Arianne Bo Caoili, 1986–2020

by Frederic Friedel
3/31/2020 – Yesterday the saddest possible news hit us. "I have no words to express my grief over my wife Arianne's death," wrote Levon Aronian. "She was an intelligent, hard working and joyous person that lived a beautiful life. I love you, honeybun, sleep tight..." An unspeakable tragedy. Arianne was a strong WIM, but also a visionary, social worker, political advisor, MD, dancer, boxer, mountain climber, biker and excelled at just about everything she did. Her death at the age of 33 comes as a huge shock.

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The death of a maiden we all loved

On 15th of March Arianne Caoili's Lexus R350 crashed into a supporting column under the bridge near the intersection of Sebastia Street and Isakov Avenue in Yerevan, Armenia. Local media initially indicated she was in "serious condition" but reported that she was conscious. Aronian, who was in Spain at the time of the incident, returned home as quickly as possible despite growing travel restrictions.

Caoili's car | Photo: Public Radio of Armenia

Arianne Caoili was born in Manila, Philippines. Her mother was Dutch, her father Filippino, and she spent much of her early life in Australia. She learnt chess at six, and became very good at it. At nine she began playing in international tournaments, and on her fourteenth birthday she won the Asian under-16 Girls' Championship. Her rating rose to >2300, and she twice played for the Philippines Women's team at the Chess Olympiad (in 1998 and 2000). After that she played for Australia at the Chess Olympiads in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. In 2009, she played in the London Chess Classic Women's Invitational tournament and won it with a score of 8.0/9, two full points ahead of the runner-up.

Aronian and Caoili flanked by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his wife Rita Sargsyan

In 2008, Arianne started a relationship with the top-ten grandmaster Levon Aronian, whom she had met at the World Youth Chess Championships in Las Palmas a few years earlier. They were engaged in 2015 and married in 2017 — at the 13th-century Saghmosavank Monastery, with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his wife Rita Sargsyan in attendance. We had a special report on the marriage in October 2017, with a lot of beautiful wedding pictures.

Sagar Shah has written a wonderful obituary of this remarkable young lady, which I urge you to read. As ChessBase India writes:

Although chess was one of the most important aspects in her life, it wasn't the only thing in which Arianne excelled. She was the managing director of Akron, a strategy consulting firm. She was also in the team of advisors to the head of Armenian government. She founded and managed one of the biggest newspapers in Armenia — Champord Weekly — which is distributed on public transport for free.

In 2018, Arianne did something truly special. In order to raise funds for child education and donate it to Children of Armenia Fund, she decided to bike 2000 kilometres from city of Ayas in Cilicia to Agarak located on the Armenian-Iranian border. Her aim was to raise US$ 5,500, which she exceeded by collecting US$6,016 in two weeks. Listen to her talk about it in the video above.

I met Arianne for the first time, briefly, in 2001, at the Dortmund tournament, and then dozens of times at different chess events. In the following I will show you a small selection of the many pictures I took of Ari over the years. At the end of this report you will also find some of her games (e.g. a 2003 win by the 13-year-old against world-class GM Vladimir Epishin, rated 2667 at the time).

2006: Arianne playing against Hans-Walter Schmitt, organiser of the Chess Classic in Mainz

2006: With her friend, top German WGM Elisabeth Pähtz, at the same Chess Classic. Elli was the first to tell me about the accident. She kept track of the hospital stay and the tragic end.

2007: In Elista, Kalmykia, at the Candidates Tournament

2009: In discussion with quantum physicist Dr Vera Spillner — on the danger that the Large Hadron Collider might generate miniature black holes.

2009: Playing in the event was Levon Aronian, whom Arianne married eight years later

2009: With some Filipino guests at the Chess Classic in Mainz

2009: With me in Mainz. We had been planning a big project of Chess for Children

2009: Chatting with Marie Laure Kramnik at the London Chess Classic

2009: Arianne won the Women's Invitational tournament | Photo John Saunders

Replay some games of Arianne



Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.

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