Levon Aronian: I cannot play the Candidates' in Azerbaijan

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In an official statement, Levon Aronian has repeated what he expressed before: that he cannot play a 'high ranked tournament' in Azerbaijan. The Armenian grandmaster made this statement today and it was published at the website of the Armenian Chess Federation. With this message, Aronian reacts to bids for the 2012 FIDE Candidates Tournament coming from Azerbaijan and Bulgaria.

The Armenian Chess Federation published the following on Thursday:

February 2, 2012

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 statement is not different from what Aronian has said before. For example, on the final day of the World Championship match in Sofia, in May 2010, Levon Aronian was interviewed in Armenia by Vadim Mkrtchian of “Golos Armenii” (“Voice of Armenia”). Part of the interview was about Aronian's reasons for not wanting to play candidates matches in Baku. Back then he said:

I already expressed my opinion on the topic, as well as in a conversation with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s assistants. I won’t travel to Baku. It isn’t that I’m frightened for my life. Chess players are creative people and they must have a normal psychological atmosphere. For example, during a tournament I like to walk around the town. Will I be able to do that in Baku? Besides, the safety guarantee that Azerbaijan mentions implies constant personal protection. Going to the toilet with a body guard is hardly likely to help me to play calmly at the chessboard. I think common sense will prevail in FIDE.

(Translation by Colin McGourty - more here.)

At first, common sense did not prevail. A few months later, at the 80th FIDE Congress in Kallithea, Greece it was decided that the 2010/2011 FIDE Candidates matches would be split into two groups and organized in two locations. One part was to be held in Azerbaijan, and the other (in which Aronian would play) in a different country. As we all know, eventually the Candidates matches took place, from start to finish, in Kazan, Russia.

It's a pity that the tense political relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to complicate the World Championship cycle, especially taking into account that the top chess players in these countries, like Aronian and Movsesian, and Radjabov and Mamedyarov, get along fine.

Ironically, a tournament in Baku would normally be a great idea, beause the chess federation in Azerbaijan is doing well financially. However, to organize the Candidates there is not a serious option as long as there happens to be a world class player who cannot play in that country.

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