BY ROUBEN KRIKOURIAN
GLENDALE—International chess champion Levon Aronian was welcomed by the Glendale community on Monday as he held a “meet and greet” and public press conference, hosted by Glendale City Clerk Arty Kassakhian. The chess Grandmaster is on his first visit to Los Angeles to lead a four-day chess camp organized by Metro Chess and the American Chess Academy from July 9 to 13.
City Clerk Kassakhian introduced Aronian to an audience at Glendale’s newly constructed Adult Recreation Center, remarking that people of the community are thrilled to see Aronian in their city. Kassakhian also spoke on behalf of the community, praising Aronian for being an “ambassador of Armenia” in the field of chess.
Before Aronian took to the podium to answer questions from the audience, Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan was invited on stage to present the chess champion with a certificate of recognition from the City of Glendale. Mayor Sinanyan congratulated Aronian and thanked him for all his contributions.
Aronian said he was happy to be in Los Angeles and was surprised at the size of the Armenian community in Glendale, saying that he felt at home.
Aronian acknowledged that he represents his country wherever he goes, and expressed his gratitude for the support he receives. “I consider it a great privilege to represent my country,” he remarked.
The chess Grandmaster spoke about Armenia’s recently enacted policy which makes chess a mandatory subject of study in schools. Aronian described the policy as an innovative step. He explained that chess adds value to a student’s education because it encourages one to think deeply about things and delve into intellectual pursuits with patience and diligence.
“If all the countries taught chess in school, I believe the world would be a better place,” Aronian said.
Aronian also spoke about the innovations and developments in the modern game of chess and discussed some of the great contributions from Armenians in the field such as himself, noting that Armenia is a major and disproportional contributor to the development of the game today.
Following a technical discussion about his chess game, Aronian discussed his personal choices. He admitted that as a child, he wanted to play the violin more than he wanted to play chess. He also discussed his recent interest in boxing, reassuring the concerned audience that he will not hurt himself.
When asked about the “key to success,” Aronian advised all young people that confidence is the most important thing.
Aronian concluded with an anecdote about Azerbaijani chess players using a chess opening known as the Petrossian. He recalled a recent even in which Azerbaijani authorities banned figure skaters from performing to music by Aram Khachatourian due to his being an Armenian composer. Drawing a similarity, Aronian says he slyly complemented the Azerbaijani players on their use of the Petrossian opening when Azeri media interviewed him, drawing laughter from his Glendale audience.
Founding member of the American Chess Academy and former coach of Armenia’s National Chess Team Armen Ambartsoumian delivered closing remarks. He thanked Aronian for participating in the chess camp co-hosted by his organization.
Ambartsoumian also acknowledged Aronian’s first ever coach, Grandmaster Melikset Khachiyan, who was in the audience, as well as his mother, Seda Aronova-Avagyan. Also in the audience was Woman Grandmaster Tatev Abrahamyan, one of the youngest top-rated women’s chess players in the US.