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 the inordinately harsh weather conditions there, “Var” and his sister were encouraged to stay indoors and play chess. In this unusual circumstance, Varuzhan’s intense love of chess was born.
Var and his family returned to Armenia when he was seven and he began studies at a chess academy created by the Armenian Ministry of Education specifically for talented chess players. Here, Var received instruction from his first real chess coaches, Gagik Sargissian and IM Ashot Nadanian. Vahag Grigorian, a high-ranking Minister in the Armenian government, provided financial support that enabled Varuzhan to compete in tournaments outside of Armenia.
In 1992, Var qualified to play in his first rated tournament, the Armenian Junior Chess Championship; the most prestigious chess tournament in Armenia in which he earned 3rd place in the under 10 (years) section. In 1993, Varuzhan defeated every player in his section and earned 1st place in the event; a feat he would accomplish three times. At age 9, he participated in the World Chess Championship in Czechoslovakia, his first appearance on an international stage and where he tied for 8th in a field of 50 participants.
In 1994 and 1996, Var competed in the European Junior Championship where he 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 held in Paris. In 1997, Varuzhan played in one of chess’s most prestigious tournaments: the Kasparov Cup in Moscow. Only the top 2 players from any given country may participate in the event. Var took 2nd place, ceding 1st to Levon Aronian, now among the top 3 players in the world. Varuzhan’s performance at the Kasparov Cup earned him a monthly scholarship which allowed him to procure exceptional coaching and attend chess retreats conducted by world renowned Grandmasters. In 1999, Var earned the National Master title at the age of 15 and at 16, became a FIDE International Master. In 2001, he moved to the US and 1 week after his 20th birthday in November, 2003, earned FIDE’s highest title, International Grandmaster.
Var was the 2002 Samford Fellowship recipient, an honor given annually to the most promising chess player in the US and in 2005, he was the Alajuela Open Champion with 8 of 9 points and was undefeated. In 2006, Varuzhan became a Bronze Medalist, competing on the US team at the Chess Olympiad. That same year at San Marino, he tied for 1st Place with a performance rating of approximately 2800.
In 2007, Varuzhan continued his success by tying 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 then became World Open Champion for the second time since 2004. He immediately followed up his victory with another 1st place at the Continental Championship in Colombia; a performance that qualified him for the 2007 World Cup. Earlier in 2007, Var was featured in an MTV program titled: “True Life: I’m a Genius” which followed him through his daily life as a chess grandmaster.
2008 turned out to be a turning point in GM Akobian’s career as he recorded a string of major successes that included 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.
During 2009, GM Akobian was also very active and continued piling up impressive results by finishing third at the very strong Gibtelcom Masters tournament in Gibraltar and fourth at the US Championship which qualified him to participate in the 2009 World Cup. Akobian made it to the second round by defeating GM Tregubov (FIDE 2642) of this famous knockout tournament but was bested by former World Champion Ponomariov in a tiebreak playoff. He also became the 2009 National Open Champion and the 2009 North American Open champion (both in Las Vegas). GM Akobian continued his success at the World Open taking second place that year.
In 2010, GM Akobian continued his successful run by winning a Silver Medal at the World Team Championship in Turkey, becoming the Castle Grand Prix Champion, taking clear first with 4.5 of 5, and finishing second at the US Open with 7.5 of 9. GM Akobian also, for the first time, coached the US Olympic Team at the 39th Chess Olympiad in Russia.
In 2011, GM Akobian won the Las Vegas Chess Festival defeating GM Kacheishvili in the final round with the black pieces. He also accepted the invitation to coach the US Team at the World Team Chess Championship held in China. At the Southern California Open tournament held during the Labor Day holiday, GM Akobian took clear first place with 5.5 points of 6. At the 2011 American Open, GM Akobian was again champion garnering a 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.
Despite a very busy schedule, GM Akobian finds time to coach students, write articles for chess publications, give simultaneous exhibitions and, of course, study and train for, compete in and win major chess events around the world. Throughout his still young but storied career in chess, GM Varuzhan Akobian has demonstrated that he is among the game’s best players. He is currently on the verge of breaking FIDE’s top 100 and still possesses the talent, skills and determination to join the elite who contend for the title of World Champion.