What Is Levon Aronian's Favorite Move?
A happy Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

What Is Levon Aronian's Favorite Move?

| 30 | Fun & Trivia

The Candidates' Tournament was a real nightmare for Levon Aronian.

Aronian, one of the pre-tournament favorites, ended the competition dead last. While Aronian's numerous fans hoped for a miracle for a long time, it was absolutely clear that he was in very poor form. Moreover, there was one big red flag in Aronian's very first game of the tournament: His favorite move failed him.

Levon Aronian is not just a very strong chess player, who was number two in the world just four years ago. He is well known for his creative attacking style.

GM Alexei Shirov, who is a wizard of attack himself, called Aronian "the most successful player with an ultra-aggressive style."  Levon Aronian has many tricks up his sleeve that allow him to turn even the most boring position into a deadly jungle, but there is one of his favorite moves that almost always brings him a win!

He even doesn't make it a secret since top players are well aware of it. As Aronian famously said at the Sinquefield Cup 2017, "you have to play h4 whenever you can!"

Indeed, the move h2-h4 is by far the favorite move of Levon Aronian. Let's examine his games to see what happens when the Armenian grandmaster pushes his rook pawn two squares.

levon aronian and arianne Caoili

Aronian and WIM Arianne Caoili. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Let me make it clear that in some situations where Aronian plays h2-h4, there is nothing special about it. Moreover, most chess players would do the same. For example, h2-h4 is the main theoretical move in many openings, like in the following games:

Sometimes h2-h4 is simply the most logical move to play, so any master would play it with no hesitation. Like in the following game Aronian created a mating net for his opponent's king by playing h2-h4. Mamedyarov didn't wait till his king would be checkmated after g4-g5 and resigned the game right away:

I am going to talk about totally different situations where the h2-h4 is far from being obvious. 

1. h4 helps to open the h-file. 

If you want to fianchetto your Bf8 and play g6 facing Aronian, then you can be assured that h2-h4 is coming! In the following games even super-grandmasters were helpless to stop Aronian's attack after his favorite h4 move was played! You can say, "big deal, playing h2-h4 is a very common idea in many openings, like the Sicilian Dragon for example."

That's absolutely true! What makes Aronian's approach unique is that in many cases he pushes his rook pawn before move 10!

Here is a game from when Aronian was a teenager:

And this is a very recent game:

I could go on and on, but I think you already got the idea why Aronian plays h4 to open the h-file.

2. h4 weakens the position of the opponent's castled king.

Aronian frequently plays h2-h4 even though he castles kingside. This move helps him to create targets to attack.

3. It is my favorite move, so I can play it any time I want!

Indeed, sometimes it looks like Aronian plays h2-h4 just for the heck of it!

Now that you know the deadly power of Aronian's h2-h4 move, you can imagine the disappointment he must have had after the first-round game in the Candidates' Tournament:

Yes, it is the case #3 (I play it whenever I feel like it!), but surprisingly Aronian falters! That was already a very bad omen. Now look what happened in rounds 7 and 11:

So, Aronian played his deadly weapon in three games and scored only 0.5—do you need any other proof that he was in a terrible form?

While I have no doubt that the Armenian grandmaster will rebound from this debacle, I hope that his not-so-secret weapon will be a good addition for our readers' attacking toolbox!

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