Awonder was born in Madison, Wisconsin on April 9, 2003, and has lived there his whole life. He is currently the number one rated chess player in the world for his age. Awonder is also a two-time World Youth chess champion, as well as creator and keeper of many youth chess records. Liang was the youngest U.S. player ever to achieve the International Master title, and the second youngest to achieve the GM title (after Sam Sevian). Liang is the two-time defending champion at this event, and will hope to make it a three-peat this year.
John Burke earned his Grandmaster title in April 2018. John is a resident of Brick, NJ, and has earned multiple New Jersey State championships, as well as multiple U.S. Chess All-American team designations. In 2015, he became the youngest junior to surpass a rating of 2600 FIDE. John has played at the Saint Louis Chess Club many times before and finished in first place in the 2017 Saint Louis Invitational. He is the reigning U.S. Masters Champion.
Nicolas Checa is a junior at Dobbs Ferry High School in New York. He completed the Grandmaster requirements in November of 2018 and the title was approved by FIDE in March of 2019. Nicolas is the 2019 National High School Champion and the 2017 National High School Blitz Champion. In 2017 he was part of the American U-17 team in the “Match of the Millennials” played in Saint Louis. Also in 2017, he won the Marshall Chess Club Championship. In 2013, Nicolas won the New York State Championship as an 11-year old becoming the youngest New York State Champion in history. Since then, he has won several scholastic titles at the state level. In the summer of 2018, he served as a Senate Page representing New York in the United States Senate in Washington, DC.
Andrew Tang became the first Minnesota homegrown Grandmaster (GM) in November 2017 after tying for first at the Fall Charlotte GM Norm Invitational. He started playing chess in preschool, and earned the National Master title in sixth grade. He earned his International Master (IM) title in August 2014 when he won the North American Junior Chess Championship in Canada as the eighth seed with a dominating score of 7.5/9. Other achievements include tying for first at the 2015 Pan American Junior Championship in El Salvador, becoming a 2016 National High School and 2018 SuperNationals VI K-12 co-champion, and winning the Minnesota State Championship in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In addition to his classical chess skills, Andrew is extremely well known online and is one of the best blitz and bullet players out there. This is his third time playing in the U.S. Junior Championship in Saint Louis. He resides in Plymouth, MN.
The International Master title is an achievement in chess that can elude serious potential chess professionals for years. Some never achieve the title, but Brandon only needed the month of June to score all three of the required norms. To achieve this, he traveled from Charlotte to New York and finally to Philadelphia with only a few days of rest in between each event. Brandon then set his sights on the GM title, scoring his first norm in February. Jacobson won the 2016 Barber tournament of K-8 Champions. Brandon lives in Westfield, New Jersey.
Joshua lives in Santa Monica, and is currently the #1 ranked junior in all of Southern California. He tied for first in the North American under-20 Championship in 2016, defeating (now GMs) Ruifeng Li and Akshat Chandra in the process. His best result to date was winning a GM norm round robin in Berkeley with a score of 7/9. He also tied for first at the 2017 LA Open. Outside of chess, Joshua likes academic competitions and enjoys good food with his friends.
Hans started playing chess when he was 8 years old and living in the Netherlands. He moved back to California at the end of 2012 and his rating quickly jumped from 1000 to 2200 in two years, earning the national master title at 11 years old. Hans moved to Connecticut in 2015. He achieved the FM title in early 2016 and tied for first in the under-18 category of the 2016 North American Youth Championship at 12 years old. He finished clear 1st at SuperNationals 2017 in the K-8 category. He earned the IM title and his first GM norm in the summer of 2018. Hans won the bronze medal for board 2 at the 2018 U16 Olympiad in Turkey. In 2019, Hans has been actively streaming on Twitch.tv and chess.com and is an elite “Puzzle Rusher” with a high score of 86. Hans is moving to New York City in the fall to finish his last two years of high school at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, where he will be on the chess team and the debate team. Hans also enjoys swimming, playing basketball, soccer, and tennis.
Craig, a 19-year old native to the Southern California area, is an experienced International Master with one Grandmaster norm. He has beaten several GMs and is known for his sharp intuition and quick calculation. Craig is currently on a full ride scholarship at the University of Texas at Dallas from chess and national merit scholarships. He loves ultimate frisbee, running, reading, meditating, and any activities involving a large adrenaline rush (such as skydiving!)
The current U.S. Women’s Champion was born in Ithaca, New York and started playing chess in first grade, attending an after-school chess class. After the school finished its chess sessions, Yu wanted to continue her interest and asked her parents to find a coach. This simple request launched Yu’s chess career. They took her to group chess lessons and tournaments for kids, but didn’t realize how talented she was until that coach informed them. Today, the 17-year-old lives in Ashburn, Virginia and is a pretty typical tenth-grader, aside from her immense chess talent. Her well-rounded interests include playing the flute and piano, listening to music, drawing, and playing sports. She becomes a better player through competition in tournaments where she can think through difficult challenges as she encounters them. Yu holds a FIDE rating of 2273 and has participated in three World Youth Chess Championships. In 2014, Yu took home a gold medal at the World Youth Championship in the Girls under-12 section. She was the first American to do so in 27 years. She has also won the National Girls Tournament of Champions three times and competed on the U.S. Women’s Olympiad team for the first time in 2018. Jennifer has participated in several U.S. Women’s Championships, and this spring shocked the world when she demolished the field with a monstrous score of 10/11, becoming the youngest U.S. Women’s Champion since GM Irina Krush.
Atulya Vaidya is a 20-year-old National Master from Plano, Texas. Atulya is currently a Junior at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is in the Business Honors Program and double majors in Finance. He managed to secure his spot in the U.S. Junior Championship by winning the U.S. Junior Open with a score of 5.5 out of 6.