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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 22 May 2014 - 09:37 AM


New Statesman, UK
May 21 2014

Amid calls for the UK to embrace chess as an academic subject, chess
enthusiasts look to Armenia, the Caucasian state that improbably
dominates the chess world.

by Anoosh Chakelian

Last month, the former president of education union the Association
of Teachers and Lecturers Hank Roberts said Britain should make chess
compulsory in all state primary schools. He wants children to learn
a game that is so much more than "kings, queens, rooks etc".

He complained that the UK was behind many other European countries
in failing to recognise the game as a sport. But the only country
in the world to have compulsory chess lessons is Armenia: a small,
post-Soviet state landlocked in the Caucasus.

Armenia is not a natural leader on the global stage. Its tensions
with neighbouring Turkey are ever-present from the memory of its past
turmoil with the Ottomans during the First World War, and on the other
side, it remains at war with Azerbaijan. Aside from its modern-day
mouthpiece, the Kardashians - a somewhat double-edged nail-file -
it has a tough time having its voice heard in the Caucasus, let alone
the world.

Armenia is ranked as a lower middle income country by the World Bank.

It has an average life expectancy of 74 and its poverty rate as a
percentage of the population is 32.4 per cent. Its literacy rate is
at 99.6 per cent and in 2011, it brought in compulsory chess lessons
at primary school age. It is the only country to have done so.

For a country so hopelessly unable to master the world's geo-political
realities, it is a cradle of strategy, precision and expert
outmanoeuvring. It soars ahead in its aptitude at chess.

"Of the bits I've seen of the Armenian model, I was impressed with how
incredibly good their children were at visualising things," remarks
the Telegraph's chess columnist and head of charity Chess in Schools
and Communities Malcolm Pein. "I saw, I think it was a class of what
we call here Year Fours, who could literally move pieces around in
their head along a chessboard. A lot of children can do that, but
they were incredibly good at it."

Through his campaigning for chess in schools, Pein is aiming for every
child in the UK to have 30 hours of chess lessons in their six years
of primary school. He's not working towards a compulsory programme,
which is somewhat easier to organise in a state with a population of
three million than in the UK, but praises Armenia's scheme:

"What the Armenians have done is demonstrate organisationally how it's
possible to teach chess to an entire country," he says. "Admittedly
it's a small country, but they did it in a very, very systematic way.

They got together I think about 300 people and taught them how to
teach chess... that's the main constraint to getting it out there,
that not that many people know how to teach it."

Armenia triumphed in the most recent Chess Olympiad - a particularly
joyous checkmate for the country, as the contest was held in Istanbul.

It often beats the globally mightier chess superpowers like Russia,
China, the US and Ukraine. It also claimed the crown (or, indeed, the
king) in 2006 and 2008 - which is two in a row; the Chess Olympiad
is bi-annual. It has one of the highest numbers of grandmasters per
capita in the world.

The country's obsession with chess transcends all age groups. You
can see this in a 2009 BBC World Service report titled 'Armenia: the
cleverest nation on earth', which notes "four generations" turning
out to watch its champion Levon Aronian play a match in the Armenian
mountains. It describes "young kids aged five, six, seven years old
and grizzled old men in sunglasses."

Dr Armen Sarkissian, the Armenian ambassador to the UK and briefly
Armenian prime minister in the Nineties, gives his experience of the
game's universal appeal there:

"I have a granddaughter who is two, and one of the toys she has is a
chessboard. It helps so much with concentration, discipline, ability
of tactics and strategy. It's very important.

"I was a child when my father taught me - I was very good at chess. I
used to beat very old people, who'd get annoyed that a child was
beating them... When I was really young, I remember we had a neighbour,
a retired gentleman, who I played chess with, and running between
being fed and making my next move."

As a result of the game's popularity, their chess players are revered
as celebrities. Their current top player, the tousled and be-stubbled
Aronian, is also a bit of a heartthrob. Teenagers want to have photos
taken with him, and he's been likened to Armenia's David Beckham.

When grandmaster Tigran Petrosian, World Chess Champion from 1963-69,
took the title for the first time, there were spontaneous celebrations
throughout Armenia and he became a national hero.

"The whole nation was behind it," recalls Sarkissian. "There was a huge
chessboard showing the game in Opera Square in Yerevan [the capital],
and tens of thousands of people were watching it. Everyone watched
it. It was a national victory.

"There were not many ways of displaying your national pride in the
Soviet Union, but for an Armenian guy to win, there was huge pride
for the whole nation. People on the streets were singing, dancing. It
was natural, not organised by the state."

Although Armenia became a hothouse for producing chess champions under
the Soviet Union - eager to have its talented comrades triumph over
the West in all endeavours - it has a historical love of chess that
goes way back to the Middle Ages.

"It's an old game that was popular in Armenia for centuries," notes
Sarkissian, "then it became very, very popular during the Soviet era -
sixties, seventies, eighties and further."

Indeed, Garry Kasparov, formerly a Soviet grandmaster, and considered
by many as the world's best ever chess player, is of Armenian
heritage. His surname was originally Gasparyan - which has the classic
common ending of an Armenian name, which usually end in "ian" or "yan".

Top Armenian players, now breaking the pattern for Russian victory
on the checkerboard, honed their skills under Soviet rule - a regime
which, among aggressive industrial advancement and paranoid atomisation
of society, decided that it would quite like its loyal comrades to
move little wooden pieces across a board patterned like a Seventies
tablecloth in an adroit manner (take that, you capitalist pigs!).

