Levon Grigori Aronian
6 October 1982
|Country||United States (announced)|
Armenia (before 2003, since 2005)
|FIDE rating||2781 (June 2021)|
|Peak rating||2830 (March 2014)|
|Ranking||No.5 (March 2021)|
|Peak ranking||No.2 (January 2012)|
Levon Grigori Aronian (Armenian: Լևոն Գրիգորի Արոնյան, romanized: Levon Grigori Aronyan; born 6 October 1982) is an Armenian chess grandmaster, who will play for the USA. He was awarded the title by FIDE in 2000. On the March 2014 FIDE rating list, he was ranked number two in the world and had an Elo rating of 2830, making him the fourth-highest rated player in history.
Aronian won the FIDE World Cup in 2005 and 2017. He 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. He won the FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2010, qualifying him for the Candidates Tournament for the World Chess Championship 2012, where he was knocked out in the first round. He was also world champion in Chess960 in 2006 and 2007, in rapid chess in 2009, and in blitz chess in 2010.
Aronian has been the leading Armenian chess player since the early 2000s. His popularity in Armenia has led to him being called a celebrity and a hero. He was named the best sportsman of Armenia in 2005 and was awarded the title of Honoured Master of Sport of the Republic of Armenia in 2009. In 2012, he was awarded the Order of St. Mesrop Mashtots. In 2016, CNN called Aronian the "David Beckham of chess". As of March 2021, Levon Aronian was the No. 2 ranked player in the United States and the No. 5 in the world, with a FIDE rating of 2781.
Aronian announced his decision to transfer from the Armenian chess federation to the United States federation in late February 2021, citing a decline in government support for the sport as his motivation.
Early life and education
Aronian was born on 6 October 1982 in Yerevan, Armenia (then part of the Soviet Union), to Seda Avagyan, an Armenian mining engineer, and Grigory Leontievich Aronov, a Russian Jewish physicist from the Vitebsk Region, Belarus. Talking about his background, Aronian stated in an interview, "I feel much more Armenian than Jewish, although there are sides to me which are more Jewish culturally, involving the arts and music." He was taught to play chess by his sister, Lilit, at the age of nine. His first coach was the Grandmaster Melikset Khachiyan. An early sign of his ability came when he won the 1994 World Youth Chess Championship (under-12) in Szeged with 8/9, ahead of future luminaries Étienne Bacrot, Ruslan Ponomariov, Francisco Vallejo Pons, and Alexander Grischuk.
Early years: 2001–2004
In 2001, Aronian scored seven out of nine in the Cappelle-la-Grande Open, half a point behind the joint winners Einar Gausel and Vladimir Chuchelov. A few months later, he won the Young Masters tournament at Lausanne.
In 2002, he won the Armenian Chess Championship. In the same year he became World Junior Champion, scoring 10/13 and finishing ahead of Surya Ganguly, Artyom Timofeev, Luke McShane, Bu Xiangzhi, Pendyala Harikrishna, and others.
Aronian made his debut at the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2004. In the first round, he played and won against thirteen-year-old Magnus Carlsen, who was also making his debut at the tournament. He progressed to the third round, where he lost to Pavel Smirnov.
Levon Aronian became part of the international elite in 2005, rated tenth in the world by Elo rating. In 2005, he was part of a five-way tie for first place at the Gibtelecom Masters in Gibraltar with Zahar Efimenko, Kiril Georgiev, Alexei Shirov and Emil Sutovsky. He also won the Karabakh 2005 International "A" Tournament. In the Russian Team Championship, he scored five wins, three draws and no losses with an Elo performance rating around 2850. In December he beat Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in the final round to win the World Cup in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia.
In March 2006, Aronian won the annual Linares chess tournament, half a point ahead of Teimour Radjabov and then-World Chess Champion Veselin Topalov. In November 2006 he tied for first in the Tal Memorial chess competition. The April–July 2006 FIDE rating list ranked Aronian the third highest rated player in the world. Armenia won its first ever Chess Olympiad at the 37th Chess Olympiad.
