The Levon Aronian Transfer: My Thoughts

Levon Aronian from ARM to STL!?

Levon Aronian
Levon Aronian. Photo:

When I first saw the chess24 tweet with news that Levon Aronian will switch federations from Armenia to USA, I seriously thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke!

Then I realized it’s only February 26…

Holy Crap. Of all top players, I never expected to see Aronian transfer from Armenia. He is THE living treasure of a chess-obsessed nation.

Then I read his comments in the press release of the Saint Louis Chess Club, and understood his decision. A new governement apparently didn’t support his endeavors the way he felt they should. It reminds me of Sergey Karjakin’s transfer from Ukraine to Russia several years ago.


More Support is Good for Chess as a Whole

I’ve already seen comments online criticizing the USA and particularly Rex Sinquefield, but I’m all for top players receiving more support, no matter which country they play for.

Personally, I’m grateful for Mr. Sinquefield supporting chess the way he has over the past 10+ years. He is the single most important person in American chess since Bobby Fischer.

Aronian playing for the USA in Olympiads and World Team Championships will be…strange… but otherwise, not much will change.

Levon Aronian will always be seen as Armenian by fans worldwide. Let’s discuss the rest of Team USA:

  • Wesley So is still viewed as Filipino because he changed federations when he was already a 2700 player.
  • The case of Leinier Dominguez is very similar to that of Aronian.
  • Hikaru Nakamura developed as a chess player entirely in the States — and won the top section of my first rated tournament.
  • Fabiano Caruana took his early steps in chess in America. I would know, he played in countless Marshall Chess Club events I directed. The first time he played in one of my tournaments, he was already a FIDE Master. This was long before he went to Europe.
  • Ray Robson, Sam Shankland, and Jeffery Xiong developed in the United States.

Chess doesn’t have the money of other sports, and players should find opportunities wherever they can. Those complaining on the sidelines aren’t going to pay these players’ bills.

Good luck, Levon!

Author: Andre Harding

Since 2003 I've taught chess to thousands of students in public, private, and charter schools in the New York City area, and have given countless private lessons. I also direct USCF- and FIDE-rated chess tournaments.

2 thoughts on “The Levon Aronian Transfer: My Thoughts”

  1. The new regime slashed the chess budget, including support for Aronianhimself such as access to a super computer, and suggested that at 38 his time was past. Ironically, this decision comes just a few months after Aronian defeated Magnus Carlsen and Caruana with the black pieces at Norway’s Stavanger elite tournament. Criticism has been directed at Sinquefield, 76, for buying up top talent, but international transfers are officially accepted by Fide. For a 2700-rated elite grandmaster like Aronian, the USCF (in practice, Sinquefield) must pay Armenia €50,000.

    1. Yeah, budget cuts seem the main culprit. It’s weird to say Aronian at 38 is past his best, because who does Armenia have to replace him at the moment? I could understand if they had several young players waiting their turn.

      Agree that the transfer system makes this all possible. Then again, no one can “buy” a player if he or she doesn’t agree.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *