Interviews May 12, 2014 | 4:00 PMby Colin McGourty

Aronian: I never imagined Carlsen would become a top player

While discussing young Armenian talents in a recent interview Levon Aronian made the surprising admission that he thought Magnus Carlsen would fail to become a top chess player as his approach wouldn’t work against stronger players. He also explained why he didn’t like the World Champion’s style.

Carlsen - Aronian in Round 8 of the London Candidates. Aronian: "In important tournaments I don't play very well - I'm trying to find the reasons" | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, London 2013 website

World no. 2 Levon Aronian was a late developer who only truly joined the world elite at the age of 23 (see our full profile). His views on talented youngsters are therefore especially interesting, and in an interview with Vera Martirosyan for Sport he explained that you can never be sure who will actually develop into a strong player:

Aronian: It’s hard to tell. When I looked at Carlsen’s play I never imagined he’d become a top player. When I was 19 I had no fear of failing to be a great chess player as I knew I was strong, although many no doubt thought my rating would never rise above 2500. It happens that at 18 something changes, and your chakras open up.

Vera Martirosyan: I’m curious why you didn’t think Carlsen would become a top chess player?

To be honest, I never liked his style. He tried more to put pressure on his opponent mentally and didn’t have a particular chess style. Therefore I thought he’d be unable to play against strong players, but he’s proven he can change and play a different chess.

People often say that he’s achieved everything more through hard work than through talent.

Rather it’s a matter of character. He manages to find that strength within himself. Previously Kasparov always fought and found a way, then Topalov. The new generation is learning from that and it’s a very good thing.

Kasparov often praises Magnus and Kasparov is our fellow countryman. Was there ever a case when he supported you or offered to help?

It would be good for me to train with the most legendary chess player in the world, but it’s not a matter of what we want. The chance never arose. And now I’m no longer at an age when I need to train.

Do you interact with Magnus outside of tournaments?

Sometimes, but nevertheless it’s hard to be friends with chess players. It’s as if they’re always hiding something.

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