Levon Grigorievich Aronian was born in Yerevan and learned to play chess when he was nine years old. He is a former U12 (1994) and Junior (U20) World Champion (2002), became an International Master in 1996 at 13, and became a Grandmaster in 2000 at 17. He has been a Candidate on six occasions: 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2018.
<Age> In 1994, he won the World Under-12 Championship in Szeged with 8/9, ahead of future top-ten players Ruslan Ponomariov, Alexander Grischuk, Etienne Bacrot as well as Francisco Vallejo Pons. In 2001, he was runner up in the World Junior Championship with 9.5/13 just behind Peter Acs and went one better in 2002, when he became World Junior Champion, scoring 10/13 and finishing ahead of Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Artyom Timofeev, Luke McShane, Bu Xiangzhi, and Pentala Harikrishna.
<Nationals> He was runner up in the Armenian Championship in 2001 behind Smbat Gariginovich Lputian before improving in 2002 by winning the Armenian Championship.
<Continental> A regular participant at the European Individual Championships since their inception, he came =4th in 2003 with 8.5/13 behind the winner Zurab Alekseyevich Azmaiparashvili, and the joint runners up Alexander Yuryevich (Nenashev) Graf and Vladimir Malakhov in 2004 he came =3rd a half point behind joint leaders Vassily Ivanchuk and Predrag Nikolic and in 2005 he came =3rd, a point behind Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu and a half point behind 2nd place getter Teimour Radjabov.
<World> Aronian took part in the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (2004) in Tripoli, eliminating Magnus Carlsen and Gadir Guseinov before losing his third-round match with Pavel Smirnov.
He capped a highly successful 2005 by winning the World Cup (2005) in December, without loss of a single game. After beating Ali Farahat, Darmen Sadvakasov, Alexander Areshchenko and Francisco Vallejo Pons in the preliminary 4 rounds, he disposed of Mikhail Gurevich in the quarter finals and Bacrot in the semi finals before defeating Ponomariov in the final round. His World Cup victory qualified him for the Candidates Tournament of the World Chess Championship 2007, being played in May–June 2007. In this tournament he played Magnus Carlsen in the Candidates Match: Aronian - Carlsen (2007), and they tied 3-3 in the initial six games, then 2-2 in rapid chess, before Aronian finally prevailed 2-0 in the blitz deciders. In the finals, he won the Candidates Match: Aronian - Shirov (2007) by 3½-2½. This qualified him for the final stage of the championship, the World Championship Tournament (2007) in Mexico City. There, he scored only six points out of 14, finishing seventh out of eight players, with Viswanathan Anand becoming the World Chess Champion.
Aronian easily won the FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2010, qualifying him for the World Championship Candidates (2011). He was was eliminated from the latter contest in the first round when he fell to Alexander Grischuk in the rapid game playoff 1.5-2.5 (+1 =1 -2) after tieing the classical games 2-2 (+0 =4 -0). Aronian qualified via his rating for the right to play in the World Championship Candidates (2013) that was played in London in March 2013. He was in contention for first for most of the tournament, but he lost some games late in the tournament to place 3rd with 8/14, half a point behind the leaders Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik respectively. He was seeded into the World Championship Candidates (2014) by rating, as he met the condition that he must first participate in the World Cup (2013), where he defeated Kyrgyzstani IM Mikhail Markov in the first round and Igor Lysyj in the second round but lost to eventual semi-finalist GM Evgeny Tomashevsky in the third round. At the World Championship Candidates (2014) in Khanty-Mansiysk, Aronian was in strong contention for the lead until round 9, but then crashed to score only 3 draws in the last 6 rounds to finish 6th in the final standings.
He qualified by rating for the World Cup (2015). There he defeated Michael Wiedenkeller of Luxembourg in the first round to advance to the second round only to be eliminated from the tournament in the shock of the round when he lost in the first rapid tiebreaker to Alexander Areshchenko. Nevertheless he qualified for the Moscow Candidates Tournament 2016 as the event's wild card entry.
<Classical> At the International Open at Capelle-La-Grande in 2001, Aronian scored 7/9, half a point behind the joint leaders Einar J Gausel and Vladimir Chuchelov . At Lausanne a few months later, he won the Young Masters tournament ahead of Harikrishna. In 2002, he was equal first in the International Open in Bad Wiessee and was also =1st in the International Neckar Opens held in Deizisau in Germany in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he was =1st in the Reykjavik Open and 2005 proved to be Aronian's most successful year thus far - it saw him gain over 50 FIDE rating points to claim a spot in the top 10 and a 2724 rating on the July list. He was joint first with Zahar Efimenko, Kiril Dimitrov Georgiev, Alexey Shirov and Emil Davidovich Sutovsky at the Gibraltar Masters (2005), outright first at the Karabakh International (2005) and won the World Cup (see above). He went on to even greater successes in 2006: after achieving a modest result in Corus Group A (2006), he won in the last round of Morelia-Linares (2006) to take first place by half a point ahead of Teimour Radjabov and Veselin Topalov. Toward the end of the year he shared first place in the Tal Memorial (2006) 2006 with Peter Leko , and then followed up in 2007 with a joint victory with Topalov and Radjabov at the category 19 Corus Group A (2007). The year 2008 started with a great success at Corus Group A (2008) where he shared first place with Carlsen, scoring 8/13, and continued strongly as he came =3rd at Morelia-Linares (2008), and won the FIDE Grand Prix (2008) in Sochi and the 4th FIDE Grand Prix (2009) in Nalchik. Along with his joint second place score in the FIDE Jermuk Grand Prix (2009), Aronian secured his place in the candidates tournament by winning the FIDE Grand Prix series in just three of the four events each player was slated to attend. He also came =2nd behind Topalov at the Grand Slam Chess Final (2008) tournament alongside Ivanchuk and Carlsen with 5/10 and finished 2008 with outright second behind Topalov with 5.5/10 at the Pearl Spring Chess Tournament (2008).