"I'm proud of Armenia," concludes Sarkissian. "I hope that one day
I'll be proud of Armenia on other sectors as well! I want Armenia to
be as prominent in economy, industrial growth, culture and others as
it is in chess. It needs a lot of hard work, devotion and love."

It is oddly pleasing that a nation so unfortunately located on the
Caucasian chessboard of socio-religious turmoil excels at a game
reliant on superior positioning.

But perhaps this is why it is a pastime so relished by the country's
population. Having been relegated for so long to being a pawn in the
game of empires from the Ottomans to the Soviets, there must be some
satisfaction in finally capturing the king.



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#2 MosJan


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Posted 22 May 2014 - 10:33 PM

Grate  Find  Yervand  jan

#3 Arpa



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Posted 23 May 2014 - 11:02 AM

Grate  Find  Yervand  jan

:ap: :ap: Dear Mos, this is GRATE :ap: :ap:
I am immensely GRATEFUL to you.

Definition of GRATE =1 archaic : abrade =2 : to reduce to small particles by rubbing on something rough <grate cheese>a : to gnash or grind noisily, to cause to make a rasping sound to rub or rasp noisily

** And this is GREAT!!!

adjective: great; comparative adjective: greater; superlative adjective: greatest of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.

** Cheese grate. Պանիր կրտկտան, Խարտոց***
*** File http://ecx.images-am...v0L._SY300_.jpg
Rasp http://visual.merria...-tools/rasp.jpg

Edited by Arpa, 23 May 2014 - 11:09 AM.

#4 Yervant1


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Posted 23 July 2014 - 09:01 AM

Birmingham, Alabama, plans to follow Armenia's example, introduce
chess in schools

17:15 22.07.2014

Birmingham, Alabama, is looking to make chess a fixture in its
schools, in hopes that it will allow kids to stretch their minds and
improve their analytical abilities, the Desert News reports.

The plan is to create chess clubs at 15 to 20 schools in the
Birmingham school system. The hopes reach beyond math, AL.com notes.
"According to Birmingham City Schools officials, the benefit of chess
instruction is not limited to math achievement," AL.com noted. "It is
also known to increase analytical and problem solving skills, improve
memory and has even been shown to increase IQ scores, they said."

But math is a big part of the picture. School officials cite a 1998
study that showed improved math skills after exposure to chess, AL.com
reported. "The researchers randomly gave black high school students
from the rural South 120 hours of chess instruction. They then
administered math proficiency tests and found that students who
received the chess instruction scored better than those who did not."

"Chess allows students to think critically, to strategize, to plan
moves several steps ahead, and to think about consequences of moves,"
said Dr. Chad Witherspoon, superintendent of the Birmingham City
Schools in a new promotional video. "It gives students an opportunity
to think at a different level."

Across the Atlantic a similar chess push is underway, as an
ideologically diverse group of political leaders in the United Kingdom
is now pushing for chess integration into public schools.

Yasmin Qureshi, a Member of Parliament, argued that all state primary
schools should have chess as part of the curriculum and should be made
a sport with access to sports funding, according to a report in the

"The skills involved in playing chess are actually skills that a lot
of young people can benefit from learning, especially children who
have problems with attention and hyperactivity," Qureshi said.

In 2011 chess became a compulsory feature in public schools in
Armenia, a nation obsessed with the game. Armenia invested $1.5
million to create textbooks and curricula, train instructors and buy

"We hope that the Armenian teaching model might become among the best
in the world," Armen Ashotyan told The Associated Press at the time.

"By incorporating chess as part of the curriculum you are including a
game, and that's how kids see it," said Wendi Fischer, executive
director of the US Foundation for Chess in the same AP report. "They
think they're focused on fun. So I think it is a great way to cross
over between a true hardcore curriculum that's mandatory and the young
children being able to play and explore and have fun."


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#5 Yervant1


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Posted 18 October 2014 - 10:28 AM


by Ashot Safaryan

Friday, October 17, 14:02

Love for chess is in Armenians' blood, FIDE President Kirsan
Ilyumzhinov said while opening Chess in Schools international
conference in Yerevan on Friday.

The conference involves delegations from 30 countries, with the
opening ceremony attended by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and
high-ranking guests.

"Recently I was in Mexico. They showed me their national school
curricula and said that they were going to follow Armenia's example
and to make chess a compulsory subject in schools. The same is true
for Paraguay, Mongolia and Thailand. And it was Armenia who initiated
this program," Ilyumzhinov said.

He noted that for most Armenians chess is life. "Armenia is the only
nation that managed to win three Olympiads within just six years.

Even big nations were unable to show such a result," the FIDE
President said.

#6 Yervant1


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Posted 18 October 2014 - 10:37 AM


11:14, 17 October, 2014

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 17, ARMENPRESS: For the first time "Chess at School"
international conference has launched in Yerevan with participation
of 180 delegates from 30 countries Armenpress reports.

According to Armenian Minister of Education and Science Armen
Ashotyan, for Armenia the chess is the part of the national pride and
if previously it was only a sport, beginning from 2011 it has become
a compulsory subject at school.

"Armenia is the first country that has included the chess in the
curriculum as a compulsory subject. The Armenian practice is exclusive
and from the very beginning we have created a new, competitive program,
which we are ready to share with the world. For the first time Armenia
can propose to the world the best educational practice.

