In his career, Levon Aronian hasn’t received the accolades of a Vladimir Kramnik or Viswanathan Anand, or the media attention of a Magnus Carlsen. But for the last decade, he has consistently been at the top of the chess world, winning tournaments, leading Armenia to victory in team competition and being constantly in the World Championship discussion.
Early Life and Career
Levon Aronian was born in Yerevan, USSR, in what is today Armenia, on October 6, 1982. He was not an early adopter of chess, but instead learned from his sister when he was nine years old. It didn’t take him long to take to the game, though, and by the time he was 11, he had won his first World Youth Chess Championship in the Under-12 division.
Still, Aronian didn’t show the meteoric rise sometimes associated with top players, instead slowly working his way up the rankings with progressively bigger achievements. His first notable successes as a Grandmaster came in 2002, when he not only won his first Armenian Chess Championship, but also became World Junior Chess Champion.
Joining the Elite
Aronian’s true breakthrough year came in 2005. After solid results in many open tournaments had pushed him into the top ten in the world rankings, he finished off the year by winning the Chess World Cup without losing a single game in any of the seven knockout rounds. That result made it clear that Aronian could should not only be invited to the world’s biggest tournaments, but that he would likely be a threat to win them.
He soon showed that this was indeed the case. In 2006, Aronian won the Linares tournament, and later shared first place at the Tal Memorial. He won yet again in early 2007, sharing first place with two others at Wijk aan Zee.
World Championship Candidate
Because Aronian had won the Chess World Cup in 2005, he was granted entry into the Candidates Matches for the 2007 World Chess Championship. Those matches took place in May and June, with Aronian defeating a very young Magnus Carlsen and the veteran Alexei Shirov in order to secure his position in the World Chess Championship tournament. Aronian’s first attempt to win a World Championship was not a successful one, though, as he finished seventh out of the eight participants.
Still, it was clear that Aronian was one of the top players in the world, and his tournament results continued to reflect this. In 2008, he won the Wijk aan Zee tournament for a second time. He would also win the Melody Amber (a mixed blindfold and rapid event) in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009. He also proved successful in the 2009 Bilbao Masters, and won the World Rapid Chses Championship later that year.
In 2010, Aronian once again had a chance to compete for the World Chess Championship, but had to work his way through the FIDE Grand Prix system in order to qualify. He did this with relative ease, qualifying for the Candidates tournament with one event to spare. Unfortunately, he lost to Alexander Grischuk in a rapid tiebreaker in the quarterfinal round, failing to earn a chance to play for the World Championship.
Aronian continued his tournament success in 2012, winning in Wijk aan Zee yet again, this time with a very impressive 9/13 score. Aronian also qualified for the 2013 Candidates tournament, which will select a challenger for Viswanathan Anand in the 2013 World Chess Championship.
Aronian is known for playing a creative and attacking style that is marked by his strong tactical play. This has made him a very popular player with spectators, as he often plays complex and creative games that give both sides chances to play for a win.
- World Junior Champion in 2002
- Led Armenia to gold medals in 2006, 2008 and 2012 Chess Olympiads
- Won World Rapid Chess Championship in 2009
- Won World Blitz Chess Championship in 2010
- Three-time winner of Wijk aan Zee chess tournament (2007, 2008, 2012)
- Three-time winner of Tal Memorial (2006, 2010, 2011)
- Won 2006 Linares tournament
- Won 2009 Bilbao Masters