The Field

Vassily Ivanchuk

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2717
Federation: 
Ukraine
Age: 
49
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Vassily Ivanchuk is a Ukrainian Grandmaster and the 2016 World Rapid Chess Champion. He won the 1987 European Junior Chess Championship in Groningen. He was awarded Grandmaster in 1988 and was listed among the top 10 players in the world that same year. He has been ranked No. 2 three times (July 1991, July 1992, October 2007). At the age of 21, he won the Linares tournament where he played against 8 of the top 10 players in the world.  In this competition, he defeated World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in their head-to-head game.

He was awarded the Order of the Prince Yaroslav the Wise IV degree by the President of Ukraine in  2011. In recent years, Ivanchuk has started playing checkers and has achieved a certain level of success. In the World Draughts Federation's January 2019 ranking list, he was ranked as number 1233 in the world.

Liem Le Quang

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2714
Federation: 
Vietnam
Age: 
27
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Liem Quang Le is a Vietnamese Grandmaster, and a former World Blitz Champion. Learning to play chess at age 6, he won one gold medal and two silver medals at World Youth Chess Championships from 2001 to 2005. In 2006, he earned the Grandmaster title after an exceptional performance at the 37th Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy. Le has won many prestigious tournaments over the years: two-time winner of Aeroflot Open in 2010 and 2011, three-time winner of HD Bank Open in 2013, 2015, and 2017, and especially the winner of World Blitz Championship in 2013. He got 2nd place at Dortmund Sparkassen Invitational tournaments in 2010 and 2011, runner-up at Capablanca Memorial Invitational in 2011, and at the 2nd Millionaire Open in 2015. He also won four consecutive U.S. national collegiate championships with his university chess team from 2013 to 2017.

Le has been ranked No.1 in Vietnam since 2008. He has represented his country in every Olympiad and World Cup for more than 10 years. In 2018, he led the Vietnam team to a record achievement of 7th place at the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. He also won a bronze medal at the Asian Continental Championship, and thus qualifying for World Cup 2019. During his career, he was awarded Labor Order three times by the President of Vietnam, “Blitz Player of the Year” by Asian Chess Federation, and “30 Under 30” by Forbes Vietnam. He currently lives in Saint Louis.

Jeffery Xiong

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2672
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
18
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Xiong is the third-youngest grandmaster in the US (after Awonder Liang and Samuel Sevian), having been awarded the GM title in September 2015 at age fourteen. Grandmaster Xiong won the 2016 U.S. Closed Junior Championship, and is currently the highest rated player in the U.S. under the age of eighteen. He is rated 2640 FIDE (URS 2622) making him the ninth highest rated player in the country.

This eighteen-year old from Coppell, Texas has a quite an impressive list of results.  Showing a tenacity beyond his years he has won the 2015 Chicago Open, finished sixth in the 2016 U.S.Championship (the strongest in history), and was awarded the 2016 U.S. Outstanding Player Achievement Award by USCF.  

Ray Robson

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2667
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
24
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Robson won the 2012 Webster university SPICE cup open, placed second at the 2015 U.S. Championships, and is currently the sixth highest rated player in the U.S. with a FIDE rating of 2649 (URS 2620). Born in Guam, Robson and his family moved to Florida when he was still a toddler.  It was in Florida where he learned to play chess when he was just three years old. From 2004 to 2007, Robson finished in the top 10 at the World Youth Championships. He won the Super- Nationals in 2005, first place in the 2005 and 2006 Pan-american Youth Championships, the 2009 U.S. Junior Championship, and the 2009 world Team Championship.  In 2008, Ray won his first major tournament at the Miami open, and later that year broke Hikaru Nakamura’s record by becoming the youngest American GM (14 years, 11 months and 16 days). Robson graduated from Webster University, where he won the 2012 SPICE Cup Open, and helped the Webster team win three consecutive National titles.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov

