The Armenian team is currently in first place
at the 38th Chess Olympaid, beating out a Russian team "touted as the strongest ever assembled."
They're currently defending champions and Armenian players are regularly among the top-ranked in the world.
Like much of the former Soviet Union, chess holds a special place in Armenians' hearts. Their president, Serzh Sarkisian, is the president of Armenian's Chess Federation.
When they won the championship last year, the winning team was given a heroes' welcome
, one of the stars even lauded as the David Beckham of the chess world.
The defining moments in Armenian chess history came first in 1963 when Tigran Petrosian
beat Russian Mikhail Botvinnik to become World Chess Champion. Nicknamed "Iron Tigran," Petrosian was one of the hardest players to beat in top-level chess due to his patient, defensive style of play.
And then in 1966, he successfully defended
his title against Russian Boris Spassky
. Those two wins were bitter moments for Russians, whose players had dominated for years -- especially to be beaten by an "ethnic."
Petrosian's wins sparked a huge renaissance in Armenian chess. Children were named after Petrosian. Fathers with big dreams sent their children to chess school twice a week. As our Armenian Service Director, Harry Tamrazian says, "Every Armenian knows how to play chess."
It's nice to see that legacy has lived on.
-- Luke Allnutt