"Chess at School" project has become one of the educational brands of
Armenia," said Armen Ashotyan, adding that the chess highly contributes
to development of leadership in children, strategic way of thinking,
improves the logic, develops new capacities.

"We do not claim that all pupils become world and European champions,
though we would not be against. Our goal is to improve children's
academic perceptions and advance in other subjects through the chess.

Armenia is the first country in the world where the chess is taught in
secondary schools. The chess subject has been included in curriculums
of secondary schools of Armenia from 2011.


#7 Ashot



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Posted 12 November 2014 - 07:18 AM

"Recently I was in Mexico. They showed me their national school
curricula and said that they were going to follow Armenia's example
and to make chess a compulsory subject in schools. The same is true
for Paraguay, Mongolia and Thailand. And it was Armenia who initiated
this program," Ilyumzhinov said.


History repeats...

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#8 onjig



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Posted 13 November 2014 - 05:36 PM

Ashot, Greetings, It's good to see a fresh posting from you. I've read some of your posts, from years back.

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#9 Ashot



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Posted 02 December 2014 - 02:17 AM

Thanks onjig jan, it's always good to be back in here! No matter where we go we always return HOME (HyeForum) :-)

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#10 Yervant1


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 10:38 AM

17:35 18/02/2015 » SPORT

UAE seeks to adopt Armenia’s chess teaching methods

The UAE is interested in Armenia’s chess teaching curriculum, Saeed Al Meqbali, President of the UAE Chess Federation, said during a meeting with Armenian Minister of Education and Science Armen Ashotyan. 
Saeed Al Meqbali is paying a working visit to Armenia.
The guests said they consider Armenia’s experience successful, and therefore they want to introduce Chess in School program in the UAE, the press service of the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science reported. 

They added that they expect the Armenian side’s assistance in this matter.
Armen Ashotyan said for his part that Armenia’s Ministry of Education and Science is ready to pass the country’s experience in chess teaching to any country and is open to cooperation.


Source: Panorama.am

#11 Yervant1


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Posted 02 February 2016 - 10:41 AM

Levon Aronian: How the `David Beckham of chess' became an Armenian national hero

10:52, 01 Feb 2016
Siranush Ghazanchyan

CNN ` When Levon Aronian walks down the street in his street in his
native Armenia he's met by cheering crowds; restaurants insist he eats
for free; new parents name their babies after him.

Aronian isn't an actor, activist, or astronaut. He's a chess player `
the fourth best in the world, to be precise. And in this tiny,
ex-Soviet, chess-obsessed country, that means he's also a national

`The first time my fiancé arrived in Armenia we stopped at one petrol
station and they said, `OK, we're not going to charge you,'' says the
33-year-old dubbed `The David Beckham of Armenia' by the foreign

`So for her this is pretty shocking ' but that happens all the time,'
he adds, referring to his Australian girlfriend Arianne Caoili, an
international chess champion in her own right whose good looks have
spurred the nickname `The Anna Kournikova of Chess.'

Armenia's chess king

The red carpet treatment of players isn't so far-fetched in a country
where chess is compulsory in all schools. Here, even the nation's
President Serzh Sargsyan is also President of the Armenia Chess

For a nation of just three million, Armenia has one of the highest
numbers of grandmasters per capita in the world. Of the past five
Chess Olympiads, the national team has won three times ' led by
noneother than idol Aronian.

`I won't be humble about that,' he adds with a cheeky laugh. And while
Aronian may not have the swagger of a footballer like Beckham, his
playful and sincere charm has only endeared him to a country of

Home-schooled by his scientist parents in what was then the Soviet
Union, Aronian was taught to play chess by his sister as a
nine-year-old ' and turned pro the same year.

These days the chess prodigy spends around four hours a day training.
He usually travels seven months a year ' playing at international
tournaments offering anywhere between a few thousand and over a
million dollars in prize money.

`Chess is like any kind of sport, but taken into a little cage where
you have to understand how his brain works, how his blood flows' '
Levon Aronian.

Armenian grandmasters are also paid around $120 per month from the
government ' a symbolic sum which nonetheless sets it apart from the
rest of the world.

But to really understand the country's love of chess, you must head to
the streets.

`You see people playing chess in cafes, in parks, at family
gatherings, among young and old alike,' says Professor Aram Hajian,
Dean at the College of Science and Engineering at the American
University of Armenia, and co-founder of the Chess Academy of Armenia.

`It's generational ' most of the people I have met who play chess,
when asked, mention a parent or grandfather who introduced them to the

Nurturing a nation of prodigies

Even for a small and chess-loving nation like Armenia, rolling out the
sport to every single school in 2011 was no easy task.

`The single biggest challenge has been the training of chess
teachers,' explained Hajian.

`There's also integration into the national school curriculum, and
overcoming logistical challenges of equipment and materials.'

For the Armenian government, the benefits of nurturing a nation of
chess players far outweighed the logistical nightmare.

And it's an approach being watched closely by educators around the world.

`Children playing chess are exposed to such topics as strategy,
planning, sacrifice, creativity, logic, and learning how to be a
gracious winner ` and loser,' says Hajian.

`Kids love games, and if you can identify a way to teach all these
topics in the context of a game, I think you have struck upon a
scholastic goldmine.'

