Levon Aronian, Armenia’s world No5 who led his national team to three Olympiad gold medals ahead of Russian and American favourites, is emigrating to St Louis and will represent the US in future.

Aronian’s decision comes after the former president and chess fan, Serzh Sargsyan, was ousted in 2018, and the new regime cut support. Aronian's wife, Arianne Caoilli, was killed in a car crash. St Louis, where FT reader Rex Sinquefield has created a renowned global chess centre, offered the grandmaster a new home.

Aronian can now realistically hope for a fourth Olympiad gold at Moscow 2022, where the US can field three top 10 players while Russia’s quartet, apart from world No4 Ian Nepomniachtchi, rank only in the top 20-30. China, the reigning champions, have been set back by the pandemic.

Aronian and Armenia’s story of a small nation which could not sustain its place at the global top has a familiar echo. From the seventies to the nineties England had a generation of young talents, won three Olympiad silver medals behind the USSR, and had Nigel Short as challenger for Garry Kasparov’s world crown. Now England is outside the top 10 countries.

2409

Wesley So v Magnus Carlsen, St Louis v Norway, online 2017. Black (to move) has a small edge due to his more active pieces, so White, who was short of time, aims to exchange queens. Can you find the world champion’s trap which worked after White’s plausible reply?

Click here for solution


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