Information

Nazi Paikidze

IM Nazi Paikidze
Title: 
International Master
Rating: 
2342
Residence: 
Baltimore, MD
Age: 
21
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Her first time competing in the event, as one of the U.S. Chess Federation’s most-recent transfer, IM Nazi Paikidze is bound to make her presence known in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Championship by arriving with a resume full of international success.

Even at an early age, it was clear Paikidze would soon become a powerhouse player. Raised in Tbilisi, Georgia, Paikidze quickly collected prolific wins at the highest levels of international youth chess play. By the time she was 16, Paikidze had won four European Youth Chess Championships and medaled in the World Youth Chess Championship an astounding six times, including two gold-medal finishes.

In 2006, Paikidze moved with her family to Moscow, Russia, which allowed her to participate in Russian tournaments. While she continued to represent Georgia in international events, she seized the initiative to combat some of Russia’s best, winning both the Moscow Women’s Championship and the Moscow’s Open Women Tournament, and finishing fourth in the Russian Women’s Chess Championship. With continuous strong play, Nazi achieved her Women’s Grandmaster title in 2010 and her International Master in 2012.

Nazi transferred to the USCF last November after recently moving to the U.S., where she now currently studies Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is a major asset to the traditionally powerhouse UMBC chess program, one of the Final Four schools of collegiate chess to compete in the 2015 President’s Cup.

Conrad Holt

grandmaster conrad holt
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2632
Residence: 
Wichita, KS
Age: 
21
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

It is no wonder how Grandmaster Conrad Holt came to be known as the “Thunder” Holt: His recent electrifying play—a first place finish at the 2014 U.S. Open, an appearance in the 2014 U.S. Chess League Finals as part of the Dallas Destiny, and another fine showing at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships—has established him as a player to watch in the upcoming 2015 U.S. Championship.

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Holt made an early name for himself by winning the 2008 U.S. Cadet Championship and appearing in the 2010 World Open, and then earning his GM title at only 19 years old in 2012. Now 21, Holt currently attends the University of Texas-Dallas and is finishing up his undergraduate degree in Physics, also a member of the prestigious UT-Dallas Chess Team. Holt has helped lead the UTD squad to several President’s Cups, including a trip to the 2015 Final Four of collegiate chess held just before this year’s U.S. Championships.

Rusudan Goletiani

women's grandmaster rusudan goletiani
Title: 
Women's Grandmaster
Rating: 
2312
Residence: 
Hartsdale, NY
Age: 
34
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

A veteran to the Women’s U.S. Championship, WGM Rusudan Goletiani was the 2005 U.S. Women’s Champion -- and the last to hold the throne since Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih began trading the title. Goletiani has continued to be a force with each appearance in the event, finishing third as recently as 2012.

As a U.S player in the 2008 Olympiad, Goletiani helped steer the U.S. team towards a bronze medal finish -- though she doesn’t dwell heavily on the past. When asked about important highlights in her chess career, Goletiani said that she appreciates each victory she achieves:  "Every accomplishment means a lot," she said.

Hailing from the country of Georgia, Goletiani made an impact on the chess community as a young girl, winning the World Championship for Girls in each U14, U16 and U18 categories. She moved to the U.S. in 2000, and since 2004 has been competing for the USCF. Though she has achieved a great deal, Goletiani won’t rest until she achieves her ultimate chess goal: Becoming a Grandmaster.

Outside of chess, Goletiani enjoys ping pong, reading and cooking. She is married with two children, but says she doesn't have much difficulty fitting the rigors of chess into her daily life.

"I wish I had more time for everything, but somehow I manage it all," she says. Goletiani considers the great Russian Grandmaster Alexander Alekhine her biggest chess influence, though she adds that outside of chess she admires “every person that works hard to achieve his or her goal."


Timur Gareev

grandmaster timur gareev
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2698
Residence: 
Las Vegas, NV
Age: 
26
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Blindfold exhibitionist Grandmaster Timur Gareev, originally from Uzbekistan, is a formidable opponent with unlimited potential and the proven ability to make a serious run at the U.S. Championship title. A veteran of the game, Timur’s standard rating has remained active and comfortably above 2500 for more than a decade.

"My grandfather taught me how to play chess at the age of four," Gareev said. "I practiced the game regularly challenging my father, friends and schoolmates. At the age of eight, I played my first rated competition. I started succeeding in my improvement very fast, winning most of the national events."

At 10, Gareev was playing expert level strength and dedicating 4-6 hours every day, working with his coach Georgi Borisenko and mastering the game on his own. By 2004, at 16, he earned the distinction as the youngest-ever Grandmaster from Asia, then traveled to the U.S. in 2005 to help the University of Texas at Brownsville win its first national championship. After receiving his B.A. degree in 2011, Gareev was awarded the Samford Fellowship in 2012, which awarded him a monetary stipend to assist his chess development.

Timur has conducted 19-board, 27-board, and 33-board blindfold simultaneous exhibitions - the last of which he served up a score of 29-0-4 against members of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, days before the start of the 2013. U.S. Championship. His exceptional memory allows for top-tier preparation and study, and he has good chances of catching an unsuspecting opponent in deeply analyzed lines. He believes that blindfold training has helped him improve his focus.

Kayden Troff

grandmaster kayden troff
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2662
Residence: 
West Jordan, UT
Age: 
16
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Last year proved to be highlight in the career of young Kayden Troff, earning his Grandmaster title at the Saint Louis Invitational in May, and then returning to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis the following month to win the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship with a convincing 7/9 score. The victory earned him a seat in this year’s U.S. Championship, his second appearance in the national title event.

Troff first demonstrated chess ability at the age of three, learning to play by watching his father teach his older brothers. By the time he was six, his father had him tutored by Grandmaster Igor Ivanov, who was impressed with how well the youngster played.

