2014 GM/IM Invitational Bios
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and received his first USCF rating at age 6. It wasn't long, around his mid-teens, until he realized he wanted to play chess professionally. GM Finegold's first major tournament win came in 1989 when he finished in a first-place tie at the U.S. Junior Closed Championship. Also in 1989, Finegold scored his biggest victory to date with a win against Boris Gelfand at the Euwe Memorial tournament in Amsterdam, Holland. He obtained his first IM norm at the event, gained 40 FIDE points and eventually earned the title of International Master in 1990.
Finegold was a recipient of the prestigous Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993, a time in which he spent working with GM Gregory Kaidanov. In 1994, Finegold finished in a six-way tie for first place at the U.S Open in Chicago, and then in 2002 he finished in a first-place tie with eight players at the World Open in Philadelphia where he secured his first GM norm. He earned another at the Chicago Spring Invitational in 2005, with his third and final GM norm received at the 2009 Spice Cup Chess Festival in Lubbock, Texas.
Serious chess players are divided by the question of whether it’s better to study a narrow set of openings in great depth, or play a wide variety of systems, to keep opponents wondering. Finegold falls somewhere in between. He’s been playing 1.d4 his whole life but with Black he’s more flexible and can play numerous defenses against both 1.e4 and 1.d4. Finegold has never been afraid of trading Queens early in the game, and wins a lot of half points from endgame technique.
When asked about which books he recommended to aspiring players, Ben said “I’m not a fan of books.” His advice was to “Play in strong tournaments (open section) and analyze your games with a strong player. The best way to improve is to play strong players often.”
Samuel Sevian is an American Chess prodigy. He has set records as the youngest American Expert in history, the youngest American National Master in history and is currently the youngest American International Master in history - a record he set last year at 12 years and 10 months old.
Today, at 13 years old, he continues to climb at a record-setting pace: Sevian has already notched all three of his Grandmaster norms and needs only his rating to pass the 2500 watermark -- only 16 points away entering the CCSCSL Invitational. If Sevian passes that mark within the next year, he will become the youngest Grandmaster in American history, a record currently held by Ray Robson at 14 years and 11 months.
One of the most promising Juniors in the country, Sevian has already served as a World Champion in the U12 category, a title he earned in Maribor Slovenia in November 2012. His pre-tournament (FIDE) rating at the World Youth was 2347, almost 100 points above his nearest competitor.
"I really worked hard for it, hours of preparation every day before and during the tournament," Sam said.
Sam is a product of the Young Stars - Team USA program, a joint partnership between the Kasparov Chess Federation (KCF) and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis to find and train the country's top emerging chess players. Sam received intensive training with legendary World Champion GM Garry Kasparov, which he said was a big contributing factor to his recent success.
"The KCF helped me enormously," Sam said. "First, it was Garry's camps held in Saint Louis and New York where we got to train with the Champion himself, and of course long and frequent training sessions with GM Alexander Chernin, who helped me grow."
International Master Andrey Gorovets was born in Belarus and is enrolled at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. At the university he studies geography and has joined the Texas Tech University Chess Program.
He first learned chess at age seven and has played for twenty years. “My father taught me to play,” Gorovets said. “He showed me the game, told me the rules, and I picked it up from there. I was interested in it from the first time I was exposed to the game.”
Gorovets has one GM norm and needs two more for the title, though his 2482 rating continues to climb closer to the necessary watermark.
Gorovets would like to return to Belarus eventually, but enjoys attending school and living in the United States. He has been in this country for one year and, when he arrived, he was surprised at the differences between the U.S. and Belarus -- such as the size and scale of the U.S. For fun, he plays soccer, spends time with friends and travels. Gorovets likes his academic and social community at TTU because everyone has chess in common. With regard to travel, Gorovets has enjoyed visiting southwestern states such as New Mexico and California.
Born in 1987 in France, of French and Egyptian parents, Samy Shoker attends Texas Tech University in Lubbock as a graduate student in French, and is also a member of the Texas Tech University Chess Program. He lived in Egypt for four years as a child and learned to play chess at the age of four.
“My father, who is Egyptian, taught me how to play chess which is popular in that country,” he says.
Shoker has played chess for twenty years and attended chess clubs in France and Egypt. As a Grandmaster, he competes in tournaments so that other players have the opportunity to score norms against him. He became an International Master in 2006 and a Grandmaster just this past May: Shoker earned the elite title with his third GM norm at the 32nd Open International D'échecs de Metz in France.
In addition to chess and his studies, he enjoys playing soccer and running. Before he came to Lubbock for graduate school, he was a teacher, instructing children between the ages of four and seven in reading, writing, math and chess. When he finishes school, Shoker would like to return to teaching, this time in the field of French literature.
Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Grandmaster Denes Boros currently attends a master’s degree program in psychology at Webster University in St. Louis, and may continue for his PhD. He began his collegiate studies in Hungary, but transferred to Webster University in St. Louis for the opportunity to study under Susan Polgar and her SPICE program.
Boros was six years old when his brother taught him how to play chess, and he has since played for 20 years.
“I was very interested in chess because the board seemed huge,” he says. “It felt like a magical game. I was fascinated to see how everything unfolded. When you see the symmetrical board, it looks so serene, but after fifteen or twenty moves it can get very chaotic.”
