE is interested, I'll make a bid to host it myself! They can play in my backyard......

  • 5 years ago



    I perceived Levon Aronian as a  Cool and Collective GM. And Gentleman. I am somewhat surprised of what he is saying here. Is he suggesting that Azerbeijan should not be given the chance to host because there is tention between these two countries?

    That is just ridiculous because Chess, Sport and Art are elements and perhaps best tools to use to bring people together. He should be upfront  to advocate this.

  • 5 years ago


    @EnterTheDragon I think you are misjudging two dramatically different categories. Anyone is at liberty to express respect – including offering an outgoing hat – whether the subject to respect asks for it or not. However, offering the “benefit of doubt” is suitable for someone who is being asked for forgiveness or mercy.  Aronyan is a chess player. He plays it out of love to the game and not to entertain anyone else. Nor anyone here are his customers. Aronyan and the rest of the guys of his ilk offer you and me tremendous joy through the demonstration of the mysteries of the game. I think that as free riders of that benefit you and I obtain from them, we can at least demonstrate some intellectual, spiritual and ethical humility. 

  • 5 years ago


     @MJermak  My impression is, the players don't owe you anything nor ask for favors. Therefore, your offering to them your outgoing hat is misplaced. 

  • 5 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Well, it's not like Aronian is demanding something or acting like a spoiled brat, like some people have mentioned. It's hard to judge someone else's feelings. Maybe he is indeed very concerned about the atmosphere are Azerbaijan, and it is his right to choose whether to compete or not. He simply informed FIDE about his decision and hopes that it will be taken into account. In other words, ceteris paribus a neutral ground should be chosen. However, if there is no choice, FIDE will probably ignore his request, which would be quite sad.

  • 5 years ago


    My impression is, Aronyan doesn't owe you anything nor asks for favors. Therefore, your offering of him the benefit of doubt is misplaced. 

    If the tournament was held in Armenia, hardly the Azeri players would find a lost love there. However, they will be treated with utmost respect, as they should be. They are great players and, personally, I can say, my hat goes out for them.

    Armenians have fought their war in the battlefield.  Fighting it over the chess board or against chess players is out of character.

    Finally, Armenia has not made any claims on hosting the world championship in Yerevan. Therefore, your question is at best rhetoric.  When they make such a claim, you can, perhaps, then unleash your wrath.   

  • 5 years ago



    Well, in Armenia he of course would not have a problem. He is Armenian...

    There an Azerbaijan player would have problems (for ex. Radjabov)

  • 5 years ago


    What if the candidate matches will take place in Armenia? Would he feel the same, if one of the Azerbaijan players joining? I don't think so.. But, since every person has it's own right to express his/her opinion, let's give Levon a benefit of the doubt...

  • 5 years ago


    What a clown.

  • 5 years ago


    Well there are only two places on earth Aronian can't go, one is Azerbaijan and two is Gormally's home.

  • 5 years ago


    Chess is one of the most noble human endevors, and definitely politics should not be a driver in making such decisions. But this – in an ideal world. Those who think that Aronyan’s motivations are politically driven do not see beyond their noses or have never botherd to study history, or are young enough to remember the politics surrounding chess as well as the hostory of the region.  

    It would be absolutely impossible for Aronyan to play a game in Azerbaijan.  He would need a special police protection, as all other Armenian sportsmen  in the past have been under while competing in Azerbaijan. But even that would not help.  He would be constantly harassed, threatened, booed, put under enormous psychological stress. It would not be surprising, if even bottles of Avian would be thrown at him while playing – and this is to the least.  I don’t believe that his life would be endangered. But for a chess player to be able to put forward his best game, he would need more than assurances of his life being protected.

    This atmosphere certainly has a deep history.  However, to explain this by the sheer history is an expression of ignorance or, under the best case scenario, lack of information. People of Armenian origin are being escorted out even from the connecting flights of the Azerbajani Airlines…

    Armenophobia is a state policy in Azerbaijan and the state TV, virtually the entire media, the schools – starting from the elementary, are contaminated with antiarmenian venom.

