The Field

Vladimir Akopian

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2622
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
50
Bio: 

Vladimir Hakobyan was born December 7, 1971 in Baku USSR (Azerbaijan). At 6, in 1977 he went to his first chess school. In 1985 he was invited to the recently opened Botvinnik-Kasparov school. In 1986 he moved from Azerbaijan to Armenia, due to the invitation of the Ministry of Sports of Armenia. He has been a GM since 1991 and a member of the Armenian national team since 1992. Akopian’s top achievements include World Champion under 16 (1986), World Champion under 18 (1989), World Champion under 20 (1991), Winner of US Open Championship (1991), Winner of the European Club Cup as a member of "Yerevan" Club (1995), World Vice-Champion Las Vegas (1999), Winner of Russian Team Championship (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008), Winner of the 37th Chess Olympiad (Turin, 2006), Winner of the 38th Chess Olympiad (Dresden, 2008), Winner of the 40th Chess Olympiad (Istanbul, 2012), Winner of the 8th World Team Chess Championship (Ningbo, 2011). Champion of Armenia (1996,1997), Winner of more than 50 international tournaments. Coach of Qatar National Team (2004-2007), Coach of Armenian Chess Federation (2008-2015, 2017-2019), Coach of Sharjah Chess Club (2015-2017), and a FIDE Senior Trainer since 2015.


Alex Shabalov

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2582
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
54
Bio: 

“Shabba” originally hailed from Riga, and quite fittingly, has the same explosive style as Latvian World Champion Mikhail Tal.  Alex even had the privilege of studying with the wizard of Riga before moving to the United States in the early 1990s.  He took the US chess scene by storm ever since, and has won nearly every major tournament we have.  A four-time US Champion, Alex took home the title in 1993, 1997, 2003, and 2007.  He’s also won the US Open Championship a whopping seven times, and in 2002 tied for first in the prestigious Aeroflot Open in Moscow.  Shabba was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 2015.  He currently resides in PIttsburgh, and despite doing a fair share of teaching these days, he still travels to tournaments around the world on a regular basis.  If you like games with wild complications, Alex is definitely the one to follow.  As he himself has said, “If the position after my move becomes more complicated, then the game is going in the right direction!”


Larry Christiansen

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2577
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
65
Bio: 

Despite not being introduced to chess until his teens, Larry learned the game at a blistering pace, being one of the few players to skip the International Master title completely on his way to Grandmaster.  Christiansen is a three-time US Champion, winning the event in 1980, 1983, and most recently in 2002.  Larry has also had much success on the international chess scene, most notably winning the Linares super-tournament twice.  Famous for his attacking style, Christiansen has written two books on the subject:  “Storming the Barricades” in 2000 and its sequel, “Rocking the Ramparts,” in 2004.  He was inducted in the US Chess Hall of Fame in 2008.  Larry currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and when he’s not teaching you’ll frequently find him binging one-minute games on the internet.  You can be sure he’ll bring his renowned tactical skills to the event.

Gregory Kaidanov

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2557
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
62
Bio: 

Born in Berdychiv, Ukraine, USSR, Gregory Kaidanov learned chess from his father at the age of six. In the 1980s, he won many international tournaments while playing for the Soviet Union, and he earned the title of Grandmaster in 1988. Three years later, he and his family immigrated to the United States, settling in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1992, he had an impressive string of victories, tying for first in the Chicago Open and National Open before winning the top prizes in the World Open and the United States Open Championship.

Kaidanov also scored many great successes while playing for American teams. He played in the Olympiad six times between 1996 and 2006, winning a team bronze in 1996, a team silver in 1998, an individual silver in 2004, and a team bronze in 2006. Kaidanov also competed in the World Team Championships three times between 1993 and 2005, winning a team gold and an individual silver in 1993, and a team silver and individual gold in 1997. His major tournament victories include the 1992 World Open, 1992 U.S. Open, 2002 Aeroflot Open, and 2008 Gausdal Classic. He was the highest rated US player on several rating lists between 2002 and 2005. Kaidanov, who is one of the most active Grandmaster teachers in the U.S., also coached the 2008 U.S. Women’s Olympiad Team to third place, one of their best accomplishments.