In 2009 he came =2nd with 7.5/13 at Corus a half point behind Sergey Karjakin and alongside Sergei Movsesian and Radjabov, took clear first place with four wins, one draw, and one loss in the Grand Slam Chess Final (2009). In November 2009, he competed in the Tal Memorial (2009), 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 memorably demolished world champion Viswanathan Anand with the Black pieces in just 25 moves. He was 3rd at Linares (2010) behind Topalov and Grischuk and in September 2010, he played in the preliminary stage of the Bilbao Grand Slam in Shanghai, the Shanghai Masters (2010), 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. In November 2010, he finished shared first with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Karjakin at the category XXI Tal Memorial (2010). He started 2011 with a joint third with Carlsen in the Tata Steel Group A (2011) (formerly Corus) super tournament behind Hikaru Nakamura and Anand, scoring 8/13 with a 2821 performance rating. In November 2011, he came second in the category 22 Tal Memorial (2011) with 5.5/9 (+2 =7 -0 and TPR of 2853) on tiebreak behind Magnus Carlsen, and in December 2011 he broke even at the London Chess Classic (2011) with 4/8 (+1 -1 =6). Aronian started 2012 with his first outright win at Wijk aan Zee scoring 9/13 (+7 -2 =4; TPR of 2891) at the category 21 Tata Steel Group A (2012) and then placed =4th at the category 22 Tal Memorial (2012) with 4.5/9 followed by 3rd at the Grand Slam Chess Final (2012) in October. He finished 2012 with a disappointing 3.5/8 at the London Chess Classic (2012), placing 6th out of 9 and losing his world number 2 ranking.
However, 2013 saw Aronian placing clear second behind Carlsen at the category 20 Tata Steel Group A (2013) event, scoring 8.5/13 and signalling a strong return to form prior to the Candidates Tournament that was held in March 2013. Subsequent to the Candidates, Aronian won the category 20 Alekhine Memorial (2013) with 5.5/9 on tiebreak ahead of Boris Gelfand and then placed =4th at the category 21 Norway Chess (2013), scoring 5/9. In September he placed 3rd in the category 22 DRR Sinquefield Cup (2013) quadrangular tournament behind Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, falling below 2800 for the first time since September 2010. However, he recovered his form and his 2800 rating in a major hitout in the lead up to the 2014 Candidates by winning the category XXI quadrangular DRR Bilbao Masters (2013) using the "soccer scoring" system wherein his +2 =4 translated into an outright first with 10 points ahead of the 9 points (+2 -1 =3) scored by runner up Michael Adams. Possibly the best result of his career came when he won the category 20 Tata Steel Masters (2014) event with a round to spare, the final score being 8/11, a point and a half clear of the field. He placed 2nd behind Carlsen in the category 23 standard time Zurich Chess Challenge (2014), even after losing his 5th round game to Loek van Wely. Immediately before the standard time event he was =1st with Carlsen in the preliminary Zurich Chess Challenge (Blitz) (2014) which determined the draw. He placed 3rd in the Zurich Chess Challenge (Rapid) (2014), which when combined with the results in the main event provided him with an overall placement of 2nd, again behind Carlsen. His next major event was the Sinquefield Cup (2014), and which produced a relatively poor result by his standards, 5th placement with 4/10. He performed better at the Bilbao Masters (2014), placing 2nd behind Anand on the 3-1-0 scoring system used for the event and at the Petrosian Memorial (2014), where he placed =3rd behind Grischuk and Kramnik.
2015 started poorly for Aronian with a relatively weak performance at Tata Steel Masters (2015), scoring 5.5/13 (+1 -3 =9) and finishing toward the bottom of the field. He played in the category 20 GRENKE Chess Classic (2015), placing mid table. His form later in February did not improve, when despite a strong win in the Zurich Chess Challenge (Blitz) (2015) curtain raiser, he placed =4th (6th and last on tiebreak) at the category 22 standard portion of the Zurich Chess Challenge (2015). A strong second place finish in the second part of the event, the Zurich Chess Challenge (Rapid) (2015), was not enough to put him on the leader board and he finished 4th overall. His woes deepened in June 2015 when he placed last at the category 22
Norway Chess (2015), dropping his rating to his lowest since July 2009, and resulting in him dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since January 2009.
