Interviews Feb 5, 2020 | 7:59 PMby Colin McGourty

Aronian: "I’m more talented, but some people push harder"

Levon Aronian was spending a lot of time in airports today and decided to answer questions from his followers on Instagram. “The Chess Prophet”, as he currently styles himself there, provided some predictably entertaining but also serious answers to questions that ranged from chess to sport, music and literature. Karpov or Kasparov? Nadal or Federer? Dogs or cats? Don’t miss this fun Q&A session!

The many faces of Levon Aronian | screenshots: Levon's Instagram

If you’re in time you can still catch the video answers to all these questions as a story on Levon Aronian’s highly recommended Instagram (click his profile photo, if you're browsing on the web). We’ve transcribed most of the answers below:

e4 or d4?

e4 any day. It’s the stronger move and much more fun.

Who is your favourite chess player?

That will be Alexander Alekhine, World Champion and the most exciting and always evolving chess player.

Bishop or knight?

There are far more tricks with the knights, so knights in most of the cases.

Your Oscar award prediction?

Joker is going to win it all, because it’s a tour de force of Joaquin Phoenix and it’s a really interesting movie.

For a player [rated] 2000, how would you structure studying based on openings, middlegames and endings?

Well, you need to know some basic endgames but mostly I would focus on the middlegame - tactics and understanding the plans of the position in the opening you play. That’s what I would do.

Dogs or cats?

I love both, but I think dogs are more fun to be with and cats are low maintenance, so depending on the person… I guess I would go with dogs.

Who is the best jazz musician ever?

For me it would be either John Coltrane or Charles Mingus, or Charlie Parker. I don’t know – too many great musicians!

With Kobe’s news, I wonder if you have any hero/mentor who inspires you to work hard on chess?

Generally reading all kinds of interviews of sports people is very useful, so I have Bill Russell, the basketball player, that I really love, and different people.

Do you like cooking?

I love cooking, but sometimes I experiment too much so I end up being the only one who eats my cooking, but yeah, cooking is a passion!

What should you do when you’re stuck in a [2]200 range rating for over a year?

I guess you need to check your tactics - that’s the answer to all of the woes, all of the problems.

Top 5 overrated things?

1. Oysters, European oysters
2. Snails
3. Milk chocolate
4. Intelligence of chess players
5. Oh, I’m in the food row…

Who is your favourite classical composer?

Bach and Mozart.

Why so colourful?

The joy of life - the celebration of living and the miracle of life!



Wiz Khalifa or Snoop Dogg?

Snoop Dogg, old style

Karpov or Kasparov?

Kasparov. He’s more strategical - bigger pictures, symphonies. Kasparov.

What kind of sports do you like (except chess)?

Basketball, soccer – anything, anything with balls!

The last book you read?

Albert Speer – the Spandau Diaries

Tal vs. Botvinnik or Fischer vs. Spassky?

Fischer vs. Spassky – stronger players and more modern.

How to cope when parents are forcing me to stop chess? I love chess so much.

I think you need to set a goal and then show your parents that this is your plan, you’re reaching this goal and then you can be a professional. You have to show them that you’re working as hard in chess…

What is your reaction when you lose a winning game?

I get very upset and I get reminded that I’m a human being and I need to work harder and try harder. My reaction is that I’m very upset.

In an interview you said your favourite writer is Platonov (as mine). Why are you fond of him?

Well, the guy basically invented a language to describe the surreal and crazy mechanical situation that the Soviet Union was in.

Federer or Nadal?

I go for Nadal, because Federer’s more talented but Nadal tries harder, pushes harder, and I’m more talented but some people push harder, so opposites attract.

What do you think of hip hop?

I like hip hop because it’s kind of street poetry. I don’t have a lot of respect for it, but it’s music I love listening to – it’s the fun music.

Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?

Dostoevsky for me, because he puts his heart out on his hand. He’s very honest, and crazy and very inconsistent.

If it wasn’t chess what would you be doing with your life?

Well, I’m very competitive, so any kind of sport or any field that I would have to show excellence or dominance over my colleagues.

What is your favourite drink?

So it had to be some herbal drink, I guess, mate or rooibos tea or Armenian mountain tea.

Do you remember the tournament you played in Iran when you were an IM?

I can tell it was a very unsuccessful tournament for me, but I really liked the sweets. I was 13 years old.

What’s your opinion about Vassily Ivanchuk’s chess style?

I’ve learned a lot from Ivanchuk in the way he understands the game and I think I won the first game and I lost 7, but then I managed to come back.

When are you coming to Argentina?

Hopefully next year, because I want to do a little tour around that part, Argentina and Uruguay.

What’s your favourite perfume?

My first ever sponsor was always using Ralph Lauren’s green one, so I use the same brand.

What is your all-time favourite movie?

I have two favourites, one in English, one in Russian. My favourite in English is This Wonderful Life and the one in Russian is Mimino.

Age 25. Rating 1900. Is it possible to be a GM without a coach? Only with books and engines.

I kind of doubt it because you need to have this lineage. Normally a coach comes up with knowledge from his former coaches, so you do need a coach at some point.

Have you ever been to Morocco?

I haven’t been to Morocco but my wife has been and in the last day of her travel she accidentally destroyed all of her photographs so that’s one reason to come back to Morocco for her and I would love to come myself.

What’s the tournament you enjoyed most?

The most enjoyable tournaments that I ever played were the tournaments in Monaco, because they had laser tag on a free day - it was blindfold and rapid. Also I loved the tournament in Mainz because it was Fischer Random.

What is your favourite quote?

I learned my favourite quote two weeks ago. It goes: “assumption is the mother of all screw-ups”.

Favourite brand of shirts?

I really love the brand of shirts from South Africa, the ones that Mandela wore, and I love Agnes B and also some Ralph Lauren.

Have you been in Spain? Do you like it?

Spain is one of my most favourite countries to be. I love the north, I love the south and I have a place in San Sebastian that I visit regularly.   

Favourite travel destination?

I really loved my time in the Seychelles. It’s a beautiful country with some of the best beaches. Another country I really love is Australia.  

Life lesson learnt from being a top player and excelling at chess?

Humility and perseverance.

Where was Levon flying? We don’t know, but he might be in action this weekend as his team Baden-Baden play in the Chess Bundesliga on Saturday and Sunday. You can follow all those games live here on chess24!

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