Armenia’s Chess Champions Return Home to a Heroes Welcome

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The Armenian men’s chess team returned home Wednesday to a heroes welcome by thousands of fans waiting at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport, ecstatic over the teams gold medal victory in the World Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany on Tuesday.

The champions were taken to the Sports and Concert Complex in a motorcade adorned with flowers and tricolors for a victory concert, and fireworks show. The team had defended their title won in the previous World Chess Olympiad in Turin in 2006.

Armenia’secured its victory Tuesday by defeating China 2.5-1.5 in the 11th and final round of the tournament.

The news from Dresden on Tuesday had sparked celebrations among chess fans in Armenian capital Yerevan and throughout the country.

Many of them had followed live the final round action between Armenia and China in a closely packed Chess House in central Yerevan. The long-awaited victory was met with prolonged jubilations.

Armenian Chess Federation deputy head Vanik Zakarian described the win as fantastic for a small country like Armenia. “It is a very amazing result, a fantastic result,” reported RFE/RL.

President Serzh Sarkisian, who also heads Armenia’s Chess Federation, was in Dresden to encourage the team before the crucial match against China.

According to Zakarian, Sarkisian had made the symbolic first move for Aronian, who played with black pieces. Before that, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov did the same on behalf of Aronian’s Chinese opponent.

“Our team had been seeded as ninth at this Olympiad. But there is no other team among the Olympiad participants that would have the same solidarity and level of organization. The victory comes very natural,” Zakarian added.

"Winning the gold already feels like something we’re getting used to," Aronian said.

Armenia’s have traditionally excelled in chess, which is one of the most popular sports in Armenia. The country’s leading players enjoy domestic stardom compared to that of top soccer players abroad. Russia went home empty-handed.

The Armenian women’s chess team, meanwhile, placed 6th among 114 participating countries. Georgia’s women won the gold with 18 points, followed by Ukraine and the United States with the bronze.

Coming in second place, Israel’s men’s teem took the silver with 18 points, while the United State’s team, which included two Armenia’s, Varushan Akobian and Tatev Abrahaian, came in third, taking the bronze with 17 points to upset Ukraine, which had not lost a single match during the tournament.

The next Olympiad, in 2010, is set to be held in Khanty-Maniysk, Russia, while the following, in 2012, will take place in Istanbul, announced the general assembly of the World Chess Federation.

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