Title: 
International Master
Rating: 
2659
Federation: 
Uzbekistan
Age: 
39
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Rustam Kasimdzhanov was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (In 1979  it was still a part of the Soviet Union). He began to play chess very early, earning his Grandmaster at 18, and soon after won the Asian Continental Championship. In 2002, he reached the final of the World Cup (held in Hyderabad, India), losing to Vishy Anand. In 2004, somewhat sensationally, he won the World Championship in Tripoli.  Kasimdzhanov unexpectedly made his way through to the final, winning mini-matches against Alejandro Ramírez, Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, Vassily Ivanchuk, Zoltán Almási, Alexander Grischuk and Veselin Topalov to meet Michael Adams to play for the title and the right to face world number one Garry Kasparov in a match. In the final six-game match of the Championship, both players won two games, making a tie-break of rapid games necessary. Kasimdzhanov won the first game with black, after having been in a difficult position. By drawing the second game he became the new FIDE champion.


Kasimdzhanov has played in 12 Olympiads for Uzbekistan, the first one in 1996. In 2010 Kasimdzhanov won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Kasimdzhanov started coaching in 2008, helping Anand in his match against Kramnik. In 2011, he was a coach of the German national team, which won the European team Championship. He worked with Karjakin at the Candidates 2014, and started coaching Fabiano Caruana in 2015.  Coaching Caruana is now Kasimdzhanov’s main occupation. Kasimdzhanov is married with 2 children; they live in Germany, in a small rural area not far from Bonn, the former capital of Germany.

Benjamin Bok

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2643
Federation: 
Netherlands
Age: 
24
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Benjamin Bok has been among Netherlands’ top players for a couple of years already. His first major success came in December 2015 by winning the London Chess Classic FIDE Open with 8/9. He debuted for the Dutch national team at the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku and also represented his country at the 2017 European Team Championship on Crete.

At the European Championship 2017 he earned himself a spot in the FIDE World Cup 2017 by finishing 15th. A year later, at the European Championship 2018, he repeated this success by finishing 18th and thus already secured his spot for the FIDE World Cup 2019.

Besides being a professional chess player, Benjamin is studying Business at Saint Louis University as of August 2018 and is on their intercollegiate chess team.

Var Akobian

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2643
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
35
Status: 
Invited
Bio: 

Armenian born American Grandmaster Akobian earned his Grandmaster status at the age of 20.  He was the US Junior Champion in 2003, the winner of World Open in 2002, 2004, and 2007, and helped the US win the Silver Medal at the 2009 World Team Championship.G

Var’s childhood in Mongolia had such harsh winters that his father forbade him and his sister Armine from playing outside.  He taught them chess, which fascinated the young Akobian. “From the very beginning,” Var says, “I was different from the 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,  Akobian spent his days on chess and soccer. His teachers encouraged him to focus on chess, so much that Var says: “If I went to high school in here [in the U.S], I never could have spent so much energy on chess.”

In 2002, a year after immigrating to the U.S., he earned the Samford Chess Fellowship.  The Fellowship grant, which allowed the young Var to study and improve his chess, yielded quick results with a tie for first at the 2002 World Open and First Place at the Irme Koenig GM invitational.  The following year, he won the 2003 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, earned his GM Norms in June 2004, and then won the World Open for a second time.

An excellent positional player, GM Akobian admires the games and style of Armenian Hero, former World Champion Tigran Petrosian.  He admires him so much so that he became an expert in the French Defense, one of Petrosian’s most played openings with the black pieces. Var offers this advice for aspiring club players: “Don’t expect to see constant improvement. You build knowledge and work hard, and after a while you’ll see a big breakthrough.”

In 2007, Akobian was featured on MTV's True Life documentary series, in an episode titled "I'm a Genius".

