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Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian
Aronian at the 2011 European Team Chess Championships in Athens
Country Armenia
Born (1982-10-06) 6 October 1982
Yerevan, Armenian SSR, Soviet Union
Title Grandmaster
FIDE rating 2797 (February 2015)
Peak rating 2830 (March 2014)
Ranking No. 4 (November 2014)
Peak ranking No. 2 (January 2012)

Levon Grigori Aronian (Armenian: Լևոն Գրիգորի Արոնյան; born 6 October 1982) is an Armenian chess Grandmaster. On the March 2014 FIDE rating list, he was ranked number two in the world and had an Elo rating of 2830,[1] making him the fourth highest rated player in history.

Aronian won the Chess World Cup 2005. He led the Armenian national team to the Gold medals in the 2006 (Turin), 2008 (Dresden) and 2012 (Istanbul) Chess Olympics[2] 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 Chess960 Champion in 2006 and 2007, World Rapid Chess Champion in 2009, and World Blitz Chess Champion in 2010.

Aronian has been the leading Armenian chess player since the early 2000s.[3] His popularity in Armenia has led to him being called a celebrity,[4] and a hero.[5] He was named the best sportsman of Armenia in 2005[6] and was awarded the title of Honoured Master of Sport of the Republic of Armenia in 2009.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • 2001–04 2.1
    • 2005 2.2
    • 2006 2.3
    • 2007 2.4
    • 2008 2.5
    • 2009 2.6
    • 2010 2.7
    • 2011 2.8
    • 2012 2.9
    • 2013 2.10
    • 2014 2.11
  • Team competitions 3
  • Elo rating 4
  • Head-to-head record versus selected grandmasters 5
  • Chess960 6
  • Playing style 7
  • Internet Chess Club 8
  • Personal life 9
  • Notable games 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Early life and education

Aronian was born on 6 October 1982 in Yerevan, Armenia (then part of the Soviet Union), to Seda Aronova-Avagyan,[7] an Armenian mining engineer, and Grigory Leontievich Aronov,[8] a Jewish physicist.[9] 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."[8]

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.[10]

Aronian holds a diploma from the Armenian State Institute of Physical Culture.[11]



In 2001 Aronian scored 7/9 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.[12]

In 2002 he won the Armenian Chess Championship.[13] 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.[14]

In 2004 he progressed to the third round of the 2004 FIDE World Championship before being knocked out by Pavel Smirnov.[15]


Levon Aronian became part of the international elite in 2005, shooting up to fifth place in the world. In 2005 he was part of a five-way tie for first place at the Masters in Alexei Shirov, and Emil Sutovsky.[16] He was the sole winner of the Karabakh 2005 International "A" Tournament.[17] In the Russian Team Championship, he scored +5 −0 =3 with an Elo performance rating of around 2850. In December he beat Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in the final round to win the World Cup in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia. After a draw in two regular games, Aronian won both rapid games to win the event and emerge undefeated in seven rounds.[18]


In March 2006 he took sole first place at the annual Linares chess tournament, half a point ahead of Teimour Radjabov and FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov. In 2006 he also tied for first in the Tal Memorial.


Aronian playing Magnus Carlsen at Linares 2007

In January 2007 Aronian shared first place at the category 19 Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee along with Veselin Topalov and Radjabov.[19] In May 2007 he defeated World Champion Vladimir Kramnik 4–2 in a rapid chess match.[20]

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 at 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 6/14, finishing seventh out of eight players.[21]


In January 2008 he won the Corus chess tournament jointly with Magnus Carlsen, scoring 8/13.[22] In March 2008 he won the Melody Amber Blindfold/Rapid tournament held in Nice, France, 2½ points ahead of the nearest competitors.[23] Apart from his first place win in the overall tournament, he also took sole first place in the rapid section of the tournament (winning by a margin of 1½ points) 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. He finished with 8½/14, ahead of Peter Leko.[24]


In March 2009 he won the 18th Melody Amber Blindfold/Rapid tournament held in Nice, France for the second time, scoring a combined 14 points in 22 games. In the same year he took clear first place with four wins, one draw, and one loss in the second Bilbao Masters.[25] On 2 August 2009 Aronian won the World Rapid Chess Championship.[26] In November 2009 he competed in the Mikhail Tal Memorial, at the time the strongest tournament in history (in terms of average Elo, 2763). He finished fourth with 5/9, and in the final round beat World Champion Viswanathan Anand with the black pieces in just 25 moves.[27] In December 2009, he was awarded the title of "Honoured Master of Sport of the Republic of Armenia".[28]


Aronian played in the FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2010, and won the Grand Prix with one tournament to go, qualifying him for the Candidates tournament for the World Chess Championship 2012.

