Chess - The Scotsman, 05/04/13

TINY Armenia is a colossus in the world of chess.

The game is a national obsession in a nation of three million where important tournaments get top billing on the news, its Grandmasters treated like sporting superstars and victories – such as their three Olympiad golds in 2006, 2008 and 2012 – celebrated like national holidays.

The country’s chess rivalry with its neighbour Azerbaijan is as intense a sporting rivalry as you could wish to find. The two countries also have an ongoing acrimonious dispute over the Nagorno Karabakh territory. The bitter enmity even precluded Armenia from participating in last year’s Eurovision song contest in Baku.

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The dispute even spilled over to the Candidates tournament. Originally, the Azeri capital won the bid to host the contest, but when Armenia’s Levon Aronian threatened to pull out in protest, Fide switched from Baku to London, although retained the funding from the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic. This diplomatic manoeuvre of retaining SOCAR as sponsors allowed the Azeri world No 4, Teimour Radjabov, to play in London as the “host country” wild card.

But it all proved a disaster for Radjabov. Not only did he trail in last, but he also plummeted eight places in the world rankings, going from four to 12. And in the final round, they were most likely celebrating wildly in the bars of Yerevan with Aronian’s mauling of Radjabov.

L Aronian - T Radjabov

FIDE Candidates, (14)

King’s Indian Defence

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 h3 0–0 6 Bg5 a6 7 Nf3 c5 8 dxc5 Qa5 9 Bd3 dxc5 10 0–0 Nc6 11 Nd5 Be6 12 Qb3 b5 13 Rac1 bxc4 14 Bxc4 Nxe4 15 Qb7 Rac8 16 Bxe7 Bxd5 17 Bxf8 Rb8 18 Qxb8 Nxb8 19 Bxd5 Kxf8 20 Bxe4 Nd7 21 b3 Qxa2 22 Rcd1 Ne5 23 Rd8+ Ke7 24 Rb8 Nxf3+ 25 Bxf3 Bd4 26 g3 a5 27 Re1+ Kf6 28 Re2 Qb1+ 29 Kg2 a4 30 Rb7! a3 31 Bd5 a2 32 Rxf7+ Kg5 33 h4+ Kh6 34 Ree7 g5 35 Be4 1–0