The `grandfather of chess'

Armenia's modern-day love affair with chess owes a lot to one man '
1960s world champion Tigran Petrosian.

The moment Petrosian beat Soviet Mikhail Botvinnik to become 1963
World Chess Champion (a title he held until 1969), has been likened
JFK's assassination in America ' everyone in Armenia remembers where
they were at the time.

`The collective euphoria that the nation experienced was a real
watershed moment for the Armenian people,' explained Hajian of the
games which were projected onto giant screens and watched by thousands
in the capital Yerevan's Opera Square.

`At the time, Armenia was one of the smallest constituent republics of
the Soviet Union. While national expression was discouraged by the
Soviet authorities, the rise of Tigran Petrosian galvanized the spirit
of the Armenian nation.'

For a country with such a tumultuous history ' including one of the
most horrific massacres of the 20th century ' chess has now also
become an important source of Armenian national pride.

`We're not just a nation of people who struggle and fight. We're also
a nation of people who can come back to the days of our glory when we
were a big country, a country who set new rules,' explained Aronian.

`When you travel to Armenia you see all those monasteries, all those
universities that are 1,500 years old and you always feel `this is
what we are.' We have been a nation that had a lot of intellectual

`So I think what drove people to chess, is to bring back the feeling
that we were once a scientific nation.'

And if Aronian is any indication ' it's a winning move.



#12 Yervant1


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Posted 08 June 2017 - 09:03 AM

ITV News, UK
June 7 2017
Why are children in Armenia being given compulsory chess lessons?
By ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner
Armenian pupils are being given compulsory chess lessons Credit: OA
It's 8.30am at primary school number two in the centre of Yerevan and I am sitting at the back of a classroom of seven-year-olds, who are bursting to answer the next question and listening to their teacher with rapt attention.
I can't quite believe that this enthusiasm is for the game of chess.
The children are the first generation of Armenian pupils to be given compulsory chess lessons - and they seem to be totally immersed.
Their teacher, Hayk Azizbekyan, a chess champion himself and still studying for his degree in archaeology, says they took just six months to learn how to play.
This isn't just about becoming competent chess players, it is a government driven and funded national project to promote chess as essential part of national life.
The president is convinced chess is a way of steering this poor country towards a more prosperous future Credit: OA
The president is so keen to promote chess and the many advantages it can bring, which it's claimed include improving creativity, strategic thinking and leadership, that he granted us an interview.
He's convinced chess is a way of steering this poor country towards a more prosperous and positive future. Basically, a way of shaping the minds of a nation.
A grandiose idea you may think?
I assumed we would find parents and children who resented having this cerebral pursuit forced upon them in a rather Soviet manner. But we didn't. This is a country that really does seem to believe in chess.
They have one of the highest number of chess grandmasters per capita than any other country in the world.
Armenia's current leading player Levon Aronian arrives at a chess tournament for children being held in the capital and is surrounded by dozens of young fans and their parents wanting selfies with him.
Of course, Aronian can earn more than half a million pounds a year from tournaments alone, in a country where the average monthly wage is around £325 a month.
But this passion for chess genuinely seems to be about more than a way to fame and fortune.
For the Armenians, a nation that has felt blighted and victimised by the Ottoman empire and then the Soviet Union, it is a way of demonstrating superior intelligence and a talent for winning.
On Assignment is on tonight, Wednesday 7th June, at 10:55pm
Last updated Wed 7 Jun 2017

#13 Yervant1


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Posted 17 October 2017 - 09:51 AM

The Armenian Weekly
Oct 16 2017
Armenian-American Artist Sets Guinness World Record for Smallest Handmade Chess Set

By Contributor on October 16, 2017


LOS ANGELES (Guinness World Records)—Artist Ara Ghazaryan has an exceptional eye for detail, particularly with his latest work, the world’s smallest handmade chess set.


Made on an incredibly minute scale, the entire board with accompanied pieces measures a total of 15.3 x 15.3 mm (0.6 in x 0.6 in), a size that amounts to be smaller than a U.S. quarter coin (Photo: Guinness World Records)

Made on an incredibly minute scale, the entire board with accompanied pieces measures a total of 15.3 x 15.3 mm (0.6 in x 0.6 in), a size that amounts to be smaller than a U.S. quarter coin.

Of the pieces, the Kings stand the tallest at 4.8 mm while the smallest pieces are the pawns, which come to 2.3 mm in height – with the chess set itself weighs 6.63 g.

Guinness World Records guidelines for the record category state that a set has to be exactly to scale and perform the original function as the everyday original.


Luckily the artist, who is based in Los Angeles, Calif., designed the board to be playable—so long as opponents keep a steady hand!

Nevertheless, the materials used for crafting the chess set might be the most impressive element to this tiny masterpiece, as the board tiles are made from a luxurious Brazilian cherry wood and 18 Kt. yellow and white gold, while the bottom of the board has small bezel set diamonds located in each corner.

Ara’s incredible feat has beaten a record that has stood since 2008, with the former holder’s board measuring 18 x 18 mm (0.7 x 0.7 in) while its smallest piece measured 4 mm (0.16 in).


#14 Yervant1


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Posted 14 December 2017 - 03:13 PM

News.am, Armenia

Dec 14 2017
Armenia to have Scientific Research Institute of Chess
17:58, 14.12.2017

YEREVAN. – The government of Armenia has allocated 31.9 million drams (about US$66,000) from the reserve fund, for the establishment of the Scientific Research Institute of Chess.

