Eureka! There it was on a recent front page of the Wall Street Journal, a picture of grandmaster Tigran Petrosian, the namesake, though not a descendant, of the former World Chess champion, nestled below an article on the “Fiscal Cliff.” We were pleased that the surprise article was about a country, Armenia, as ardent about chess as Britain is about its Royal family.
Armenia, with a population under 3 million, has won the gold medal in the chess Olympiads three out of the last times, coming out ahead of behemoths that entered. Americans would be stunned to find that Petrosian aroused the level of interest of a Hollywood idol, but in Armenia chess players are stars. Joe Parkinson, the author of the Journal article, explains that the chess players in Armenia have full governmental support and that chess is, by law, compulsory in the public schools. The state provides free chess training for children, pays for their participation in foreign countries and for chess sets and equipment. Compare that to the US where chess players pay for even their own pawns. Parkinson points out that most Armenians can remember the date that the original Tigran Petrosian (whom we will call No. 1) won the world championship against Mikhail Botvinnik in 1963.