Former President Serzh Sargsyan has said that grandmaster Levon Aronian has promised to return to Armenia when "the attitude towards him changes, and chess is respected" again.
Aronian announced in late February that he was leaving Armenia to represent the United States, maintaining that the Armenian authorities had not been honoring their commitment to develop chess in the country.
Attending a tournament in Yerevan on Wednesday, March 3, Sargsyan refused to comment on Aronian's statement. The ex-president did say, however, that before Aronian's departure he suggested creating an opportunity so that chess patrons could support the field instead of the government. According to him, Aronian dismissed the proposal, saying "it's not about support."
Sargsyan also noted that the grandmaster has said he will return to Armenia when "the attitude towards changes, and chess is respected in Armenia as before."
Aronian had been the leading Armenian chess player since the early 2000s and is much loved by the public and Armenians worldwide. He won the FIDE World Cup in 2005 and 2017, led the Armenian national team to the gold medals in the Chess Olympiads of 2006 (Turin), 2008 (Dresden) and 2012 (Istanbul) and at the World Team Chess Championship in Ningbo 2011. Aronian won the FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2010. He was also world champion in Chess960 in 2006 and 2007, in rapid chess in 2009, and in blitz chess in 2010. As of February 2021, Aronian is No. 6 in the world, with a FIDE rating of 2781.