The decision to this effect was adopted at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting of the government.

The Minister of Education and Science, Levon Mkrtchyan, introduced the respective draft decision.

This institute will conduct psychological, sociological, and pedagogical studies in chess education.

To note, President Serzh Sargsyan is also President of the Chess Federation of Armenia.


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Posted 19 February 2018 - 10:21 AM

Feb 18 2018
The country breeding a generation of chess whizz kids
  • 18 February 2018

Since 2011, all children in Armenia from six to eight years old have had compulsory chess lessons. For one boy it's paying off, reports Emma Levine.

I was trapped. Surrounded on all sides, and there was no escape. The king's capture was imminent - and my bishop was of no use this time. "Shakh yev mat," Mikhael announced triumphantly. Check mate - and my victor was just 11 years old.

It wasn't surprising - a few days earlier Mikhael had been crowned the national schools' chess champion, adding to his other trophies.

He'd been playing since he was five.

"I learned from my father and grandfather - and then, weekly lessons in school," he told me in the family's apartment in Yerevan, Armenia's capital.

_100059894_976xmikhael-beats-emma-in-8.jImage captionMikhael beat Emma in just eight minutes

One of his heroes is compatriot Levon Aronian. This charismatic 35-year-old, one of Armenia's many grandmasters, was once number two in the world - a superstar and national hero in a country not accustomed to sporting success.

Mikhael's mum, Nara, proudly shows me her son's trophies and medals.

"Mikhael wants to be a world champion. He watches international games to perfect his chess," she told me over tiny cups of soorj - strong Armenian coffee. "We don't put pressure on him - it's what he loves doing and that's the most important thing."

Nara travels with her son to all his tournaments, including going abroad.

  _100059893_976xlevon-aronian-world-cup.jImage captionGrandmaster Levon Aronian was number two in the world in 2014



"I can't beat him any more!" his older brother, Khachatur, tells me ruefully.

"Mikhael has this amazing knack of getting inside an opponent. If he gets beaten he'll analyse their moves and their game, and knows instinctively how to beat them next time.

"And," he adds, "he memorises every game, and recreates it on the board."

The child is constantly making strategic decisions, assessing the situation before making a move - I think this is a great benefit for society Smbat Lputian, President of the Armenian Chess Academy

Mikhael's perseverance is paying off. He's racing up the national chess rankings for youth players. In a couple of years he could be one of the world's youngest-ever grandmasters.

Since 2011, all children in Armenia from six to eight years old have compulsory chess lessons. It's the first country in the world to include it on the national curriculum.

To see more young stars I head to Chess House on a packed marshrutka - or minibus.

Yerevan has an ancient history - it's actually 28 years older than Rome. But there's little evidence of that now. The marshrutka weaves through Republic Square, which is encircled by elegant 20th-Century government buildings and museums built from pink volcanic tufa stone.

But in construction-mad Yerevan, you're never far away from a crane or deafening drill. Recent years have seen the government reneging on its promise to protect historic buildings - embarking instead on urban development on a mammoth scale.

I jump off the marshrutka at Circular Park, a leafy respite.


Here, I join a handful of spectators watching several elderly men perch at rickety wooden tables, playing chess with their pals. I head past them to Chess House and the real hub of activity - upstairs in the main hall, rows of long tables are lined with chess sets, with about 200 children deep in play.

The room is silent, the children's behaviour impeccable, with no tantrums or raised voices. All look utterly immersed in the games - which last up to two hours - their faces wearing the serious expressions of professionals. The children record every move in their notebooks.

_100061376_976xback-of-girl-superviso.jpImage captionA supervisor watches children playing games at the chess school

But when 10-year-old Davit makes a blunder, there are tears - and then a motherly arm around his shoulder from Maria, one of the supervisors. "They are just children, after all!" she says, smiling.

Downstairs in the waiting area, scores of parents, grandmothers and a few uncles wait patiently for the children to emerge from the hall, once their matches are over. You can feel tension mounting as each one walks slowly down the carpeted steps to greet their mum. Win lose, or draw, each gets a hug.

_100059897_976xchess-mums-waiting-for-.jImage captionWin, lose, or draw, each child gets a hug when they come out

In the main entrance is a bust of Tigran Petrosian, the chess world champion from 1963 to 1969.

"Armenia has always enjoyed a strong link with chess, but Tigran's victories were the revolution for us," explained Smbat Lputian, president of the Armenian Chess Academy. He shows me around the academy, a smart three-storey building in dazzling white, in a neighbourhood otherwise dominated by Soviet-era grey apartment blocks.

"Since our independence from the USSR in 1991, we have made fantastic progress," he says proudly. With a population of a little over three million, Armenia has one of the highest numbers of chess grandmasters, per capita, in the world.

_100061377_976xtigran-teaching-chess-l.jImage captionChess academy teacher Tigran congratulates a young opponent

Lputian was the driving force behind making chess mandatory in schools, with the support of the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan.

"So what was the main reason?" I asked him.

"The most important quality of chess is that it's a fair game, so young children start learning a game which is clean and honourable, and it teaches them good behaviour. The child is constantly making strategic decisions - assessing the situation before making a move." He paused. "I think this is a great benefit for society as a whole."