In January 2007, Aronian shared first place at the category 19 Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee along with Veselin Topalov and Radjabov. All three scored 8.5/13. In May 2007, he defeated World Champion Vladimir Kramnik 4–2 in a rapid chess match.
His 2005 World Cup victory qualified him for the Candidates Tournament of the World Chess Championship 2007, scheduled for May–June 2007. In this tournament he played GM Magnus Carlsen, and they tied 3–3 in the initial six games, then 2–2 in rapid chess, and finally Aronian won 2–0 in blitz chess. In the finals, he defeated Shirov 3½–2½. This qualified him for the final stage of the championship, which was played in Mexico. There, he scored six points out of 14, finishing seventh out of eight players.
In January 2008, he won the Corus chess tournament jointly with Magnus Carlsen, scoring 8/13. In March 2008, he won the Melody Amber Blindfold/Rapid tournament held in Nice, France, 2½ points ahead of the nearest competitors. Apart from his first place win in the overall tournament, he also took sole first place in the rapid section of the tournament and shared first place in the Blindfold section with three other chess grandmasters: Kramnik, Morozevich, and Topalov.
In June 2008, Aronian won the Karen Asrian Memorial Rapid chess tournament in Yerevan. At the Second FIDE Grand Prix in Sochi, Aronian defeated Alexander Grischuk in the final and finished at 8½/13 and a performance rating of 2816. Aronian won the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden with the Armenia national chess team, winning gold for the second time in a row.
Aronian won the Fourth FIDE Grand Prix in April 2009 with a score of 8½/13, one point ahead of Peter Leko and fellow Armenian Vladimir Akopian. On 2 August 2009, Aronian won the World Rapid Chess Championship. After winning the Bilbao Chess Masters Final in September 2009, his FIDE rating was just four points behind World Champion Viswanathan Anand. In November 2009, he competed in the Mikhail Tal Memorial and finished in fourth place. In December 2009, Aronian was awarded the title of "Honoured Master of Sport of the Republic of Armenia".
In August 2010, he unsuccessfully defended the World Rapid Chess title, losing to eventual champion Gata Kamsky. In September 2010, Aronian played in the preliminary stage of the Bilbao Grand Slam in Shanghai against Vladimir Kramnik, Alexei Shirov, and Wang Hao, but could not qualify for the final tournament after losing to Kramnik.
In January 2011, he tied for 3rd with Magnus Carlsen in the 73rd Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. In March 2011, he won the final Melody Amber Blindfold/Rapid tournament for his third time. In November 2011 Aronian played in the Tal Memorial in Moscow in a round robin with ten players. He tied for first with Magnus Carlsen, each scoring 5½/9.
In January 2012, Aronian competed in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee; the field included world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen, defending champion Hikaru Nakamura, and former world champion Veselin Topalov, among others. Aronian had a tournament performance rating of 2891, taking first place ahead of Carlsen, Radjabov and Fabiano Caruana.
The Bilbao Chess Masters Final 2012 took place in October, in which Aronian came in third place. In December 2012, Aronian competed in the London Chess Classic, coming in sixth place with one win, 5 draws and 2 losses. Later that month, he won the SportAccord World Mind Games, a blindfold tournament, in Beijing.
In the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in January, Aronian finished second with five wins, one loss and seven draws, in second place behind Carlsen. Aronian finished fourth in the 2013 Candidates Tournament. In the 2013 Alekhine Memorial tournament, Aronian finished first, scoring three wins, one loss and five draws.
Aronian played in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands. He scored one win, three losses and nine draws, for 5½/13 points. In February 2015, he played in the Grenke Chess Classic in Baden-Baden Germany, scoring 3½/7 points. Later that month, he played in the Zurich Chess Challenge 2015, winning the Blitz tournament with 4/5 points. He scored 4/10 points in the Classical tournament, and scored 3/5 points in the Rapid tournament. He finished 4th overall in the tournament.
