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“For surely of all the drugs in the world, Chess must be the most permanently pleasurable”
November 30, 2009 9:08 AM   Subscribe

"Armenia is a tiny, poor country in the Caucasus, with a population of just over 3m. It has a long history of bloodshed and oppression; when it appears in the news it is usually because of its entanglement in some labyrinthine regional feud. And it excels at the ancient, cerebral game of chess." (via)
posted by The Whelk (14 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Around the corner from my apartment is a big, big tree -- bigger than any tree residing in the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street has any right to be. Wedged in the crotches of its low-hanging branches are about six or seven cheap patio-furniture cushions, and hanging from the ends of the branches are about six or seven milk crates.

Whenever I would see that tree I would wonder what the heck was going on, until one day I walked past it and found out that it's pretty much the epicenter of chess activity for all the old Armenian guys in my neighborhood. They sit in the middle of the dusty medial strip, under the tree on their milk crates and cushions, and play chess until it gets dark.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:24 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It also excels at the ancient, filiform art of cheese.
posted by Iridic at 9:26 AM on November 30, 2009


I know it's a common idiom to say "Country X is good at Sport Y," but with chess one can actually imagine the whole nation of Armenia turning up to vote on the country's next move. I can see the campaign slogans now.

"Caro-Kann: Wrong for Kasparov, Wrong for Armenia. Vote Sicilian Defense."

"French Defense, Armenian Variation: The Patriot's Choice."
posted by jedicus at 9:30 AM on November 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


I guess that explains why they get so much USAID money then. We don't want all that chess technology spilling over into Russia or Iran!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:48 AM on November 30, 2009


Wow chess and weightlifting. Armenia is that geeky kid in high school that no one messes with.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:07 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, sure, Levon is good, but he ain't no Magnus Karlsen.

(No, very interesting story, thanks.)
posted by Dumsnill at 10:15 AM on November 30, 2009


Great post. (And thanks for the introduction to Prospect.)

I haven't listened to it yet but a podcast at the BBC called Assignment Armenia: the cleverest nation on the planet (scroll down a bit) also addresses Armenia's chess success.
posted by philfromhavelock at 10:58 AM on November 30, 2009


Pollomacho: We can solve the "Chess Gap" problem by airdropping some Xboxes over the houses of the chess kids.

Just don't overdo it. We can't repeat what happened in Korea and create another "Starcraft Gap".
posted by qvantamon at 11:14 AM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


In Armenia the chess team guys are treated well. They walk around in Adidas tracksuits (well, a lot of guys do generally, but these are embroidered).
But really, the game played on the streets is nardi (backgammon).
posted by k8t at 11:23 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of the fastest rising mixed martial artists in the world is Gegard "dreamcatcher" Mousasi, born to Armenian parents in Iran. Current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, former Dream middleweight and middleweight GP champion, and former Cage Warriors middleweight champion. Training partner to Fedor Emelianenko. All this and he is only 24.

Whilst he was born in Iran he is referred to as Armenian in the MMA world, and he is an amazingly cerebral fighter, so I thought he was worth mentioning.
posted by nudar at 3:17 PM on November 30, 2009


In Armenia the chess team guys are treated well. They walk around in Adidas tracksuits (well, a lot of guys do generally, but these are embroidered).

Armenian chess players in embroidered Adidas tracksuits. This is exactly the kind of cultural tidbit I read MetaFilter for.
posted by decagon at 3:37 PM on November 30, 2009


Years back, a good buddy of mine in NYC owned and wore with some frequency a t-shirt with a message emblazoned in bold font: "RESTORE MT. ARARAT TO THE ARMENIANS". God, I wanted that shirt.

Here's some grooving Armenian traditional music played on oud and drums. And unlike many YouTube music clips, this sounds really good, so check it out, y'all.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:16 PM on November 30, 2009


But can they play Go?
posted by redbeard at 8:08 PM on November 30, 2009


Yeah, but in real life are they good at chopping off feet?
posted by bwg at 1:07 AM on December 1, 2009


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