In August 2010, he attempted to defend the World Rapid Chess title, but lost to eventual champion American Gata Kamsky.[29] 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 an Armageddon game after they drew the tiebreaker match. His next tournament was the Chess Olympiad, where he was Armenia's first board, leading them to a seventh place finish, winning the silver medal on board one, and raising his rating to a career-high 2794.[30]

In November 2010, he finished shared first at the category XXI Tal Memorial.[31] Following this tournament, he competed in the World Blitz Championship in Moscow, where he scored 24½/38 to win the title ahead of Teimour Radjabov and defending champion Magnus Carlsen; Aronian clinched the title with a round to spare.[32]


In January 2011, he tied for 3rd–4th with Magnus Carlsen in the 73rd Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee.[33]

In March 2011 in Monaco, he won the 20th and final Melody Amber Blindfold/Rapid tournament for the third time, scoring 15½ points in 22 games.[34]

Over his career, Aronian has a 5–1 record against Anand in classical chess. His high ranking and the fact that he was playing in the 2011 world championship Candidates tournament suggested that Aronian was a hot favorite for winning the title from Anand. However, Aronian suffered a setback by losing to Alexander Grischuk 2½–1½ in a quarter final rapid play tiebreaker following a 2–2 split in their regulation classical matches.[35]

In November 2011 Aronian played in the category 22 Tal Memorial in Moscow in a round robin with ten players. He won two games, against Ivanchuk and Svidler, and drew the rest. He tied for first with Magnus Carlsen, each scoring 5½/9.[36]


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. The average rating of the field was 2755, making this thirteen-round event a category 21 tournament.[37] Aronian finished first with 9/13 (+5) and a performance rating of 2891, a point ahead of Carlsen, Radjabov and Fabiano Caruana.[38][39]

In December 2012, Aronian competed in the London Chess Classic, coming in 6th place with one win (vs Luke McShane), 5 draws and 2 losses.[40]


In the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in January, Aronian finished second with +5−1=7, behind Carlsen.[41]

Aronian played in the 2013 Candidates Tournament, which took place in London, from 15 March to 1 April. He finished fourth, with +5−3=6.[42]

In the 2013 Alekhine Memorial tournament, held from 20 April to 1 May, Aronian finished first, edging out second-place Gelfand on the second tiebreak (number of wins), with a score of +3−1=5.[43]

The sixth Grand Slam Chess Masters final was held on 7–12 October in Bilbao as a double round robin with four players. Aronian's opponents were Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Michael Adams. Aronian finished first, scoring +2−0=4 or 10 points according to the "football scoring system" that is traditionally used in the Grand Slam.[44]


Aronian played in the 75th Tata Steel Chess Tournament from 11 to 26 January in Wijk aan Zee. In the 11-round tournament, he scored 8 points (+6−1=4), winning clear first 1½ points ahead of Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin.[45]

Team competitions

Levon Aronian
Medal record
Competitor for  Armenia
Chess Olympiad
Gold Turin 2006 Open
Gold Dresden 2008 Open
Gold Istanbul 2012 Open
Bronze Calvià 2004 Open

Aronian played for Armenia in the Chess Olympiads of 1996, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012.[46] 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.[47] 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,[48] 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.

Elo rating

Aronian broke the 2800 rating barrier in the November 2010 FIDE world ranking with a rating of 2801.[49] He is the sixth player to cross the 2800 rating mark, after Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, and Magnus Carlsen.

Head-to-head record versus selected grandmasters

(Rapid, blitz and blindfold games not included; listed as +wins −losses =draws as of 26 January 2014.)[50]
Players who have been World Champion in boldface


Aronian at Mainz 2009

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[51] which earned him a rematch with Svidler in 2006, and won the match this time 5–3 to become Chess960 World Champion.[52]

In 2007 he successfully defended his title of Chess960 World Champion by beating Viswanathan Anand.[53] He lost the title in 2009 to Hikaru Nakamura.[54]

Playing style

Viswanathan Anand called Aronian "a very gifted tactician",[55] and said that "He's always looking for various little tricks to solve technical tasks."[56] 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."[57]

As white, Aronian plays mainly 1.d4.[58] According to Anand, "Though he opens with 1.d4, he treats these positions like an e4-player."[55] Aronian is an expert in the Marshall Attack.[59]

Internet Chess Club

Aronian's handle on the Internet Chess Club (ICC) is "L-Aronian".[60]

Personal life

Aronian has been in a relationship with Australian Woman International Master Arianne Caoili since 2008.[61][62]

Notable games

a b c d e f g h
e8 black king
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
f6 black queen
h6 black pawn
a5 black bishop
c5 black rook
d5 black pawn
f5 black bishop
g5 black pawn
b4 white pawn
e4 black knight
a3 white pawn
g3 white bishop
a2 white rook
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h

Aronian, as Black, defeats GM Ivan Sokolov (2676) in 19 moves, using 10½ minutes on his clock:[63]

Ivan Sokolov vs. Levon Aronian, Turin 2006 Chess Olympiad;[64] Nimzo–Indian Defence (ECO E35)
[Analysis by A. J. Goldsby][65]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 c5!? 7. dxc5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Ne4 10. Bxb8!?