Troff was among the first selected into the Young Stars-Team USA program, a joint partnership between the Kasparov Chess Foundation and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, which sought to train the country’s top emerging players to compete with those around the world. Through the program, Troff has participated in several training sessions with Garry Kasparov, as well as frequent sessions with GM Alex Chernin.

Troff’s accomplishments include several Utah scholastic and adult championships, as well as a gold medal at the U14 World Youth Chess Championship title earned in Maribor, Slovenia in 2012 -- an upgrade from the silver medal earned in the U12 World Youth Chess Championship in Greece in 2010.

Varuzhan Akobian

grandmaster varuzhan akobian
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2713
Residence: 
North Hollywood, CA
Age: 
31
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

The weather was so harsh in the years that youngster Varuzhan Akobian spent in Mongolia, his father forbade "Var" and his sister from playing outside. Instead, he taught them chess -- a perfect indoor distraction.

"From the very beginning, I was different from other chess kids,” Akobian recalls. “It was never just a game for me. I always wanted to be a Grandmaster, and I knew that I would do what it takes."

Later as a teenager in Yerevan, Armenia, Akobian spent many of his days playing chess and soccer -- all with his teachers’ permission.

"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."

Akobian immigrated from Armenia to the U.S. in 2001, and it didn’t take him long to make an impact on the American chess community. Within his first three years, Akobian had been awarded the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship, tied for first in the 2002 World Open, won the Irme Koenig GM Invitational, and dominated the 2003 U.S. Junior Closed Championship after winning his first seven games. He was officially awarded the GM title in June 2004, after which he won the World Open again, clinching it with a sparkling win against Alexander Shabalov.

Akobian is a popular rotation in the Resident Grandmaster position at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, and he continues to be a force in U.S. chess tournaments. This past year, Akobian narrowly lost an armageddon playoff in the 2014 U.S. Championship to Gata Kamsky, though he dusted himself off nicely by helping the Saint Louis Arch Bishops to their first-ever U.S. Chess League championship.

Sam Shankland

grandmaster sam shankland
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2735
Residence: 
Orinda, CA
Age: 
23
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

When Sam Shankland was just 18, he announced he would be retiring from the game of chess. Before leaving, however, he agreed to honor his previous commitments and compete in the 2010 U.S. Junior Closed Championship - the rest is history. He won the Junior championship after back-to-back playoff matches against Parker Zhano and tournament favorite Ray Robson, earning Shankland a spot in the 2011 U.S. Championship and another commitment that became too good to refuse.

The youngster performed admirably in the 2011 national title fight, edging veteran GM Alexander Onischuk in a playoff to reach the four-player quad finals. There, Shankland ran into eventual champion GM Gata Kamsky, who topped him 1.5-.5 - though after his defeat, Shankland remained upbeat. He finished third place, and described his performance as his “dream tournament for the year."

Sam enters the 2015 U.S. Championship at the ever-climbing peak of his career. A strong showing at the 2014 Qatar Masters Open was topped by an undefeated run at the 2014 Tromso Chess Olympiad, where he entered as the fifth-board reserve but went on to win an Olympic gold medal. He made his first break into the world’s top 100 players at the end of 2014, then opened up 2015 with another undefeated performance in the Tata Steel Challengers section for third place. He has now remained unbeaten in over 65 games.

Due to his incredible recent performances, spectators should keep a close eye on this young player who may just ride his wave of confidence to a victory in the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship.

Daniel Naroditsky

grandmaster daniel naroditsky
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2737
Residence: 
Foster City, CA
Age: 
19
Status: 
Accepted
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 has remained the U.S. No. 1 in his age category for the past eight years and is also the youngest published chess author in history -- now with two titles to his name.

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 plans to attend Stanford University for fall 2015.

In the year between, however, 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 last February turned in an impressive performance at the 2015 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Alexander Onischuk

grandmaster alexander onischuk
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2740
Residence: 
Lubbock, TX
Age: 
39
Status: 
Accepted
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 Ukranian 18-year-old in 1994, then later won the 2000 Ukranian Championship before emigrating to the U.S. the following year. For five years, he played collegiate chess for the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country (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. Last year’s 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.

Gata Kamsky

grandmaster gata kamsky
Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2748
Residence: 
Brooklyn, NY
Age: 
40
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Gata Kamsky is the two-time defending U.S. Champion, a title he has earned five times over an illustrious career - including four of the last five years. Born in Siberia, Russia, Kamsky learned chess at the age of seven, won the country’s U15 Championship at the age of nine, then became back-to-back Junior Champion of the Soviet Union at 13.

Kamsky began his dominance of American chess shortly after emigrating to the U.S. in 1989 and spent nearly 20 years as the highest-rated American - losing that title to Nakamura in 2009. In 1990 he earned his GM, and soon after became the youngest player ever rated in the World’s top-ten. Kamsky won his first U.S. Championships in 1991, and the following year helped the USCF secure its first-ever gold medal in the World Team Chess Olympiad. Kamsky also became the youngest-ever to challenge for the FIDE world title and the first American since Bobby Fischer, as the Candidate for the 1996 World Chess Championship.

Afterwards, Kamsky began an eight-year hiatus away from chess to focus on studies, first graduating in pre-med chemistry and then returning to find his law degree. His return to chess in 2004 began an extraordinary second chapter in his playing career. Within three years Kamsky had regained his elite form, qualifying for the 2007 Candidates Tournament and later winning the 2007 Chess World Cup, where he knocked off Magnus Carlsen in the semifinals. In 2010, Kamsky won his second U.S. Championship – 19 years removed from his first title. Since then he's earn three more.

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