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Levon Aronian on chess, music and conflict

Armenia’s leading chess player Levon Aronian says every game is a conflict, but his biggest conflict is that with former World Champion Tigran Petrosian.

“Since childhood I’ve tried to play like Petrosian, and I always enter into conflict with him, because understanding his game is very difficult,” Levon Aronian said in an interview with Mark Grigoryan, Executive Director of Public Radio of Armenia.

Aronian, 35, obtained his grandmaster’s title at the age of 19. Everyone would then say it was too late for him to gain a place among best chess players in the world. “I proved that age is not important,” Levon said.

Every high-level chess game is also a terrible tension. “Had I been able to overcome the tension, I would not make mistakes,” said Aronian, who won his second World Cup title in September 2017.

“Different players use different methods. I’ve come to understand that it’s easier for me to resist tension, when I’m in good physical shape. Fitness is important to me, that’s why I’m trying to train every day,” Levon said in an interview.

Facing players from Azerbaijan certainly makes players from both countries more nervous, but Levon has won over it.

Games against Azerbaijani players would bring additional tension at the beginning of my career, but I feel at ease now. When you focus too much on winning, the opposite occurs.

Aronian recalled a story from 2003-2004, but refrained from disclosing names. “During the European Championship I received a call at 1:30 a.m. from an Azerbaijani player’s father. He asked me to draw the game against his son the next day, because it was too important to them. I turned down the request, because I never engage in such things. The next day the game went bad for me and I was on the brink of defeat, and drew the game in the end.”

What would Levon Aronian be if he were not a chess player? “It would certainly be something, where mathematical rules work,” he says.

Renowned composer Tigran Mansyryan once said that Levon Aronian was expert in classical music. “My knowledge is small, but the interest is huge. I like speaking to Tigran Mansuryan and asking him questions. I’ve learnt all I know about symphonic music from him,” Levon said.

“When training I need music that leads the way mathematically like chess. And then what comes to my mind is music by Bach, Beethoven. It inspires me and helps to not get bored with my work. This music flows like water, exempting you of the need to focus on every sound.”

Towards the end of the interview Mark Grigoryan played the recording of Tigran Petrosian’s address to the nation immediately after winning the World Champion’s title.

Dear compatriots, it’s hard for me to say how happy I am to have been able to achieve the World Chess Champion’s title. It’s hard for me to find words to express my gratitude to my compatriots, who have been supporting me throughout this hard two-month struggle. My victory is a victory of all of us. I would not triumph without your help and support.

Tigran Petrosian, 1967

Mark Grigoryan said he hopes Levon Aronian will soon issue a similar address to the nation on air of Public Radio of Armenia.

Levon Aronyan is set to participate in the Candidates Tournament in 2018, a competition that will determine the challenger for current World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

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