THE RELIC OF THE HEAD OF SAINT JAMES OF ZEBEDEE IN THE ARMENIAN CATHEDRAL OF SAINT JAMES IN JERUSALEM.16 de January de 2024
CHESS IN ARMENIA AND THE LEGENDARY FIGURES OF PETROSIAN AND KASPAROF.
On my last consular trip to the capital of Armenia, the city of Yerevan, we discovered through various chess associations that this game, now a sport, came to the country through the Arabs, who introduced it to Armenia during the 9th century. It was well-received and has remained popular to this day.
In Yerevan, there are various evidential documents preserved in the Matenadaran museum of ancient manuscripts (in ancient Armenian, "Matenadaran" means library), which indicate that chess was already being played during the 12th and 13th centuries. This library is one of the most important in the world as it houses more than 17,000 manuscripts and 300,000 documents. It is worth visiting for its unique collection, and one of its many merits has been the preservation of the skin, paper, and inks intact.
Chess is a strategy game whose main objective is to corner the opposing king and thereby win the match against your opponent. This game is played on a board divided into sixty-four white and black squares. Two players participate in the game, each having sixteen pieces in either white or black. The pieces are subtly moved by hand, with each player taking turns based on rules specific to each piece on the same board.
I remember playing chess as a child with my godfather and uncle, Dr. Celedonio Barquero, who was a great economist and intellectual, as well as a professor at the University of Barcelona. He introduced me to this sport, although I did not achieve his successes. I remember he won numerous championships in Spain, which led him to compete in a match with the Armenian Kasparov, sponsored by El Corte Inglés shopping center in Barcelona. My uncle always told me that Kasparov expressed his pride in being Armenian, which led me to write this chapter about chess in Armenia for this book.
Although the game of chess has been played for centuries in Armenia, its popularity came during the period from 1922 to 1991, coinciding with the Soviet Union (USSR). The game was noted for its cultured and common following among all the Soviet republics, but Armenia is the country where the sport gained the most fame. In fact, Armenia's pioneer chess clubs are iconic, dating back to 1920. However, it was in the 1960s when a significant event marked a before and after in this national sport: the emergence of great Armenian chess players on the national and international stage, creating a school with their great play and competing globally. This fondness in the Armenian people is not surprising, as their pacifism is such that they only wish to fight in chess, without diminishing their patriotism that would lead them to give their lives for their country. A true mystery.
The figure of the great international player Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984), who became the Soviet chess champion, was of Armenian origin and learned to play from the age of 7, developing a passion for the sport from a young age.
His mentor was the renowned chess expert Archil Ebralidze, who introduced him as a young man to the circuits of chess competitions. After competing with the best, he won the coveted title of USSR Junior Champion in 1944. His self-taught learning came from books by great masters such as Aron Nimzowitsch, Lasker, and Capablanca. In 1952, he achieved the esteemed title of International Master
and Grandmaster. In 1963, he won the World Championship title. In 1966, he achieved a milestone in his chess career by renewing his World Champion title. In 1968, he conducted various academic research, which enabled him to obtain a doctorate. His studies focused on solving complex logical problems in chess analysis, where his contributions stood out for improving the game, albeit to the detriment of the opponent.
His achievements were so significant that his games are used as examples in the best chess schools in the world.
His numerous contributions to chess globally are remarkable, and he also shared them through directing the Spartak Chess School in Moscow.
Another great international chess figure of Armenian origin was Garry Kasparov, born in 1963 and today a prominent human rights defender and activist.
His mother was Armenian, and he always felt that way, having to flee with her due to their origins during the Nagorno-Karabakh movement. He achieved significant milestones, such as being the World Chess Champion for eight consecutive years from 1985 to 1993, and also the PCA version World Chess Champion for another seven consecutive years from 1993 to 2000.
Kasparov's brilliant career, coupled with his great intelligence, earned him significant honors, such as: Master and Grandmaster of Sport of the USSR, Order of the Friendship of Peoples, Order of the Red Banner of Sport, and the Chess Oscar. It is noteworthy that he won the World Championship title at just 22 years of age. Currently, he continues to carry Armenia in his heart and publicly denounces in the media the need for dialogue to stop wars, offering to mediate between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Currently, among the top 100 chess players in the world, according to the FIDE (International Chess Federation) ranking, five are of Armenian origin: Levon Aronian at number 7, Gabriel Sakisian at number 53, Karen Grigorian at number 71, Hrant Mel Kumian at number 77, and finally, Serguei Movserian at number 98.
Also, according to the FIDE ranking as of January 2022, among the 156 Chess Federations of the world, Armenia ranks 10th.
In this same prestigious ranking, Armenia appears in the Top 7 classification of Grandmasters born after the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
The top countries in chess, according to FIDE, are ten, which we will mention in order from 1 to 10. The best would be Russia with 16 world champions and 256 titled grandmasters, the United States with 100 titled grandmasters, China with 48 grandmasters and 3 million players, of whom 300,000 are federated, India with 64 grandmasters and the achievement of having pioneered this game, Ukraine with 93 masters ranks fifth. Armenia stands out for having 44 grandmasters and the pride of it being a game practiced since the Middle Ages.
Armenia's respect for this game is such that since 2011, it has been a mandatory subject in Armenian schools. Playing chess can enhance intelligence in several ways. It exercises logical thinking, strategic planning, concentration, and decision-making. Additionally, it improves memory, creativity, and problem-solving. These mental skills are strengthened with constant practice, which can have a positive impact on intellectual development, hence the Armenian Ministry of Education promotes it.
Without being swayed by love, Armenia is the country with the most grandmasters relative to its population, surpassing all other countries in the world. Azerbaijan has 26 grandmasters, Hungary 58, France 50, and finally Poland with 45 grandmasters.
Author: Dr. José Daniel Barquero Cabrero. Professor and Professor of Economics and Business and CEO of SER, Strategic Economic Relations.
Copyright 2023 RACEF. Royal Academy of Economic and Financial Sciences.