Aronian participated in the Grand Chess Tour, a series of three super tournaments (Norway Chess, Sinquefield Cup, and London Chess Classic) in which players try to accumulate the most Grand Chess Tour points through the three tournaments. In Norway Chess, he scored 3 points out of 9 (9th place in the tournament). On 1 September 2015, he won the 3rd Sinquefield Cup, held in Saint Louis Missouri, US, with a +3 score and wins over Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So. This result put him back up into the world's Top 10.
He played in the Chess World Cup 2015, a knockout chess tournament played in Baku, Azerbaijan. This tournament was one of the last remaining qualifiers for the Chess Candidates Tournament 2016 (winner and runner-up will qualify), which determined the challenger to Magnus Carlsen in the World Chess Championship 2016. He was eliminated in Round 2 by Grandmaster Alexander Areschenko. However, he qualified to play in the Candidates Tournament after he was selected by Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetyan as the organizer's nominee.
In October 2015, he participated in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Berlin, Germany. In the Rapid Championship, he placed 43rd overall, scoring 8½/15 points. In the Blitz, he placed 11th overall, scoring 13½/21 points. Aronian played in the European Chess Club Cup for Team Siberia Novosibirsk. Team Siberia, which also included Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Grischuk, Li Chao, Wang Yue, Anton Korobov, Dmitry Kokarev, and Dmitry Bocharov, won the event. Aronian scored 5 draws out of the 5 games he played in the event.
In December 2015, Aronian played in the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour, the London Chess Classic. In this tournament, he scored 5/9, with one victory against Veselin Topalov. Overall, he scored 22 Grand Tour Points out of a maximum 39 to earn himself a spot in the top 3 of the overall Tour standings, securing an invitation in the next Grand Chess Tour.
In April 2017, Levon Aronian played in the Grenke Classic Tournament in Baden-Baden, Germany. In the 7-round tournament, he scored 5½ points, winning first place, 1½ points ahead of Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.
On 16 June 2017, Aronian won the fifth edition of the Norway Chess Tournament (with a PR of 2918, and a full point ahead of nearest rivals), beating Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin. In August 2017, Aronian placed joint-fourth out of ten players in the fifth edition of the Sinquefield Cup with a score of 5/9. On 18 August 2017, Aronian won the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz with a score of 24½/36.
In September 2017, Aronian won the World Cup, and in doing so qualified for the Candidates Tournament for the 2018 World Chess Championship. In November 2017, Aronian won the gold medal for individual performance in the European Team Chess Championship. In the same month, he tied for first with Dmitry Jakovenko in the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca. In December 2017, Aronian took fifth place in the World Blitz Chess Championship in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a score of 14/21 including wins over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and defending champion Sergey Karjakin.
In January 2018, Aronian won the 16th Annual Gibraltar Chess Festival on tiebreaks, beating runner-up Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2½–1½, with an overall record of 7½/10. From 31 March to 9 April 2018, Aronian competed in the 5th Grenke Chess Classic. He finished fifth with a score of 5/9. From 28 May to 7 June, he competed in the sixth edition of Norway Chess, placing sixth with 4/8 points.
In August 2019 for the second time Aronian won the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament. He scored 22/36, with 13 points from the Rapid section and 9 points from the Blitz section. He reached the quarter finals in the Chess World Cup 2019 held in Khanty-Mansiysk. On 10 November, he won the Superbet Rapid & Blitz tournament held in Bucharest.
In February 2021, Aronian announced in a press release from the Saint Louis Chess Club that he would be switching federations from Armenia to the United States of America on the basis, among other things, of "the state's absolute indifference towards Armenian chess" and the ongoing war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Aronian's official statement regarding this transfer is available on his official Facebook page. Post-federation transfer, Aronian held the rank of US No. 2, meaning that Wesley So and those below him dropped a rank. US No. 1 Fabiano Caruana retained his rank.
