Arshak Avetisyan

High School Student Organizes Fundraiser Chess Tournaments for Artsakh Aid: Next One November 14

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WASHINGTON – The existential war against Artsakh is galvanizing Armenians of all ages to come together and provide help in all kinds of ways. High school junior Arshak Avetisyan has come up with a unique approach. He has put together a series of four online fundraiser chess tournaments under the auspices of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Washington D. C.  The first took place on October 31, and the remainder are planned for November 14, November 28 and December 14. The proceeds are going to be sent to Armenia Fund to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of aggression.

Arshak turned to chess as his tool to help, he said, because “chess has always been a big part of my life. I know that chess is a universal language. It unifies people. And this is a time when everybody should unify and contribute to help Artsakh.”

Arshak was born in the United States, but both his parents were born in Yerevan and came to America in the early 2000s. All his relatives still live in Armenia, including his grandfather. Arshak said that though his parents are not chess players, his grandfather is a very good one.

On one of the family visits to Armenian, Arshak said, “One summer my grandfather brought the chess board and said let’s play a game. We started from there. That whole summer we did that together. Afterwards, when I went to America, we would Skype and play. Playing chess over Skype were some of the favorite moments of my childhood.”

Arshak started when he was only five-years old, and then, he said, “I just started to find the beauty in it. At around 9 or 10 years old, I started asking for more chess lessons. My grandfather played a huge role in my playing chess.”

The first tournament, which took place on October 31, raised over $3,000 through its entry fees. The majority of the 46 participants were from various parts of the United States, including Texas, Florida, New York and the Washington region, but there were also people from Germany, Catalonia, Spain, Russia and Armenia. Language was no barrier, for as Arshak said, “Even if you and I don’t speak the same language, we can communicate well about chess.”

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He explained how it works: “It is simple. When people donate through Donate Box online, we send them a code for the tournament, which takes place on lichess.org. They then enter the code to the tournament, when the time comes and the tournament begins.” Lichess itself is a completely free website and the tournament will last 100 minutes. Each player will have 10 minutes on their clock per game.

There is no limit on the number of participants, Arshak continued, and lichess.org is convenient and well organized. He said, “It is organized as an arena. You don’t necessarily play against people who have the same score. After one game, win or lose, you play against another player.”

In other words, children might end up playing against other children, or against strong adult players. Arshak said, “It is a great way as a child to both experience a very strong opponent and one who has the same experience as the child. The identities are not shown, though some Armenians may recognize the user names of opponents.”

The top five players in each tournament will receive certificates and souvenir prizes. In addition, Arshak was able to arrange for an extra special prize for tournament winners. The winner of the October 31 tournament will be able to play a couple of rapid chess games against Grandmaster Hrant Melkumyan, whereas the winner of the November 14 tournament will play against International Master and Woman Grandmaster Lilit Mkrtchian.
Arshak said that he messaged both of them with no expectations, but each really supported him and shared the news of the tournaments.

Lilit Mkrtchian

In addition to this, Arshak has been working hard to promote the tournament. He said that he contacted the chess federation in Armenia, and another chess community or forum of Armenian chess players. He went on Facebook and other social media to spread the news. He said that he has been getting everyone he knows to advertise on social media, including his parents. He also has been contacting school chess communities and Armenian groups.

Arshak Avetisyan

Arshak declared, “Special thanks to everybody who has supported me! I went into this with no expectations and got a lot of support from many people, and am very thankful for that.” In particular, he mentioned Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, who gave him a platform and helped him in making the donor bucket, along with other organizational things.  Zareh Asatryan, an economist based in Mannheim, Germany, helped in advertising the tournament and generally supported Arshak, as did active Armenian community leader Mihran Aroian of Austin, Texas.

The link for the November 14 tournament is https://donorbox.org/chessforartsakh-2. The deadline for registration is 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on that date, while the tournament itself begins at 11 a.m. For any questions, email the administrator at chessforarmenia@gmail.com.

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