2017 U.S. Championship

Pairings & Results | Championship

Yaroslav Zherebukh

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2657
Residence: 
Saint Louis, MO
Age: 
23
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Yaroslav won the Cappelle la Grande tournament in 2010. He is currently rated 2605 FIDE (URS 2580), making him the twelfth highest rated player in the U.S..
Bio: 

The Ukrainian born American Grandmaster earned his title at the age of 15. “My biggest success so far was the advancement to the 4th round (1/8 of the final) at the World Cup 2011 in Russia. I won or shared 1st place in numerous US and European tournaments, the most memorable being Cappelle la Grande in France, 2010 (650+ players, over 80 GMs) and US Masters 2015 in Greensboro,NC.”  The young GM has been mostly focused on pursuing academic degrees in the past 4 years, but now has the time to devote to “rediscovering a passion for working on and playing chess again.”

In May of 2015  Zherebukh switched his affiliation from the Ukrainian Chess Federation to the U.S. Federation, making him eligible to be the unpredictable wildcard in this year’s U.S. Championship.

U.S. Championships Preview: The Beginning of a New Era

The U.S. Championship will take place between March 27 and April 11, 2017. It is not easy to predict who will be crowned the Champions.

GM Daniel Naroditsky

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2690
Residence: 
Foster City, CA
Age: 
21
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Daniel is currently rated 2646 FIDE(2623 URS), and is the ninth highest rated player in the U.S..
Bio: 

Grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky first learned the rules of chess at six years old, and it was not long before he was paving his professional future -- eventually becoming a three-time U.S. Scholastic champion, earning a gold medal at the World U12 championship in 2007 and winning the U.S. Junior championship in 2013. Naroditsky is  the youngest published chess author in history -- now with two titles to his name.

GM Naroditsky is an active ambassador for scholastic chess in the United States; giving simuls in schools, activity centers and chess clubs around the country. Aside from chess, Naroditsky maintains many other interests, including history, music, foreign languages, art and mathematics. He graduated from Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsboro, CA in 2014 and currently studies at Stanford University.

Naroditsky received the prestigious Frank P. Samford Jr. Chess Fellowship, which provides access to top level coaching, study material and competition. Through 2014, Naroditsky traveled and competed in several elite tournaments around the world, including the London Chess Classic and the Qatar Masters, and turned in an impressive performance at the 2015 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

GM Alex Shabalov

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2618
Residence: 
Pittsburgh, PA
Age: 
49
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Alexander won the U.S. Championship four times; in 1993, 1999, 2003, and 2007 respectively. He is currently the 21st highest rated player in the U.S., holding a FIDE rating of 2564 (URS 2549).
Bio: 

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.

GM Var Akobian

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2680
Residence: 
North Hollywood, CA
Age: 
33
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Varuzhan was the U.S. Junior Champion in 2003, and the winner of the World Open in 2002, 2004, and 2007. He also played for the U.S. in the 2009 World Team Championship and helped them earn the Silver Medal. GM Akobian has a rating of 2647 FIDE(2610 URS), making him the 10th highest rated player in the U.S..
Bio: 

The weather was so harsh in the years that Armenian-American Grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian spent in Mongolia, that his father forbade "Var" and his sister Armine, from playing outside. He taught them chess, a perfect indoor distraction. "From the very beginning," Var says, "I was different from other chess kids. It was never just a game for me. I always wanted to be a Grandmaster, and knew that I would do what it takes." As a teenager living in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, Varuzhan spent all day playing chess and soccer. His teachers agreed that he could focus on chess, without fear of truancy charges. "This is one way in which Armenia is very different from the United States. If I went to high school here, I never could have spent so much energy on chess."

He immigrated to the U.S. in 2001 and a year later earned the Samford Chess Fellowship, which allows a talented junior to focus on chess for two years. The prize paid off quickly, as he tied for first in the 2002 World Open and also won the Irme Koenig GM Invitational. The following year, Akobian scored 8/9 to win the 2003 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, winning his first seven games. He was officially awarded the grandmaster title in June 2004, after which he won the World Open again, clinching it with a sparkling win against Alexander Shabalov.

Varuzhan excels in positional battles and admires the games and style of Armenian hero, World Champion Tigran Petrosian. His favorite opening with black, just like Petrosian, is the French Defense. Var's advice to players aspiring to improve is this: "Don't expect to see constant improvement. You build knowledge and work hard, and after a while, you'll see a big breakthrough."

Recently, GM Akobian moved from sunny California to Topeka, Kansas, where his wife is attending law school at Washburn University. He has joined the Resident GM rotation at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, which brings some of the country's top players to the Chess Club to give private lessons, present lectures and share their chess knowledge with the club's more than 1,000 members.

GM Jeffery Xiong

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2715
Residence: 
Coppell, TX
Age: 
16
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Jeffery won the 2016 U.S.. Closed Junior Championship, and is currently the highest rated player in the U.S. under the age of eighteen, with a FIDE rating of 2675(URS 2600).
Bio: 

Jeffery Xiong of Coppell, Texas, is the second highest rated player in the world under the age of eighteen. He has shown tenacity well beyond his years. At age 15, he already has had an impressive list of results: the 2010 Under-10 North America Continental Champion, a silver medalist in the 2010 Under-10 World Youth Chess Championships, 2013 MVP of the United States Chess League for his perfect record in regular season for the Dallas Destiny, 2015 Chicago Open Championship, 6th place finish in the strongest U.S. Championship in history (2016), and was recently awarded the 2016 U.S. Outstanding Player Achievement Award by USCF. However, it is his creativity on the board and his maturity in defeat that has caught the eye of some of the most renowned chess grandmasters.