Aronian played for Armenia in the Chess Olympiads of 1996, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. He took team bronze medal in 2004 and team gold medal in 2006, 2008 and 2012. In the 2010 Chess Olympiad he won the silver medal for his individual performance on board one. In the 2012 Chess Olympiad Aronian won the gold medal on board one. Aronian was a member of the gold medal-winning Armenian team at the World Team Chess Championship in 2011, where he won the silver medal on board one. Aronian again competed for Armenia in the 2013 World Team Chess Championship, where he won the gold medal on board one.
Aronian broke the 2800 rating barrier in the November 2010 FIDE world ranking with a rating of 2801. He is the sixth player to cross the 2800 rating mark, after Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, and Magnus Carlsen. In March 2014 he reached a personal rating record of 2830, which is the fourth-highest rating ever attained, behind only Garry Kasparov, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.
In 2003 Aronian won the Finet Chess960 open at Mainz; this qualified him for a match against Chess960 World Champion Peter Svidler at Mainz the following year, a match which he lost 4½–3½. He won the Finet Chess960 open tournament again in 2005 which earned him a rematch with Svidler in 2006, and won the match this time 5–3 to become Chess960 World Champion.
In 2019 Aronian participated in the Chess960 event The Champions Showdown 9LX. There he faced Hikaru Nakamura in a series of 6 rapid and 14 blitz games. Despite gaining a lead early on, at one point leading with the score 7½–½, he ended up losing 11½–14½.
Viswanathan Anand called Aronian "a very gifted tactician", and said that "He's always looking for various little tricks to solve technical tasks." In 2011, Boris Gelfand described Aronian as "the most striking player around, with the highest creative level, in terms both of openings and original ideas in the middlegame."
In a 2010 conference, Alexei Shirov said: "Levon Aronian is the most successful player with an ultra-aggressive style. He achieves this result thanks to his rare intuition in the sharpest positions." In 2012, Sergey Karjakin, speaking about Aronian's style, made an analogy with football and compared him with Lionel Messi.
Levon's mother, Seda Aronova, published a book about her son on 22 November 2013, recounting her memories of his childhood and accomplishments.
Levon started dating Filipino-Australian Woman International Master Arianne Caoili in 2008. The two announced their engagement in February 2015 and got married on 30 September 2017 in Yerevan. They had first met at the 1996 World Youth Chess Championships in Las Palmas and began a friendship in 2006, when their mutual friend International Master Alex Wohl reintroduced them in Berlin. On 30 March 2020, Aronian revealed on his Twitter account that Caoili had died. The Australian economist fell ill after seeming to have recovered from serious injuries sustained two weeks earlier in a car crash.
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...for the last decade [...] leading Armenia to victory in team competition and being constantly in the World Championship discussion.
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Aronian is a major celebrity in his chess-loving home country.
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And Mr Aronian enjoys a similar level of hero-worship to, say, David Beckham.
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...շախմատիստի մայրն է՝ մասնագիտությամբ լեռնային ինժեներ Սեդա Արոնովա-Ավագյանը:
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Every summer holiday until the USSR got dissolved and traveling became very difficult, my family went to Belarus to a little village called Kokhanovo in the Tolochin area of the Vitebsk region. My father's family is from there.
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...a graduate of the Chess Department of the Armenian State Institute of Physical Culture (later Levon Aronian himself graduated from that higher educational institution)
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- "Levon Aronian's Twitter Account". Twitter. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Levon Aronian.|
- Levon Aronian rating card at FIDE
- Levon Aronian chess games at 365Chess.com
- Levon Aronian player profile and games at Chessgames.com
- Grandmaster Games Database – Levon Aronian
- Biography of Levon Aronian
- Interview with Levon Aronian
- Edward Winter's "Books about Leading Modern Chessplayers" (Chess Notes Feature Article)
- Levon Aronian on Twitter
| World Rapid Chess Champion
| World Blitz Chess Champion