Armenia now has more than 3,000 qualified trained chess teachers in its schools. Many other countries want to follow suit, according to Lputian. He tells me excitedly about a new chess scientific research institute, due to open in Yerevan later this year, where scientists and psychologists will research the impact of chess in the learning process.

Through their dedication, Mikhael and thousands more children here have helped put Armenia on the chess-playing map. And at least I can console myself that I was beaten by a potential grandmaster.

All photographs by Emma Levine


#16 Yervant1


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Posted 19 July 2018 - 10:02 AM

Public Radio of Armenia
July 18 2018
Palestinian Israeli blogger explores Armenia’s tradition of teaching chess
Nas Daily – an Israel-based Palestinian travel blogger, who makes 1-minute videos about himself and others every day – has shared a video about the teaching of chess in Armenia.

“Places like Armenia give me hope for a world where everyone grows up to become grandmasters in whatever they like….all thanks to Education,” the blogger captioned the video on Facebook.

The video features Armenian President Armen Sarkissian and the country’s leading grandmaster Levon Aronian.

“Yes, I am the President of Armenia, and we love chess,” President Sarkissian says.


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#17 Yervant1


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Posted 18 February 2019 - 11:11 AM


Checkmate? Armenia mulls scrapping chess lessons from schools amid varying opinions

964468.jpg11:04, 16 February, 2019

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 15, ARMENPRESS. Chess player and prolific chess author Irving Chernev once said “Every chess master was once a beginner”. 

Strategy, discipline, math, patience, seems like the list of what chess can teach you can be quite long, but should it be taught in schools compulsory? This is the question that the education authorities in Armenia are currently discussing.

Since 2011, Armenia is breeding chess prodigies in public schools with a compulsory chess lesson in its curriculums. Chess in Armenia is highly popular today, as the country has produced many renowned grandmasters over the years.

But now, education authorities doubt whether or not chess should be a compulsory lesson at schools.

Since the introduction of the program, parents have claimed that their children's school curriculum was already complicated and overloaded.

The Ministry of Education and Science intends to scrap a few lessons from curriculums in the new academic year program as part of reforms. One of the lessons under consideration is chess.

Minister Arayik Harutyunyan had said that the issue of keeping or removing chess lessons from curriculums is under discussion. According to him, there are problems and complaints concerning the lesson, mostly related to homework and teaching.

It took 6 years for the Chess Federation of Armenia and the Chess Academic Research Institute to introduce the lesson in schools.

Vahan Sargsyan, Deputy Director of the Chess Academic Research Institute, argues that studies show chess to be among the favorite lessons of children in schools. “Studies show that chess leaves a positive impact on intellectual qualities and mentality. It is developing a creative mentality in children,” he said.

However, not all parents are happy with the lessons.

Satenik Melkonyan, a mother whose school-aged child is learning chess, insists that the lesson causes difficulties for her. She says that parents themselves are also facing difficulties. Parents are suggesting a more natural approach, i.e. if a child demonstrates love and potential for learning chess, then they should go to special chess schools voluntarily. 

“It’s already two years that my daughter is attending chess lessons at school, but I have to say that first of all we are having great troubles with homework since I personally don’t know chess. My child has high progress in all lessons, except chess. I believe that if a child has love and potential for chess, then there are separate schools for it. It would be more appropriate for them to go to these schools. The majority of other parents of children from the same class agree with me”, she said.


Chess grandmaster Smbat Lputyan, the founder of the Armenian Chess Academy, argues that chess is one of Armenia’s trademarks. “Chess is developing rapidly around the world. Armenia is the only one to have already passed through it. We are passing down our experience to many countries of the world,” he told ARMENPRESS. 

Chess is a compulsory lesson in 1500 public schools in Armenia and Artsakh since 2011.

As of 2018, more than 50,000 school children at the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades are being taught chess annually.

Teachers are undergoing special training programs three times every year.

When the program was adopted 8 years ago in Armenian schools, the decision was widely covered and praised by international journalists and chess experts.

Norwegian chess grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen was among those praising the initiative.

“I think that Armenia’s such approach, especially including chess in school program, sets a wonderful example to the whole world. That is a great step”, Carlsen said during his visit to Armenia in 2014.

“The child is constantly making strategic decisions, assessing the situation before making a move - I think this is a great benefit for society”, Lputyan had said in 2018 for an interview with the BBC.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan




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#18 Yervant1


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Posted 22 May 2020 - 08:54 AM

