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.

18143 reads 137 comments
10 votes


  • 5 years ago



    Of course Aronian would accept Armenia as host country because Armenia will not significantly endanger his life if he played in Armenia, because he is Armenian. Should Armenia be selected, it would be up to any Azerbaijan players to decide whether they will participate or not due to their own personal reasons. If they decide not to, that's their choice. If Azerbaijan was picked, Aronian would miss out. Simple as that.

    Absolutely no hypocrisy whatsoever.

  • 5 years ago


    Aronian is fundamentally correct.  An important event such as this can't be held in a country where the level of anxiety or stress from non-chess factors rise to the level that a player or participant cannot perform to his potential.

  • 5 years ago


    They could have it in Australia. That starts with 'A'. 

  • 5 years ago


    I like how everyone ignored the prior post which linked


    He's only expressing his legitimate personal well-being concerns. Assuming he were let in the country, there could be massive protests, and disturbance of the peace, which would, realistically, affect all players, not just Aronian specifically.

  • 5 years ago


    The guy is saying nothing of the such...all he is saying is that if this country is the host then he will not participate...and that is his right. If he does not feel comfortable somewhere, why should he go?

    FIDE on the other hand, has the difficult choice to make...but before we get ahead of our selves. We don't even know what bids are in. Let the process take it's course, and then we will see. Who knows...maybe India will bid again.

  • 5 years ago


    It is odd that for awhile FIDE had no candidate country for the WCC. Then, a "bidding" started where Russia beat out India. There were only two countries. Nobody else was bidding. So perhaps they should have the same location from now on, no bidding, as apolitical and neutral as possible for the WC cycle. Switzerland would be great, Iceland would be great, Lichtenstein would be great, Monaco would be great, etc.

  • 5 years ago

    NM axelmuller

    I agree that the additional stress Aronian would be exposed to would be a serious disadvantage. His statement is not a political one and Aronian appears to be a humble and thoughtful person. It would be a shame if he was prevented from participating in the candidates matches. 

    Apart from that, this upcoming candidates tournament should be a superstrong and exciting tournament. If FIDE doesn’t manage to get more competitive offers something must be very wrong. 

  • 5 years ago


    I love System of a Down.  Who invented the MRI?  And lots of additional scientific/technological advances.  Amazing accomplishments from a small population.  But most people in the world have not heard of nor could locate those 2 countries on a map and certainly don't know why they are at war.  

    Would Aronian accept Armenia as host country?  Of course he would. Hypocrisy at its finest.  If this is going to be an issue for several venues, then have these events in countries where the native population is not bloodlusting for the hearts and genitals of the rival contenders and where chess is not a symbol of self-worth and national pride.  I made several great suggestions.  They'll all be safer in those places.   

  • 5 years ago


    "Most Americans" are NOT against Aronian's request, give the anti-American crap a rest for once around here please.  A handful have spoken out on both sides of it.


    I think Aronian is expressing fair concerns, and they're not poltical.  He isn't being political with this.  He's concerned about violence as someone else linked earlier.  If that kind of violence is a possibility all because of where he's from then he won't be treated fairly.  Racism/ethnic hatred is something he shouldn't have to deal with when he's trying to compete.

  • 5 years ago


    To those who say politics has no place in sport, I refer you to the England football team's nazi salute to Hitler, or the England cricket players' rebel tour of Apartheid South Africa. Plenty of others have made your mistake, and suffered greatly for it. 

    The countries are still technically at war, and a dozen or so soldiers have been killed in flare-ups over the past couple of years. Aronian isn't defaulting because of the cuisine.

    To the guy who was like, "who's even heard of these countries", I'm sure the many millions of people in both countries will be totally crushed that you haven't heard of them. All you're doing is trumpeting your own ignorance. 

  • 5 years ago

    NM flashboy2222


  • 5 years ago


    I agree with the comments of many of you that chess should not be a space for political comment, but I don't think this is what Aronian is doing here.  It would be one thing for him to say he doesn't want to play against an Azeri because of his nationality, but it is another to say he doesn't want to play in a country whose laws say he cannot enter the country and whose people dispise him because of his ethnicity.

  • 5 years ago


    Why most Americans are against Aronian's request ???? Wakeup world is different. It doesnot end where ur border ends. 

  • 5 years ago


    I completely agree with Aronian. Azer doesn't want him to enter the nation... how can he play in such a situation??

  • 5 years ago


    According to current Azer law, no Armenian may enter the country...Lev probably would be retained at the airport.

  • 5 years ago


    I don't think anyone is absolutely right.  Mr. Aronian is right from his point of view.  He is simply stating it and letting others decide what to do about it.

  • 5 years ago


    Aronian is absolutely right.

  • 5 years ago


    I do not support Lev Aronian for the letter. Political issues should not effect on any sport organizations..

  • 5 years ago


    After what Armenians have suffered under the Turks, even a modicum of common sense would suggest the need to heed his request.  It's completely legitimate that a peaceful environment is what chess needs.  No drama, just good atmosphere, safety and freedom from outisde influences like terrorists.  Levon is classy guy and FIDE must listen to his plea.

  • 5 years ago


    it can't help, that will be the same case if Israel to host, will Iranian players play?


    it respectful for Aronian to notify the organizer his difficulty on the circumstances.

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