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.

18140 reads 137 comments
10 votes


  • 5 years ago


    I find Mr. Aronian's letter to be totally respectful and fact-based.  He informs FIDE of his intentions as soon as he finds out that one of the possible venues would make it very difficult for him to showcase his skill and talent.  FIDE will now have time to assess the options and make an informed decision with due consideration for everyone involved.  I'm sure that sacrificing the chance to play for the world championship is a serious decision for Mr. Aronian and was made with a lot of serious thought and consideration.  Mr. Aronian is not obligated to play and FIDE is not obligated to take his letter under consideration.  It simply is what it is. 

    It is unfortunate that neighbouring people have such deep rooted animosity towards each other.  Rather than decry Mr. Arnonian's potential withdrawl from the tournament, we should pray that Armenians and Azeris can learn to live together in peace and harmony.  Each will be richer and stronger if they can.

  • 5 years ago


    Well, that's too bad that a first round loser in the previous cycle won't participate in the next cycle. That would be like the Houston Texans refusing to participate in next year's NFL playoffs...the horror.

    The candidates should take place in the U.S.A. - nobody here gives a crap about Armenians or Azerbaijanis. By "gives a crap", I mean "has heard of either".  

    Canada or Switzerland are other possibilities.  I am sure Armenia wouldn't be a problem for Aronian, either.

  • 5 years ago


    Or they can have it in Latvia and Shirov can get fire up Candidates!

  • 5 years ago


    There is a major difference here. Carlsen had a problem the way the candidates were selected, Aronian is having objection against a candidate country. The way I see it, chess (and any sport as a matter of fact) should be free of political undertones. When an Iranian chess player refused to play against an Israeli player, most of us felt an unnecessary political/ideological influence of well, an unnecessary influence. With all respect to Aronian, one can not act as a spoiled child ("If Carlsen can do it, so can I") and demand an international governing body to be influenced in its decision based on the resentment of one player, should he be even number two in the world. Should this happen, the integrity of FIDE should be questioned and possible accusations of double standard should be leveled. There is a difference of demands: Carlsen's demand seems a democratic one "I think we should all do this way". Aronian's is autocratic "I do not feel like it, so we should not do it this way".

  • 5 years ago


    C'mon, Andy. The man wants to go. He has every right to go. Asking for your rights to be justified isn't arrogance. It would truely be sad and ridiculous if political affairs were to affect the Candidates. 

  • 5 years ago


    peace!!!let there be peace!!!! make WARS on the chessboard!!!!! bring the best players on neutral country

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    I understand Aronian and he has every right to say it upfront. Yet FIDE has right and will follow the best offer. If it is in Azerbaijan the Radjabov will be person chosen. If in Bolgaria then Topalov. Hungary would see Leko or Almasi, USA - Nakamura. Why not in St. Louis? That will be great opportunity and big bust for chess in US.

  • 5 years ago


    Unfortunately, we may yet again not see all the strongest players at the Candidates...this must not happen. FIDE has the power to prevent this...and must.

    Anand will whip Gelfand...retain his crown, and then the whole chess world wants to see him face either Magnus or Aronian...not another #22. We want the best of the best to face each other...

  • 5 years ago


    They should play in Bosnia <3

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago

    NM dcremisi

    Oh not again! Seriously the best players arent getting through to the canidates nor to the world championship cycle players like Aronian and Carlsen. The best world championships in history Kasparov-Karpov, Fisher-spassky were between the best players in the world and now we have the 4th best player and the 22nd best player by rating playing each other! Carlsen or Aronian has to get through in the name of chess. The differences between who wins tournemants like Tata Steel, Grand slam masters,   and other category 19+ tournemants is remarkable. And if Aronian wont play than maybe someone like Grischuk will draw carlsen four times  and than beat him on tie-breaks and well have another match between players who arent the best in the world. Please Fide hold it in Bulgaria! We need the 2 player in the world hes higher than either of the current possible world champs.

  • 5 years ago


    Cheering for Aronian!

  • 5 years ago


    Aronian's request is justified and I hope the candidates tournament goes to Bulgaria.

    lol I guess in that case the nominee would be Topalov though...

    I'm hoping for Judit Polgar or Morozevich as nominee.

  • 5 years ago


    Please, Aronian have to play. I hope FIDE find a solution.

  • 5 years ago


    I'm not particularly familiar with the political situation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but it's unfortunate that it apparently has to negatively affect the chess world.  Aronian not participating in a tournament of this magnitude would be a shame.

  • 5 years ago


       I was going to blog about this tomorrow and I probably still will  Tongue out

       This is a big thing right now, especially after Magnus dropping out in the Candidates in the last cycle. I really do hope FIDE respects this decision and choice by Aronian and perhaps it will scare them to not book it there. I'm picking Aronian to go all the way in this tourney. I do hope FIDE makes the right move here. *crossing fingers*


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