Illya Nyzknyk

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2624
Federation: 
Ukraine
Age: 
22
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Ilya Nyzhnyk started playing chess at the age of 5. He progressed very fast, and found early success by tying for 2nd at the World Under 12 Chess Championship in 2006. A year later in 2007, he earned his FIDE Master title. He cemented his success with a dominating victory at the Moscow Open Group B tournament by winning it with the score of 8.5 out of 9, and a performance of 2633. Since then, Nyzhnyk has won various international events such as European Youth Championship under 12 in 2007, and under 16 in 2008.  In the beginning of 2011, Nyzhnyk was officially awarded a title of Grandmaster, and continued improving by scoring top 3 in events such as Tata Steel Chess Tournament – GMC, Reykjavik Open 2011, and the Independence Cup-2011. In August 2014, Nyzhnyk began his study at Webster University. Since then, he has been a valuable member of the SPICE program and was on the team which won 5 consecutive PanAm InterCollegiate Chess Championships and 3 straight Final Four Championships. In addition to being a dynamic team player, Nyzhnyk also added to the success of Webster’s Chess Program by winning the U.S. Open, National Open, and 4 World Open titles, etc. He completed his undergraduate degree at Webster University in Computer Science in 2018, and is now working on his graduate degree in Cyber Security.

Aryan Tari

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2620
Federation: 
Norway
Age: 
19
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Aryan Tari is a 19 year old from Norway who started playing chess at the age of 5. He won the Junior section of the Norwegian Chess Championship in 2012 qualifying him for the championship section.  He placed 8th in 2013, 2nd in 2014, and Grandmaster Tari won the 2015 Norwegian Chess Championship. He became GM at 16. In 2017, he became World Champion U20 and has represented Norway in Olympiads in Baku and Batumi. At the

European Individual Chess Championship, May 12–23, 2016, Grandmaster Tari qualified to participate in the Chess World Cup 2017 in Tibilis.

Eric Hansen

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2615
Federation: 
Canada
Age: 
26
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

This charismatic and sporty Canadian became a Grandmaster in 2012 and has been a rising star in the chess community since. His internet presence on YouTube and Twitch, chessbrahs, involves himself and other titled players playing chess online for fun. Hansen’s online chess fame has given him many devoted fans and followers. In 2007, Hansen became a National Master, and placed second in the 2008 World U-16 Championships. Later that year he became a FIDE Master, and by 2010 he earned the International Master title. He tied for first in the 2011 Canadian Championship and won the 2012 Canadian Open. Other accomplishments in Hansen’s career include him qualifying for two World Cups and becoming a member of the Canadian National Team, representing Canada in the 2012 Olympiad and putting up another spectacular performance at the 2016 Olympiad. Hansen is also a member of the PRO Chess League, the Montreal Chess Brahs, who reached the final four in the first season.

Alex Mista

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2592
Federation: 
Poland
Age: 
36
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Mista started playing chess at the age of 4 and earned Grandmaster status at the age of 20.  Mista has taken 3rd place in Polish Championship (2009), won the Hastings Chess Congress (2015/16) and Najdorf Memorial (2018, Warsaw). In years 2011-12, Mista was the Coach of Women National Team during Chess Olympiad (2012 Istanbul) and Team European Chess Championship (2011, Greece) where the team won silver.  Mista is a member of Polish National Team since 2011, in chess problem solving, and has won 8 gold medals in a row in Team World Chess Problem Championships. Mista is currently the manager of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Chess Program.

Sergey Erenburg

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2589
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
36
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Sergey Erenburg began playing chess when he was six years old and has ranked one of the top 20 players in the USA for the past decade. Sergey grew up in Russia, where he consistently placed as one of the top youth players before immigrating to Israel at the age of 15.

While living in Israel, Erenburg won the under 16, 18, and 20 Israeli championship titles, and proceeded with earning his GM title as a 20-year old in 2003. By the end of his 3-year military service, Erenburg won the Israeli Championship in 2004, followed by helping the Israeli National team to win the silver medal at the European Team Championship and making it to the 1/32 final at the World Cup in 2005. In 2006, Sergey decided to pursue an academic degree in the USA, not before taking 9th place at the Blitz World Championship in August 2006.

Erenburg earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Math and Finance from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) from 2007 through 2011, and during that time led the chess program to multiple national titles. Sergey went on to earn an additional master’s degree in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. While working in the financial industry since 2013, Erenburg continued to play competitively and won countless major events, including National Chess Congress (2012 shared, 2014, 2016 (shared), 2018 shared), World Open (2013; shared), North American Open (2014 shared), Continental Class Championship (2012, 2016, both shared), and more.

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