Chess 24
May 21 2020
The Armenian Chess Miracle
Levon Aronian is the undisputed leader of Armenian chess, but he emerged in a nation that was already chess crazy, at least since Tigran Petrosian became the 9th World Chess Champion in 1963. FM Andrey Terekhov looks at how a country of just 3 million people could do what Russia have failed to do since 2002 - win the World Chess Olympiad - not only once, but an incredible three times. This is the third installment of the #HeritageChess campaign, supported by the Lindores Abbey Heritage Society.
Armenia is arguably the most chess-playing nation in the world. It might be the only country in the world which has introduced mandatory chess classes into the primary school curriculum, and it’s not just the quantity of players – Armenia is also #6 in the world by the average rating of its Top 10 players.
Landlocked Armenia, a country smaller than Belgium, became a giant of the chess world | image: Google
How did chess become so popular in a small country with a population of 3 million? What is the secret behind the Armenian chess miracle?
A nation with a long history
To answer this question, we will first step back in time, to the beginnings of the long and complicated history of the Armenians. The history of the country could be traced back to truly ancient times, which is not that surprising for a country that lies in the shadows of the Biblical mountain Ararat. The present capital of the country, Yerevan, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the planet, with a foundation date of 782 BC. A thousand years later, in 301 AD, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. A century later, in 405 AD, the Armenian alphabet was invented.
Armenia’s primary challenge has always been its precarious geographical position at the crossroads of civilizations, as it has been surrounded by larger and more powerful neighbors throughout its whole history. Romans, Parthians, Persians, Arabs and Byzantium took turns at fighting over the Armenian land. Surviving was not easy, and many Armenians sought refuge away from home. This was the beginning of the Armenian diaspora, and over the centuries it reached the furthest corners of the world. To my surprise, I've seen Armenian churches almost everywhere I've been – not only in Russia, or in Germany, but even as far away as Singapore and Australia!
The diaspora increased dramatically after the tragic events of 1915, when more than 1.5 million Armenians were murdered or expelled from the Ottoman Empire. Today, more than 7 million Armenians are scattered all over the world, compared to the 3 million that live in Armenia itself.
The founding father of Armenian chess
Let us return to chess. It is presumed that chess was brought to Armenia by Arabs, perhaps as early as the 9th century. By the 12th-13th centuries chess starts to appear in the Armenian manuscripts, which are carefully preserved in the Matenadaran, the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan.
We will start tracing the development of Armenian chess from the beginning of the 20th century, shortly after Armenia became a part of the Soviet Union. The key driving force in those days was Genrikh Kasparyan (1910-1995), the founding father of Armenian chess.
Genrikh Kasparyan
Kasparyan still holds the record for the most victories in the Armenian Championship (10 titles, from 1934 to 1956). He also put Armenia on the Soviet chess map when he won the semi-final of the USSR Championship in 1931, finishing ahead of Botvinnik. Kasparyan would qualify for the USSR Championship on three more occasions (the last time in 1952), which was no small feat in Soviet times. Kasparyan was in the first batch of players awarded the International Master title, when it was introduced by FIDE in 1950.
However, Kasparyan’s achievements as a chess composer are even greater. He is the author of several hundred studies, primarily focused on the endgame. In 1972 he became the first person to be awarded with the title Grandmaster of Chess Composition.
He published several collections of chess studies, and those are probably among the most underrated chess books out there. Levon Aronian once included Kasparyan’s “The Secrets of the Chess Composer” on a list of his three favorite chess books!
Here is one of the most famous of Kasparyan’s studies:
Genrikh Kasparyan
Shakhmaty v SSSR, 1939, 1st prize
1.Bg5! b3 2.Rd2+ Ka1 3.f7
3.Be3? b2+ 4.Rxb2 Rxf6 5.Bd4 Rf1+ 6.Kc2 a3 7.Rb1+ Ka2 8.Rxf1 stalemate!
3...a3 4.Rd1 Rd6 5.f8Q b2+ 6.Kc2+ Rxd1 7.Qxa3#
4.f8Q Rg1+ 5.Rd1 Rg2 6.Qa3+ Ra2 7.Rd2!! Rxa3
7...b2+ loses prosaically: 8.Qxb2+ Rxb2 9.Rxb2 a3 10.Rb1+! Ka2 11.Rb8 Ka1 12.Kc2 a2 13.Kb3 Kb1 14.Ka3+ Ka1 15.Rh8 Kb1 16.Rh1+
8.Rb2! Black has only one legal move, which leads to immediate mate: 8...Ra2 9.Rb1#
Tigran Petrosian
The next breakthrough in Armenian chess history was the emergence of Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984). Incidentally, like Kasparyan before him, the future 9th World Champion was not born in Armenia. Both Kasparyan and Petrosian grew up in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) and made their first steps in chess in Georgia.
The triumphant greeting of Tigran Petrosian at Yerevan airport
Petrosian showed great promise already as a teenager. In 1945 he won the Georgian Men’s Championship. In 1946 he moved to Yerevan, won the Armenian Championship, then won the USSR Junior Championship (with a phenomenal score, 14 out of 15!) and scored a master title by winning a match against Kasparyan (8:6) in what could be considered a symbolic passing of the torch for Armenian chess.
A few years later Petrosian moved to Moscow, where he quickly rose from a rank-and-file master to a grandmaster and a World Championship candidate. From 1953 to 1980 Petrosian would not miss a single World Championship cycle, always reaching at least the Candidates stage.
Petrosian managed to scale the highest peak of chess on the fourth attempt. In 1962 he won the Curaçao Candidates (no losses in 27 games!) and in 1963 he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik in a World Championship match (+5 -2 =15).
A little-known fact is that Petrosian also became the first World Champion in 30+ years to win a World Championship match after ascending to the throne. Indeed, from 1934's Alekhine-Bogoljubow to 1966's Petrosian-Spassky the best that the reigning World Champions could muster was drawing the match against the challenger!
Petrosian had an innate talent for defense and prophylactic thinking, which made him almost unbeatable. He played in 10 Chess Olympiads from 1958 to 1978, including four times on first board, but lost just one (!) game out of 129. This trait earned him the moniker “Iron Tigran”. Lev Polugaevsky once said:
In those years it was easier to win the USSR Championship than to win a single game against Petrosian.
The following position is the most famous of all Petrosian’s defensive concepts:
Reshevsky – Petrosian
Zürich 1953, Candidates Tournament


