Biography

Varuzhan Akobian was born November 19, 1983, in Yerevan, Armenia. He began playing chess at age 5, when his family moved to Mongolia. Due to harsh weather, “Var” and his sister were encouraged to stay indoors. His father introduced them to the game on a small wooden folding board. In these circumstances, Var’s intense love of chess was born.

The Akobian family returned to Armenia when Var was 7, and he began studying at Tigran Petrosian Chess House, home of the chess academy created by the Armenian Ministry of Education for talented players. Here, Var received instruction from his first coaches, Gagik Sargissian and IM Ashot Nadanian. Vahag Grigorian, a high-ranking Minister in the Armenian government, provided financial support so Varuzhan could compete outside of Armenia.

In 1992, Var qualified to play in his first rated tournament, the Armenian Junior Chess Championship, which was the most prestigious chess national tournament. He earned 3rd place in the under 10 (years) section. The next year he defeated every player in his section and earned 1st place – a feat he accomplished three times. At age 9, he participated in the World Junior Chess Championship in Czechoslovakia, his first appearance on an international stage: he tied for 8th place in a field of 50 participants.

In 1994 and 1996, he competed in the European Junior Championship, and placed 4th each time. In 1995, he won the tournament in the under 12 section and took 3rd place in the World Rapid Chess Championship in Paris. In 1997, he played Moscow’s Kasparov Cup, one of chess’s most prestigious tournaments. Only the top 2 players from any country could participate in the event. Var took 2nd place. Levon Aronian, now among the top players in the world, earned first. Var’s performance at the Kasparov Cup earned him a scholarship, which he used to pay for exceptional coaching and chess retreats by world renowned grandmasters. In 1999, Var earned the National Master title at age 15 and FIDE International Master a year later. In 2001, he moved to the United States. A week after his 20th birthday, in November 2003, he earned FIDE’s highest title, International Grandmaster.

He was the 2002 Samford Fellowship recipient, an honor given annually to the most promising U.S. chess player. In 2005, he was the Alajuela Open Champion with 8 of 9 points; he was undefeated. In 2006, Varuzhan became a Bronze Medalist, competing on the U.S. team at the Chess Olympiad. That same year, at San Marino, he tied for 1st Place with a performance rating of about 2800.
In 2007, GM Akobian continued his success. He tied for 3rd Place in the 2nd Chess Festival in Spain — with draws against former World Champion Anatoly Karpov and GMs Bacrot and Sokolov (who tied for 1st Place). He became World Open Champion for the second time since 2004. He took 1st place at the Continental Championship in Colombia, a performance that qualified him for the 2007 World Cup. Earlier in 2007, he was featured on MTV program, “True Life: I’m a Genius,” which followed GM Akobian on his daily routine to show his life as a grandmaster.

The next year, 2008, was a turning point. He recorded a string of major successes, including winning the Doeberl Cup, the Chicago Open and GM Susan Polgar’s second annual Spice Cup. He finished the year by winning a second Bronze Medal at the 38th Chess Olympiad.

In 2009, he finished 3rd at the very strong Gibtelcom Masters tournament in Gibraltar and 4th at the U.S. Championship, which qualified him for the 2009 World Cup. He made it to the second round of this famous knockout tournament by defeating GM Tregubov (FIDE 2642). But he was bested by former World Champion Ponomariov in a tiebreak playoff. GM Akobian became the 2009 National Open Champion and the 2009 North American Open champion (both in Las Vegas). He continued his success at the World Open, taking second place that year.

In 2010, GM Akobian won a Silver Medal at the World Team Championship in Turkey, becoming the Castle Grand Prix Champion, taking clear first with 4.5 of 5. He finished second at the U.S. Open with 7.5 of 9. Also, for the first time, he coached the U.S. Olympic Team at the 39th Chess Olympiad in Russia.

In 2011, GM Akobian, playing black, defeated GM Kacheishvili in the final round of the Las Vegas Chess Festival. GM Akobian also accepted the invitation to coach the US Team at the World Team Chess Championship in China. At the Southern California Open tournament, GM Akobian took clear 1st place with 5.5 points of 6. At the 2011 American Open, GM Akobian was again champion, winning clear 1st place with 7 points out of 8. He ended the year with a 2nd place finish at the North American Open in Las Vegas, increasing his USCF rating to an all-time personal high of 2721.

He finished 4th in the U.S. Championship in 2012, qualifying for the Chess Olympiad, helping the U.S. team finish 4th. Playing on the top board for the Seattle Sluggers in the U.S. Chess league, he led the team to its first championship in U.S. Chess League.
GM Akobian had a strong 2013. He won the Pan American Team Championship in Brazil with the U.S. team. He won 1st place in the National Open and the championship of the World Open. A highlight was competing in the World Team Championship in Turkey, where he won an individual gold medal. That year he also finished in 1st place in the North American Open in Las Vegas.

He followed with a banner year in 2014, finished in 1st place, undefeated, at UT Dallas Spring FIDE Open, earning 7 of 9 points. In May, he tied for 1st place in the U.S. Championship in St. Louis with GMs Gata Kamsky and Aleksandr Lenderman, resulting in a playoff to decide the championship. GM Akobian defeated Lenderman in an Armageddon Game, then fell to Kamsky, 1.5 to 0.5, in a Rapid Match, giving Kamsky the title and making GM Akobian the runner up. After the U.S. championship, he reached an all-time high rating of USCF 2758 and FIDE 2653, and GM Akobian made the list of top 100 players. He won the Castle Grand Prix in Atlanta, 4 of 5 points, and the Temecula Fall Open with 6 of 6. He earned 4 of 4 points playing second board with the St. Louis Archbishops to help the team win that year’s U.S. Chess League championship.

He performed solidly in 2015, finishing 5th at the U.S. Championship and qualifying to compete in the World Cup. He also helped the U.S. team place 4th at the World Team Championship in Armenia. He tied for second place in the World Open, winning 6.5 of 9 points.

Despite a busy schedule, GM Akobian finds time to coach students, write articles for chess publications, give simultaneous exhibitions and, of course, study and train to compete in major chess event. He is among the game’s best players, having broken into FIDE’s list of top 100 players. He possesses the talent, skills, and determination to join the circle of elite players who contend for the title of World Champion.

Of all his achievements, GM Akobian is most proud of his family.
He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife, Lusine, and their daughter, Tina, born on June 1, 2015.