However, he returned to form with a clear 6/9 (+3 =6) win at the category 22 Sinquefield Cup (2015), a full point clear of the four co-runners up including the World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri. In December 2015, he placed fourth at the London Chess Classic (2015) with 5/9.
<Chess960> 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 this time he won the match this time 5-3 in an 8-game match to become Chess960 World Champion. In 2007 he successfully defended his title of Chess960 World Champion by beating Anand, but lost the title in 2009 to Nakamura.
Aronian played for Armenia 2 in the 1996 Olympiad in Yerevan, the 36th Olympiad (2004) in Calvia, the 37th Chess Olympiad (2006) in Turin, the 38th Olympiad (2008) in Dresden, the 39th Chess Olympiad (2010) in Khanty-Mansiysk, the Chess Olympiad (2012) in Istanbul and in the Chess Olympiad (2014) held in Tromsø. He helped the team to a bronze medal in 2004 and to gold medals in 2006, 2008 and 2012. In the 2010 Olympiad he won the silver medal for his individual performance on board one and in 2012 he went one better to win gold on top board.
Always a team player, Aronian has played in the German Bundesliga, the Israeli National League, in the Dutch, Spanish and French Team championships, in the European Club Cup as well as the World Team Championship (2005) and World Team Championship (2010). In the Russian Team Championship in 2005, he scored 7.5/9 with an Elo performance rating of around 2850, and in the World Chess Team Championship (2011) he lead Armenia to gold, scoring a personal silver for top board with his 5/8 (TPR 2826). He also won an individual gold playing top board for Armenia in the FIDE World Team Championship (2013). He has played for Armenia in the European Team Championships in 1999 (winning team gold), 2005, 2007 (individual silver), 2009. He lead Armenia to fourth place in the European Team Championship (2011) and in the European Team Championship (2013), winning individual silver and bronze on board 1 in 2011 and 2013 respectively. He won team and individual silver playing board one at the European Team Championship (2015).
In April 2012, Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik, as part of their preparation for the 2013 Candidates Tournament, played a six-game training match in Zurich. The Kramnik - Aronian (2012) match was drawn 3-3 (+1 -1 =4).
Aronian is a worthy successor to Anand in the rapid play versions of the game, and a fierce rival of Carlsen and Nakamura. In May 2007 he won 4-2 in the Kramnik - Aronian Rapid Match (2007). He also won the 2009 World Rapid Championship when he took out the Chess Classic Mainz (rapid) (2009), and then followed up by winning the World Blitz Championship (2010) with 24.5/38, clinching the title with a round to spare.
In March 2008 he won the 17th Melody Amber blindfold/rapid tournament held in Nice, France, 2½ points ahead of the other nearest competitors. Apart from his first place win in the overall tournament, he also took sole first place in the Amber Tournament (Rapid) (2008) section of the tournament (winning by a margin of 1½ points) and shared first place in the Amber Tournament (Blindfold) (2008) section with Kramnik, Alexander Morozevich, and Topalov. In March 2009 he again won at the Melody Amber tournament, scoring a combined 14 points in 22 games, and sharing the lead in both sections. In 2011, he won the 20th Amber Tournament (Blindfold) (2011) with 8.5/11 by a clear point and a half, and came second behind Carlsen in the 20th Amber Tournament (Rapid) (2011) section with 7/11 to take the overall prize for the third time.
In June 2008, Aronian won the Karen Asrian Memorial (2008) rapid chess tournament in Yerevan, finishing with 8½/14 ahead of second placed Peter Leko. In August 2010, he attempted to defend the World Rapid Chess title, but lost to eventual champion American Gata Kamsky.
In December 2013, he placed =1st at the SportAccord World Mind Games (Men, Blitz) (2013) with 19.5/30. In June 2014, he was =2nd behind Carlsen at the World Rapid Championship (2014).
Aronian was declared the best sportsman of Armenia in 2005 and in December 2009 was awarded the title of "Honoured Master of Sport of the Republic of Armenia".
Aronian is only one of nine players to officially cross the 2800 boundary, the others being Garry Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, Topalov and Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Nakamura and Grischuk. His highest FIDE rating to date was 2830 in March 2014 when he was ranked #2 in the world, also his highest ranking to date. He was world #2 for a total of 26 rating periods covering 29 months.
After Aronian's round 4 victory over US super-GM Hikaru Nakamura in the Zurich Chess Challenge standard time event on 2 February 2014, his live rating reached a new personal best of 2835.5.
His handle on the Internet Chess Club (ICC) is "L-Aronian". He was married to WIM Arianne Caoili, who died tragically following a car accident.
Sources and references
Live rating: http://www.2700chess.com/; Extended interview on WhyChess on 21 Sep 2011: http://whychess.org/node/1960; Wikipedia article: Levon Aronian