The future of chess is in India: Aronian


Until now, it has been difficult to decipher the United States Chess Olympiad. They won each of their first three rounds before a draw against Uzbekistan on Monday, lacking the clout of a heavily seeded side who were considered overwhelming favorites. Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Leinier Dominguez and Sam Shankland all had their moments of indifference, and their victories required one of them to dig deep and save them.

“So far we’re slowly getting into shape,” said world No. 6 Aronian, who was held by Uzbekistan’s Nodirbek Yakubboev on Monday. “It’s normal to be a bit relaxed when you’re the big favourite. We had some wake up calls. We are more or less ready to fight now.”

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Aronian seems to agree that the top two Indian teams in the open section are well positioned to play in the medal fight. “There is no guarantee that we will overrun the event, even though we have such strong players. Because everyone fights. It only takes one bad match for things to completely turn around. Indian teams are very strong with so many talented players. The majority of people in the chess world know that the future of chess is in India,” he said.

The 39-year-old has been on the chess circuit for more than two decades and has witnessed the development of the game up close. When he first started, the involvement of technology in chess must have been minimal.

“The dynamic has changed,” he explained, “with the help of computers, players are getting much stronger much earlier. I was very proud when I became a grandmaster at the age of 17. Today that is no longer a great achievement.”

While this is an obvious benefit of the technology’s growing role, there are downsides as well. According to Aronian, it hinders the freedom to experiment and find your own way as a chess player.

“Of course, engines have completely changed the game. I can’t say for the better. But it’s a game we love and are ready to play. We’re still trying to find vacancies that give us space to be creative. The problem is that certain openings have simply become unplayable because of the computers. You can only draw from these openings, so you can never fight for a win. Personally, I like to try to be creative with openings. It’s not possible nowadays,” he said.

India’s youngsters – notably D. Gukesh, R. Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin – have been earmarked as future top 10 players by many chess luminaries. Aronian also spoke some words of wisdom to them.

“The peak is much earlier today. Some players peak at 16. What it takes is love of the game and hardworking character and work. In general, the players who pay attention to their tactical vision and study their classics are better than the others. That’s usually the trick to getting the highest level,” he said.

“Carlsen shouldn’t undermine the world title”

In response to Magnus Carlsen’s decision not to defend his world title next year, Aronian said, “I think the format is fine. I have a feeling Magnus just got tired. It is normal. Although there are no injuries in chess, one can be completely exhausted. He just wants to release the pressure and play. If he’s honest and respects players who become world champions, I see that as a positive. If he undermines the world title, it would be a negative blow to the chess world.”

How does Aronian ensure he stays fresh and motivated for the challenges ahead? “I’m reminded every day that I’m not a very good player. So I’m working on it,” he replied without a hint of self-mockery. “In the first round here, my opponent played much better than me despite a lower rating. That’s a pretty big motivator.”


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