Chess grandmaster Levon Aronian said on Friday he was leaving Armenia and would represent the United States, citing what he said was Armenian officials’ indifference to chess as one of the reasons.
The 38-year-old, who is ranked sixth in the world, announced his decision on his Facebook page.
“The past year has been very difficult for all of us with a pandemic, a war and in my case there was personal adversity and the state’s absolute indifference towards Armenian chess,” he wrote, referring to six weeks of fighting between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces over the Nagorno-Karabkah enclave.
“I was faced with a choice: quit my job or move to where I am valued,” he wrote.
Smbat Lputian, deputy head of the Armenian Chess Federation, said he regretted Aronian’s decision.
“This is a big loss for Armenian chess,” he told Reuters.
The Saint Louis Chess Club said Aronian was relocating to the US city to continue his career and would represent the United States at future competitions.
US Chess Federation president Mike Hoffpauir said the organization would welcome Aronian pending the approval of the International Chess Federation (Fide).
“The US Chess Federation welcomes the news of Super GM Levon Aronian’s intent to relocate to the United States,” Hoffpauir said in a statement. “Until such time that he is living in the United States, the US Chess Federation has no jurisdiction with regard to his status with Fide. As with all transfer matters, the US Chess Federation does not allow for inviting or paying for the transfer of any player. Our role is to process the player’s administrative paperwork as required by Fide.”
Fide told Reuters it could not comment on Aronian’s intentions and plans.
“A player can represent the country/federations where he resides,” Fide said. “That doesn’t necessarily imply that he changes his nationality.”
Aronian’s move follows political unrest in Armenia, where prime minister Nikol Pashinyan condemned what he said was an attempted coup on Thursday after the army demanded he quit.
Should Fide approve the transfer, Aronian would become the fifth American in the top 20 of the current Fide world rankings, joining No 2 Fabiano Caruana, No 9 Wesley So, No 14 Leinier Domínguez and No 19 Hikaru Nakamura.