Sport

Pawn star: How the 'David Beckham of chess' became a national hero

Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT) February 1, 2016
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Levon Aronian is the fourth-best chess player on the planet. And in his native Armenia, that also makes him a national treasure. Oli Scarff/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
"What I really love about chess is it's kind of an art form, but at the same time you have a distinct level of judging who's better and who's worse -- which is the rating system," said Aronian. THOMAS SAMSON/Getty Images/File
"I've played a couple seven, eight-hour games. Consider the fact that you also train for three hours, generally, before the game. So it's an 11-hour working day," he added.
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"Women are generally weaker than men at chess, because they are told from a very young age: 'Oh honey, you lost, you're a girl, it's OK.' So it's also a psychological thing," said Aronian.
The chess champion believes women should play with men.
"When you limit women to playing against each other, that creates a disbalance. Every woman who stopped playing against women, and started against men, became a much stronger player."
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The world's No. 1 chess player Magnus Carlsen (pictured left playing Aronian, in 2008), has said the Armenian is one of his toughest opponents.
"There are several players who I find it difficult to play against. Probably the most difficult is Aronian," Carlsen told CNN. "I have a pretty good score against him, but he's probably outplayed me more times than anyone else at the top."
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Chess has been compulsory in all Armenian schools since 2011.
"Generally, it's good for children to learn any sport," said Aronian.
"But the advantage of chess is very specific, the fact that you're not challenged physically, so nobody has an advantage from the start."
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"Chess is a wonderful game - two players face off without third party intervention in an ultimate battle of the mind," said Professor Aram Hajian, dean at the College of Science and Engineering at the American University of Armenia, and co-founder of the Chess Academy of Armenia.
"Creativity meets calculation, psychology meets planning, and strategy is peppered with tactics, all in a game that is played in practically every country on Earth."
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The moment Armenian Tigran Petrosian beat Soviet Mikhail Botvinnik to become 1963 World Chess Champion (a title he held until 1969), has been likened JFK's assassination in America -- everyone in Armenia remembers where they were at the time. Frank Barratt/Hulton Archive/Getty Images