Meet the Players: GM Varuzhan Akobian

GM Varuzhan Akobian spent the past month serving as the CCSCSL's Resident Grandmaster.

By Brian Jerauld

You just finished a stint as the Resident Grandmaster at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis – also the venue of the 2013 U.S. Championships. Does your familiarity give you any “home court advantage” over the rest of the field?

I am not sure about having  "home-court advantage," but I will be more familiar with the Club and my surroundings. I hope to feel more comfortable during the tournament!

You were featured on MTV’s True Life in an episode titled “I’m a Genius.” Even more recent, you were the cover story of Chess Life (Mar. 2013). Some superstars thrive in the spotlight, others prefer to stay away from center stage .. how do you handle the fame?

I try to be as natural as I can ... It doesn't matter I am in front of a camera or not. I think if a chess player can bring (media) attention on TV or magazines that it will be great for the popularization of chess in general.

FOX Sports Midwest is covering this year’s tournament. What do you think it will take for America to embrace chess like it does with other niche or even mainstream sports?

I think with good marketing and commentators who can explain to the audience simple and clear way, chess can definitely be on TV, like poker for example.

Chess has taken you to some great locations, all over the world. But now you live in Kansas. Is chess the most fun thing to do in Kansas?

Not really, but Topeka is a small and relaxing place to live compared to LA where I lived for 11 years.

You had a fantastic 2012 season in the U.S. Chess League, where you played to a 2748 performance rating and led the Seattle Sluggers to a 5-1 record in matches in which you played. What kind of differences do you see between the USCL and professional, over-the-board chess? Do you put an equal amount of emphasis and value on each?

I take each USCL game very seriously like it's a real over-the-board tournament game, and I spend hours sometimes to prepare for each opponet. It's a little bit different feeling when you play online since you don't see your opponents, but at the crucial moments you can feel how competitive each team is.