10.e3; 10.Be5

10... Qf6!

10...Rxb8?? 11.Qa4+ +−

11. Bg3 Nxc3 12. a3 Bf5! 13. Qd2 Ba5 14. b4? Ne4 15. Qc1 Rc8!! 16. Ra2?! Rxc5 17. Qa1 (see diagram) Qc6!

The threat of back-rank mate is crushing.

18. Qe5+ Kd8 19. Qxh8+ Kd7 0–1

If 20.e3, 20...Rc1+ 21.Ke2 Bg4+! and 22...Qc4#


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  2. ^ Bartelski, Wojciech. "Men's Chess Olympiads: Levon Aronian". OlimpBase. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
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  4. ^ "Players 2013".  
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  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^ Edmonds, David (8 December 2009). "The lion and the tiger". Prospect Magazine. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
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  12. ^ "The chess games of Levon Aronian". Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  13. ^  
  14. ^ "41st World Junior Ch January 2003 India". FIDE. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  15. ^ "FIDE WCC R3-2 Another favorite exits". 25 June 2004. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  16. ^ Crowther, Mark (7 February 2005). "The Week in Chess 535". London Chess Center. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  17. ^ "The Week in Chess". Chesscenter. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "World Chess Cup 2005 Results". FIDE. Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  19. ^ "Corus Chess Tournament – Grandmaster A April 2007 Netherlands". FIDE. Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  20. ^ Drama in Yerevan – Aronian wins Rapid match 4:2, Chessbase, 7 May 2007
  21. ^ "WCCTournament 2007. Mexico City – Results and Pairings". Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  22. ^ Wijk R13: Aronian, Carlsen win Wijk aan Zee 2008, Chessbase, 27 January 2008
  23. ^ Melody Amber: Aronian wins with 2½ point lead, Chessbase, 27 March 2008
  24. ^ "Karen Asrian Memorial (2008)". Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  25. ^ Crowther, Mark (12 September 2009). "TWIC: 2nd Bilbao Masters 2009". London Chess Centre. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
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  32. ^ "Aronian wins World Blitz Championship". ChessBase News. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  33. ^ "The Week in Chess: 73rd Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2011". Chess. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  34. ^ "Amber 2011: Aronian claims third Amber victory in farewell edition". ChessBase News. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  35. ^ Nandanan, Hari Hara (26 March 2011). "Armenian threat for Anand now". India Times. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
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  39. ^ "Wijk aan Zee Rd13 Aronian is sole winner!". ChessBase News. 29 January 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  40. ^ "Carlsen wins 4th London Chess Classic". ChessVibes. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
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  42. ^ "Tournament standings". FIDE. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
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  44. ^ "Bilbao Final Aronian is the victor". ChessBase. 12 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  45. ^ "Standings of Tata Steel Masters". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
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  47. ^ "2010 Chess Olympiad Statistical overview". ChessBase News. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  48. ^ "World Team Ch. – Armenia gold, China silver, Ukraine bronze". ChessBase News. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  49. ^ "Top 100 Players November 2010 – Archive". FIDE. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  50. ^ "Chess Games". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  51. ^ "Levon Aronian winner of the FiNet CHess960 Open!". Chess Tigers. 12 August 2005. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  52. ^ "Chess Classic Anand and Aronian win Mainz". 21 August 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  53. ^ "Mainz 2007 – Aronian wins Chess960 world championship". 17 August 2007. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  54. ^ "Chess Classic Nakamura wins 960 World Championship". 31 July 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  55. ^ a b "Anand: Every year I keep my fingers crossed". Chessbase News. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  56. ^ "Anand’s WhyChess interview". Chess in translation. 11 May 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  57. ^ "Boris Gelfand: With shining eyes (Part 2)". WhyChess. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  58. ^ "Chess Opening Explorer". Chessgames. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  59. ^ "Carlsen stops Ivanchuk, Anand held". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  60. ^ "L-Aronian". Internet Chess Club. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  61. ^ 2008 Pearl Spring Chess Tournament, Nanjing, China, Chessbase, 21 December 2008
  62. ^ "I am not so stupid to play against Levon Aronian - Arianne Caoili". 22 August 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  63. ^  
  64. ^ Sokolov–Aronian, Turin 2006
  65. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web archive. 28 October 2009. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 

External links

  • Levon Aronian player profile and games at
  • Levon Aronian at
  • Grandmaster Games Database – Levon Aronian
  • OlimpBase
  • Biography of Levon Aronian
  • Interview with Levon Aronian
  • Edward Winter's "Books about Leading Modern Chessplayers" (Chess Notes Feature Article)
  • Levon Aronian on Twitter
Preceded by
Viswanathan Anand
World Rapid Chess Champion
Succeeded by
Gata Kamsky
Preceded by
Magnus Carlsen
World Blitz Chess Champion
Succeeded by
Alexander Grischuk
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