GM Alex Shabalov
Alexander Shabalov realized chess would be his profession after winning the Latvian junior championship at the age of 11. He went on to win the Under-16 Championship of the Soviet Union in 1982. The four-time U.S. Champion is known for no-holds barred chess, and he thrives on wild moves.
Known for fighting chess, Shabalov rarely proposes or accepts early draw offers. In the 2003 U.S. Championship, there were eight Grandmasters vying for first place. After fifteen minutes, the stage was almost empty. All the other contenders had drawn their games, ensuring them a decent payday but depriving fans of exciting, high-stakes chess. Shabalov's game was the exception. He played a six hour slug-fest against Varuzhan Akobian, ending in a victory for Shabalov. In addition to the 25K he won for first place, main sponsor Erik Andersson awarded Alex and Varuzhan $5,000 each for their fighting spirit. Shabalov won clear first in the U.S. Championship four years later in Tulsa, Oklahoma, besting Kudrin in the final to edge out the defending champion, 2006 Champ Alexander Onischuk.
GM Shabalov is always a serious contender for the crown. He will arrive again in Saint Louis looking to capture a fabulous, fifth title in the 2017 U.S. Championship.