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Triumphant Legacy Of Armenian Chess

Petrosian vs Fischer, 1971
Petrosian vs Fischer, 1971
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

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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