    But more than that… Given the sensitivies, given the state of the affairs between the two nations, the fact that some of the leading contenders of the title for the champinship are of Armenian and Azerbaijani background and citizenship, given the propaganda war Azerbaijan has unleased against Armenia,  under normal circumstances it is even not proper for Azerbaijan to content for hosting the championship, unless… it is being used as a ploy to eliminate a major [Armenian] player from the tournament in favor of, perhaps, Azerbaijani players… Talking about politics, this is the real politics of the Azeraijani initiative and one should check the money trail...

    While I agree that there should be no place for politics in chess, but give me a break… chess has always been an arena of clash of political priorities and propaganda. In Soviet era, chess in the USSR, and the majority of world’s best players then were Soviet Citizens, was a KGB prerogative.

    Unfortunately, chess is a national brand, it is a national identity, it is an issue of national flag – not by my own approval, per se, but as an established fact.

    Now, it remains to hope that FIDE will not be subjugated to such curruption – not that I think highly of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov


    Now let me ask a rhetorical question… how does a person like this become the President of FIDE and holds the position for this long?  

  • 5 years ago


    I totally share Levon's point of view. we all know that chess is a game where a little exterior concern can ruin everything specially for high ranked players such as Levon. despite of all guarantees that azeris can assure, Levon's games will be affected if played there.

  • 5 years ago


    well, Radjabov is a good pal of Aronian

  • 5 years ago


    eliko, you dared to oppose the genius :O

  • 5 years ago


    Mr Elikoyevich, it seems you are not correct. 


    Armenian minister of Foreign affairs 3 days ago:

    Azerbaijanis even do not let any person with Armenian origin to enter to their republic. And we have many such examples then even the citizen of another country with Armenian origin is forbidden to enter to Azerbaijan.”


    Wikipedia has this to say:


    The two countries are still technically at war and the Azerbaijani government regularly threatens to retake Nagorno-Karabakh by military force, if mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group does not succeed.[2]

    Citizens of the Republic of Armenia, as well as citizens of any other country who are of Armenian descent, are forbidden entry to the Republic of Azerbaijan. If a person's passport shows any evidence of travel to Nagorno-Karabakh, barring a diplomatic passport, they are forbidden entry to the Republic of Azerbaijan.[3]



    I think Aronian makes a valid point and I hope Fide takes it into consideration.

  • 5 years ago


    if i was aronian i would do the same i think:)

    he just dont care if he is objectively safe or not....he says that even if he is safe he would feel threatened and this threat ( FEAR ) would not allow him to play at his best level. I totaly agree....he is just a chess player who wants to play chess and if this not possible somewhere he will go elswhere....simply as that. I WOULD DO THE SAME. I DONT CARE ABOUT ANY POLITICAL AND STUPID EXTREMISTS...I CARE ABOUT MYSELF.

  • 5 years ago


    Dear Friends,

    I read about concerns of Mr.Aronian and the comments others have made; and would like to add some remarks too. First: despite the existence of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the latter has 20,000 Azeri citizens with Armenian origin. I do not agree with GENIUS KJ that it is forbidden by law for Armenians to enter the country; Second: Azerbaijan hosted different world championships so far in boxing, volleyball, wrestling and the Armenian presence was significant in all, especially at wrestling and boxing tournaments; Third: Azerbaijan as a member of European Council is a signatory to the European Convention on Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events with which it strictly complies; Fourth: in May of this year Azerbaijan will host Eurovision song contest where the Armenian side have agreed and already approved its participation. I hope the listed assurances have addressed your concerns at some point. 

  • 5 years ago


    I think that Aronian is  right, he's just fighting for equal conditions for everyone. I didn't find any trace of arogance in his letter. He's simply imforming FIDE that political tensions between Armenia and Azarbeijan make his participation impossible.

    As for the question should he play in Azarbrijan, I'll just ask you would any American (or cityzen of West European country) player feel safe in Teheran or North Korea? However, FIDE probably won't pay any attention to this, they'll just go for the money. (As history shows, FIDE did nothing when Israelis were forbiden to play in Libia or an Iranian player (Magemi?) couldn't get to Vas Vegas World Cup 2000).

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