Boros earned his GM title in 2009, and now plays in tournaments to allow other players to earn their own titles -- and because the game stays challenging for him, too. His study of psychology has come in handy during matches, and Boros believes every chess player has the potential to become a good psychologist: The discipline made him more aware of his emotions, which helped him improve. He also considers chess a form of communication, and part of communication involves persuasion.
When he finishes school, he hopes to stay in the U.S. not only to continue playing chess, but also to teach players how to use psychology to better their game. Ultimately, he would like to become a psychologist or sports psychologist.
International Master Priyadharshan Kannappan has moved from one international chess hub to another. He is from Madurai in South India, where chess is popular, and now attends Lindenwood University in the suburbs of St. Louis.
Kannappan started playing the game at the age of seven and has now played for thirteen years. “My brother learned chess before I did, and I found the game interesting and started to play,” he says. Kannappan’s parents took him to the same coach who was working with his brother. When Kannappan began to win tournaments, he was even more motivated to continue playing. Now he holds two Grandmaster norms and is very close to achieving the necessary rating of 2500. He would like to become a professional chess player.
In high school, Kannappan first considered coming to the United States to further his chess goals. He chose St. Louis because of its reputation as a chess center in this country. Upon arriving here, he joined the Saint Louis Chess Club and enrolled in marketing at Lindenwood. He made an immediate impact to the city, becoming a member of the Saint Louis Arch Bishops (part of the United States Chess League) and a scholarshipped rating-leader of the Lindenwood’s chess team.
International Master Levan Bregadze learned the game at the age of five, and when his father noticed his son’s talent early, he began bringing him to chess clubs.
“As a child in Tbilisi in the country of Georgia, I watched my father play chess with friends and I taught myself to play,” says Levan Bregadze.
Bregadze came to the U.S. to attend college and is now a Fulbright scholar at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) where he studies financial economics with a focus on accounting. He would like to become a CPA and will enroll in graduate school in order to accumulate the 150 credit hours he needs as part of the CPA requirements.
A member of the UMBC Chess Team, he participates in its Lecture Series which began in November. This series provides lectures about game theories and analyzes top-level games, as well as offers lessons to players with a USCF rating under 2300. Bregadze has taught chess since 2009 when he earned his current title of International Master, and he also coaches at CheckMates USA Chess Academy. In St. Louis, he seeks his first Grandmaster norm.
A native of Armenia, International Master Andranik Matikozyan now lives in Los Angeles and has lived in the U.S. for nearly 15 years. His first visit was to play in the New York Open in 1998, and he soon after moved to L.A. The city has a large Armenian community, important to Matikozyan because he enjoys spending time with his many family and friends.
Two of his favorite tournaments include the 2004 U.S. Open in Fort Lauderdale in which he won first place, and an Armenian championship in 1999 in which Matikozyan didn’t play well -- but considered it a great experience because he got to compete against several Armenian Grandmasters. Though he is here to participate in the 2014 Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis Invitational event, Matikozyan only occasionally participates in tournaments and hasn’t played much in the last two years because of time constraints. He coaches chess, however, teaching in a club and giving private lessons, as well.
“[The CCSCSL Invitational] has good competition, so I decided to come to St. Louis and play,” he says. “I really like the Club.”
Matikozyan started playing chess when he was seven years old, in Armenia, and has played for 28 years. His father taught him the basic chess moves, and when he saw his son’s talent and interest in the game, he began taking Andranik to chess clubs. Matikozyan has two Grandmaster norms and needs one more to earn the elite title.
Now 24 years old, Ashwin Jayaram has played chess since the age of eight. He is from Bangalor, India, and came to St. Louis in August 2014 to attend Webster University where he is now earning a master’s degree in finance.
“For a career, I’m thinking about financial analysis, so that I can take advantage of my analytical skills in chess and apply them in the corporate world,” he said.
Jayaram played chess with kids his age in India, and his parents regularly took him to lessons and tournaments. Now an International Master, he has actually earned four Grandmaster norms and needs only the rating of 2500 to earn the elite title. In June 2013, though he tied for 13th place in the Grand Europe Albena Chess Tournament in Bulgaria, finishing as the best Indian player in the field. Later, he tied for first place in the 51st National Challengers Chess Championship in India.
Jayaram would like to work for a financial company like Edward Jones. In the fall semester he joined the Webster University chess team, which is the No. 1-ranked Division I Collegiate Chess Team in the United States.
A modern-day Renaissance man from Kitchener, Canada, Raja Panjwani holds the title of International Master and attends a master’s program in International and Development Economics at Yale University. He previously earned an MSt in Philosophy of Physics from Oxford, and an undergraduate degree in physics and philosophy from Western University in Canada.
“At Yale, I’m also part of the chess club, and we’ve got some strong members: GM Robert Hess, WIM Yuanling Yuan and WGM Anya Corke,” he says.
Panjwani’s family is from India and was living in Kuwait in 1990 when the first Gulf War began. They moved to Canada to join Panjwani’s uncle, and Panjwani was born there.
At the age of five he learned chess from his parents, who both enjoy the game. He recently earned his first Grandmaster norm at the SPICE Cup this past October 2014, and needs two more to earn the title, as well as push his rating past FIDE 2500.
In his sporadic free time, Panjwani enjoys playing basketball and following the professional sport. In addition to chess and graduate school, Panjwani started an organization called Sage: School for Young Writers. This program connects budding writers with established authors in genres such as poetry and fiction. The authors teach writing courses and mentor individual writers as well. Sage also provides academic writing coaches, such as history PhD students who critique papers of undergraduate students.