Levon Aronian will be among the 16 players in the Skilling Open, the opening event of the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour that starts on November 22nd. The Armenian no. 1 comes into the event in top form after beating Magnus Carlsen with the black pieces in the final round of Altibox Norway Chess.
Levon Aronian is an Armenian national hero, having led that small land-locked nation of 3 million people to an incredible three Olympiad gold medals (2006, 2008, 2012) while perennial favourites Russia have failed to win the title since 2002. The team also picked up the 2011 World Team Championship, while in individual contests Levon is unique in managing to win two 128-player World Cup knockouts, in 2005 and 2017.
Levon’s career only really took off at the surprisingly late age of 23, but he’s since spent over two years in total as world no. 2, and for a while looked like Magnus Carlsen’s natural challenger for the World Championship title. The great regret for chess fans, and they include some of the greatest players of all time, is that Levon has somehow always struggled with the pressure of Candidates Tournaments that determine the World Championship challenger.
2020 has been a tough year for everyone, but Levon Aronian has had to deal with more tragedy than most. His wife Arianne Caoili died at the age of just 33 after a car crash in March, while the renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan has also hit him hard.
Levon is famous for his positive attitude to life, however, and managed to end October’s Altibox Norway Chess with a victory over Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion’s first loss with the white pieces in almost three years. That was Levon’s 8th classical victory over Magnus Carlsen, a statistic matched only by 15th World Champion Vishy Anand.
It goes without saying, therefore, that Levon is a player with the potential to beat anyone and challenge for the top prize in the Skilling Open and Champions Chess Tour as a whole.