Here Petrosian played 25...Re6!!, a purely positional exchange sacrifice to stop the white pawns and secure the black knight an outpost on d5.
Tigran Petrosian died at an early age – he was only 55 years old when he died of stomach cancer – but left an incredible legacy and remains a national hero in Armenia to this day. The usage of the name Tigran, which was already popular, spiked after 1963, and the latest FIDE rating list has about a dozen players with the name Tigran Petrosian, including 1 GM and 2 IMs!
In 2018 Armenia issued a banknote of 2,000 Dram with Petrosian’s portrait on it. There is only one other chess player who has previously been honored in a similar way – Paul Keres appeared on Estonia’s 5 kroon bill (unfortunately those are no longer in circulation as Estonia has since joined the Eurozone.)
The last Soviet generation
Rafael Vaganian
Petrosian’s victory in the World Championship match led to a chess boom in Armenia. The numbers enrolling in chess clubs doubled, and eventually other Armenian players became grandmasters, including Rafael Vaganian, Smbat Lputian and Arshak Petrosian.
Of this generation, Rafael Vaganian was the most successful. He became a grandmaster at 19 years old by winning a strong tournament in Vrnjačka Banja (Yugoslavia), ahead of Leonid Stein and Ljubomir Ljubojević. It was an impressive achievement, since Vaganian was not even an International Master at the time!
Vaganian played in many USSR Championships and finally won the title in 1989. He also reached the Candidates Matches twice (1986 and 1988). Apart from this, Vaganian won dozens of tournaments over his long career, including a Senior World Championship title as recently as 2019.
Coincidentally, the last person to win the USSR Chess Championship was another Armenian, Artashes Minasian, who won the final edition of the tournament in 1991.
Chess in independent Armenia
In December 1991 Armenia officially attained independence, but its starting conditions were tough. Armenia is not rich in natural resources, and being a landlocked country made it vulnerable to an economic blockade by its neighbors (Azerbaijan and Turkey), which has not been lifted to this day. Armenia experienced a sharp downturn in its economy and electricity blackouts became a regular occurrence.
Chess was one of the few respites. In 1992 Armenia surprised the world by winning a bronze medal at its first Chess Olympiad, fielding a team that was made up mostly of the players who cut their teeth in the Soviet competitions – Rafael Vaganian, Vladimir Akopian, Smbat Lputian, Artashes Minasian, Arshak Petrosian and Ashot Anastasian.
Vladimir Akopian
The youngest member of this team was the 1991 World Junior Champion, Vladimir Akopian, who would become a key member of the Armenian team, linking the Soviet generation with the one that emerged after independence. Akopian has some links to Kasparov – he was also born in Baku (Azerbaijan) and studied in the famous Botvinnik/Kasparov school. In 1999 Akopian came tantalizingly close to winning the FIDE Knockout World Championship, losing the final match to Alexander Khalifman.
Akopian was the first Armenian player to cross the 2700 rating barrier (in 2003) and he would represent the country in the next 12 Olympiads, including playing three times on first board. Vladimir Akopian led the team to three bronze medals (in 1992, 2002 and 2004), but in 2006 he passed the baton to Levon Aronian, as by that time Aronian was already a Top 10 player.
This ushered in an incredible streak of victories for the Armenian team, as it won the Chess Olympiads in 2006, 2008 and then again in 2012. This success simply defies explanation. Of course, Armenia had a strong line-up but the same could be said about many other countries. And yet when it came to Chess Olympiads, there was a certain magic, the proverbial team spirit that helped Armenia to get over the line.
The team that won the first-ever gold for Armenia featured a player who would die tragically young. Karen Asrian was in the world top 100 for many years and played on the third board at the 2006 Olympiad. In June 2008 he died from a sudden heart attack whilst driving to a tournament in Yerevan. He was only 28 years old. The tournament that was about to start was postponed and later renamed the Karen Asrian Memorial.
Despite this terrible blow, Armenia won the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, and then another one in 2012. In the last edition they were strengthened by Sergei Movsesian, an Armenian who lived in the Czech Republic and Slovakia for many years but returned to Armenia to represent his home country.
An Armenian postage stamp depicting the national team that won the 2008 Chess Olympiad
Movsesian is but one of many examples of great chess players in the Armenian diaspora. For example, in the United States there are Samuel Sevian, Varuzhan Akobian and Tatev Abrahamyan; Brazil has Krikor Mekhitarian; in Russia there are Yuri Dokhoyan and David Paravyan; and of course, many Armenians would not hesitate to count Kasparov too!
Armenian chess has come a long way from its humble beginnings a century earlier. In 2011 Armenian chess received a further boost when it was made a mandatory subject in primary schools, along with the more established subjects such as math or sport. Who knows, maybe the next Petrosian or the next Aronian is currently discovering chess in the second grade of a school somewhere in Armenia...
About the author
FM Andrey Terekhov
Andrey Terekhov (@ddtru) grew up in Russia, lived in many countries and currently resides in Singapore. His best results at the board are victories at the Munich Open (2008), Nabokov Memorial in Kiev (2012) and shared 2nd place at the Washington Open (2018). He is the author of the Two Knights Defense course on Chessable. For the past few years Andrey has been writing a book about Vasily Smyslov, with publication planned for late 2020.

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