From a very young age, Xiong has seen his losses, though painful, as an opportunity to improve. While some of Xiong's older competitors have been known to display their frustration with difficult losses, he remains collected—analyzing where his play could have been stronger. This maturity has helped enlist legendary Grandmaster Garry Kasparov as a mentor in the Young Stars program, and it has led to numerous impressive victories and awards since.

Home-schooled now, Xiong already has been awarded a four-year scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas. The school’s faith in him is well-founded, particularly since his undefeated play in this past spring’s UT Dallas vs. U.S.A. Junior All-Stars event helped his team, the Junior All-Stars, achieve victory over that same UT Dallas university program he may one day attend.

In 2016 Xiong won the U.S. Closed Junior Championship, and is currently the highest rated player under eighteen years of age in the U.S.

 

GM Sam Shankland

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2717
Residence: 
Orinda, CA
Age: 
24
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Sam placed third at the 2011 U.S. Championship. He is also the 2010 U.S. Junior Closed Champion; 2009 Champion of State Champions; 2008 World Under 18 co-champion; and the 2008 Calchess State Champion. Shankland recently won the 2016 Fargenes International, the 2016 Edmonton International, and also took first place at Biel Masters 2016. Additionally, he played on the U.S. team which took first place at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. GM Shankland is currently rated 2667 FIDE(2648 URS), making him the seventh highest rated player in the U.S. and #85 worldwide.
Bio: 

When Sam Shankland was just 18, he announced he would be retiring from the game of chess. In order to honor his previous commitments, however, he agreed to play in one more event, the 2010 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, which he managed to win after facing back-to-back playoff matches against Parker Zhao and tourney favorite GM Ray Robson. That achievement offered him an automatic invitation to play in the 2011 U.S. Championship, which ultimately proved to be a difficult offer to refuse.

Sam performed admirably at the 2011 U.S. Championship, edging out veteran GM Alexander Onischuk in a playoff to reach the four-player quad finals. There he ran into eventual champion GM Gata Kamsky, who topped him 1.5-.5. After his defeat, Shankland remained upbeat.  “Just because I’m not in the running for first place doesn’t mean the tournament is over,” he said. “Plus third place sounds cooler than fourth. You can call it a bronze medal.” Shankland's positive attitude proved prescient as he topped GM Robert Hess in a playoff for third place. The Brandeis University student has called the U.S. Championship "his dream tournament for the year."

Shankland scored some notable victories in 2016.  He took first place at Fargenes international, won the Edmonton International, and also took first place at Biel Masters, as well playing for the gold medal winning U.S. team at the 42nd Chess Olympiad.  Because of his usually strong, but sometimes unpredictable, play, he will be an intriguing player to watch at this year's championship.

GM Alex Onischuk

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2694
Residence: 
Lubbock, TX
Age: 
41
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Alexander was the 2006 U.S. Champion and is currently #81 on the international ranking list and the sixth highest rated player in the U.S., with a FIDE rating of 2667 (URS 2643).
Bio: 

Grandmaster Alexander Onischuk began playing chess when he was six years old and has ranked as one of the top 100 players in the world for the past two decades.

Onischuk earned his GM title as a Ukrainian 18-year-old in 1994, then later won the 2000 Ukrainian Championship before emigrating to the U.S. the following year. For five years, he played collegiate chess for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), leading the program to multiple national titles before graduating in 2006 with a degree in linguistics. He has been invited to every FIDE World Cup since 2005, winning more than 20 major tournaments along the way, including the 2006 U.S. Championship -- which he called the happiest moment of his career, having his name on a trophy alongside players such as Bobby Fischer and Paul Morphy.

Onischuk was key to America’s bronze medal finishes at the 2006 and 2008 Olympiads, and delivered a gold-medal performance on board two at the 2009 World Team Championship in Bursa, Turkey.  In 2012, Alexander Onischuk was named the head coach of Texas Tech University’s chess program, helping the squad return to the President’s Cup in 2014, finishing in a close second behind Webster University. He leads the TTU program back to the Final Four of Collegiate Chess in 2015, just before the start of the U.S. Championship. The 2014 season led to national recognition, with Texas Tech named “Chess College of the Year” and Onischuk awarded “2014 Grandmaster of the Year” by the U.S. Chess Federation.


He has finished among the top three in the U.S. Championship seven times, and in 2015 Onischuk coached the  Texas Tech University Chess Program which placed first at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship.

GM Ray Robson

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2719
Residence: 
Saint Louis, MO
Age: 
22
Status: 
Accepted
Chess Highlights: 
Ray won the 2012 Webster University SPICE cup open, placed second at the 2015 U.S. Championships, and he is currently the fifth highest rated player in the U.S., and #78 internationally with a FIDE rating of 2668(URS 2617).
Bio: 

Born in Guam, Robson soon after moved with his family to Florida, where his father taught him chess when he was just three years old. From 2004 to 2007, Robson finished in the top 10 at the World Youth Championship and then won SuperNationals in 2005. He defeated his first Grandmaster in 2006, the same year he earned the USCF National Master title. Other impressive performances include first place in the 2005 and 2006 Pan-American Youth Championships; the 2009 U.S. Junior Championship; the 2009 World Team Championship; and the 2012 Dallas Invitational.

In 2008, Robson won his first major tournament at the Miami Open, and later that year became the youngest American to win the Grandmaster title, at the age of 14 years, 11 months and 16 days. The mark bested the record held by Hikaru Nakamura and once by the great Bobby Fischer, making Robson one of America’s brightest hopes to another world-elite GM.

Though the University of Texas offered him a chess scholarship, in 2012 Robson decided instead on the SPICE program at Webster University where, just a few months after enrolling, he won the 2012 Webster University SPICE Cup Open and eventually helped the program win three consecutive national titles.

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