In chess–one of the most common opening moves is called the Ruy Lopez–also known as the Spanish Game in countries outside of the United States. The opening is named after Ruy Lopez de Segura–a 16th century Spanish priest who studied and wrote a 150 page book about chess–which is probably what I’d also do if I was celebate. In addition to his serious examination of chess opennings–Lopez included some ridiculous strategies in his book as well such as suggesting setting up a board so the sun shines in your oponnent’s eyes. A "Ruy Lopez" is an offensive move where you try to block your oponnent from moving his pawns/soldiers further up the board by attacking early and unsuspectingly.
The reason I just provided abrief lesson in chess history is because although chess is merely a game of strategy–there are so many parallels between chess and life –particularly in the area of politics. And last week marked significant victories for Armenia’s in both chess and politics. Americans don’t follow chess. Maybe it’s because it’s too cerebral a game and requires some thought and advanced strategical planning. But that’s expected from a culture where people are so mezmerized by the concept of car racing and foreign oild dependency that they make a cartoon about talking cars. If my car could talk–it would probably curse the high gas prices at the pumps! I love how Hollywood and Washington think that making a film about cars with huge cartoon eyes is going to make me forget that I paid 60 dollars for a tank of gas yesterday. But back to chess and politics and Armenia’s.
Let’s start off with the World Chess Olympiad held in Turin–Italy a few weeks ago. If you are a betting person–you should have taken Armenia to win this tournament. When the Chess Olympics began–the odds of Paris Hilton dating and then dumping another son of a Greek shipping magnate were greater than the 16 to 1 odds of Armenia beating Russia–India–China and a slew of other countries for the World Chess Championship. But a team of four talented and inspired Armenia’s from a landlocked country surrounded by hostile nations–rose up to the opportunity and pounded their opponents both literally and on the chess board on to victory and the first place trophy. Levon Aronian who is only 23 years old led the Fantastic Four of Chess by handing out defeat after defeat to his opponents. By the end of the tournament–Armenia was favored to win and some of the early favorites were taking in the sites and local tourist attractiosn around Italy.
Armenia’s a chess playing country. And to Armenia’s–it was no surprise that our boys won the world title. After all–how many other countries the size of Armenia have had as much success in chess? There have been two undisputed world chess champions from Armenia – Tigran Petrosian during the mid-late 60s who redefined defensive offensive play and current reigning Chess Czar Gary Kasparov. Kasparov is so good that he only plays super computers! Now if only Armenia’s political leaders had a bit of the chess genius in them – one can never stop hoping.
The victory in Italy was significant for so many reasons for Armenia’s and Armenia. Armenia was for many–many–many years–a vassal state of Rome. Roman armies conquered Armenia and interfered with our internal affairs playing off royal families against each other and using Armenia’s as sacrificial lambs against the armies of the Persians. Now–over two thousand years later – a small band of Armenia’s returned to the Roman Empire and conquered all the other "great powers" of the world in the ultimate game of war and strategy proving once again that revenge–like yalanchi dolma–is a dish best served very cold!
I doubt that the victory in chess will be a turning point in Armenia’s history but I would like to think that it had some effect on the political scene in Glendale–California. Most of you followed my articles chronicling the perfect storm that was brewing in the 43rd State Assembly district of California – home to Glendale and the largest Armenian population in the United States. The Democratic primary saw Glendale Councilman Frank Quintero challenge Burbank School Board Member Paul Krekorian for the party nomination. The difference between Republicans and Democrats is so great that the winner of the primary is virtually guaranteed victory in November’s general election. So it’s no surprise that the stakes were high and the election would become very very nasty. In the end–it turned out "nasty" would be an understatement as tens of thousands of non-Armenian homes were bombarded by a campaign mailer implying that the Armenian National Committee and Paul Krekorian had ties to terrorist. The mailer was produced and mailed out by a group called the California Latino Leadership Fund and was sent only to NON-Armenian households. Fortunately–the voters of the 43rd Assembly District rejected this racist mail piece and voted Krekorian to be the Democratic nominee by a decisive margin of 4000 votes.
Most local political leaders denounced the mailer but there were still a handful of Armenian community members who had hitched their buggy to the Quintero horse and pronounced Quintero’s innocense in the face of this blatantly anti-Armenian hate mail. My grandfather had a saying for folks like that. He’d say "If you’re a donkey–you’ll always stay a donkey." And believe me–this wasn’t meant as a compliment to Democrats! Anyone who actually believes that this mail piece was not a strategic move made to prevent the Armenian American pawn from advancing on the political chess board by the Latino leadership in Sacramento is very wrong. It’s true that the evidence may not be readily visible–but if you don’t believe that leaders like Assemblymembers Dario Frommer–Joe Coto–and Senators Martha Escruita were behind this–then you probably also believe that O.J. is innocent and that Michael Jackson would make a great baby sitter.
Publications like the LA Weekly and Capitol Weekly (Sacramento’s premier political publication) are investigating the connections between the Latino Leadership Fund and the Frank Quintero/Dario Frommer political machine. They may or may not find out the truth and reveal it to us. But here’s what every Armenian-American should think about. If the people who were allied with Mr. Quintero were willing to stoop to such levels–what makes us think that they won’t stoop even lower or that we can relly on the genuine support of these people in the future?
In chess–there are no gray squares or gray pieces. It’s pretty simple. It’s black and it’s white. And you can try to block a smaller–less important piece from advancing but if you’re smart and you play well and follow the rules – even a pawn can become a knight–rook or queen.
Skeptik Sinikian is not a professional chess player but is always open to playing a friendly game at Maple Park. You can find him dressed as a political pawn sitting at the table next to the old men playing backgammon. You can email him at [email protected] or visit his outdated blog at www.sinikian.blogspot.com .