Igor Novikov

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2551
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
60
Bio: 

While he has been inactive in recent years, the Ukrainian-born Grandmaster terrorized the open tournament circuit when he lived in Brooklyn in the late 90s and early 2000s.  He’s won the World Open, Chicago Open, Foxwoods Open, and countless others.  Igor has an excellent knowledge of chess theory, and has trained numerous students both here and in the Ukraine, notably GMs Irina Krush and Alex Lenderman.  Novikov uses this knowledge to great effect in his games, and is capable of navigating sharp Najdorf battles as well as positional d4 games, and is extremely good at grinding out endgames.  In his spare time, he is a part-time travel agent, and is known for finding his chess playing friends the best deals on flights and hotels.  After not playing tournament chess for eight years, Igor joined the US Team at the World Senior Team Championship in April of 2019, and helped them take home the gold.

Maxim Dlugy

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2513
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
56
Bio: 

GM Maxim Dlugy was born in Moscow and learned chess from his grandfathers and dad by the age of 7. He loved chess immediately. When his family immigrated to the U.S. in 1976, Dlugy was a "club player" with a rating around 1400. Maxim studied chess with Jack Collins and Vitaly Zaltman, becoming master at 14, IM at 16 and GM and World Junior Champion at 19. Dlugy is known for his skills at faster time controls and tied for first in the Mazatlan World Rapid Championship, while being the top rated blitz player in the world numerous times from 1988-1992. He retired from professional chess in 1991 and focused on the world of finance, but 5 years ago decided to come back to teaching chess. In 2017 Dlugy started Chess Max Academy in NY which now teaches over 100 students of all levels. His students have won more than 12 National Championships, a number of World and Continental Championships and are some of the best players in their age groups in different countries.

Joel Benjamin

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2496
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
58
Bio: 

The Brooklyn native beat Bobby Fischer’s record for youngest chess master at age 13, and while this record is long gone, Joel has been a constant presence on the US Chess scene ever since.  He won the US Open Championship in 1985, secured his GM title in 1986, then won his first US Championship in 1987.  He’d win two more, in 1997 and 2000.  Apart from his other numerous tournament successes, Joel is known for being the GM consultant for IBM’s Deep Blue, the computer that defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997.  Benjamin documents that experience as well as many others in his 2008 book “American Grandmaster:  Four Decades of Chess Adventures.” Additionally he recently authored “World Champion Chess for Juniors” and “Winning the World Open,” written with Harold Scott.  Befitting his precocious nature, Joel was the youngest inductee into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 2008.  He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and two children.  Joel is known for his offbeat openings and positional style, and he’ll no doubt be found nursing some small edges into full points. 

Nick Di Firmian

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2496
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
64
Bio: 

Nick Di Firmian was born in California in 1957 and graduated from UC Berkeley in Physics. GM Di Firmian is a 3-time US chess champion, 8-time member of the US Olympic chess team and author of Modern Chess Openings, editions 13, 14, 15. He was a Grandmaster in Residence at The Mechanic's Institute from 2012-2022. Additionally he founded scholastic chess program for San Francisco school district 2013 and he was a member of Deep Blue team for the final match vs Kasparov in 1997.


Igor Khmelnitsky

Title: 
International Master
Rating: 
2472
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
54
Bio: 

Igor Khmelnitsky born in Kiev, Ukraine. His father Naum taught Igor chess at 6. At 9, his mother Polina took him to “Avangard '' chess club. In 1990 Igor became International Master after winning Leonid Stein Memorial in L’viv, Ukraine. In 1991, Igor emigrated to the US, settling in the Philadelphia area. In 1996, he retired from active play to focus on his family and career. Since then, Igor only played occasionally.

Igor is an experienced coach and has been working with students of all levels in Philadelphia. Igor wrote and published three highly popular books – Chess Exam and Training Guide series. He won the prestigious Cramer award for Best Book from CJA. Igor is a contributing author to Masters of Success by Ivan Mizner, Ph.D. (© 2004, EP). He is one of the three coauthors of Teaching Chess Step by Step (© 2006 Kasparov Chess Foundation). Igor Khmelnitsky shares his success with wife Svetlana, son Alec and daughter Nikki. He currently works as an actuary at Aetna, a CVS Health Company since 1999. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from Temple University.

Dmitry Gurevich

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2363
Federation: 
USA
Age: 
65
Bio: 

Dmitry Gurevich is a Russian-American chess grandmaster. Gurevich emigrated to New York in 1980 and earned the grandmaster title three years later. Dmitry has tied or won the U.S. Open four times (in 1988, 1994, 2009, and 2012). Also, Gurevich has had especially good results at the National Open in Las Vegas, sharing first place on numerous occasions, e.g. 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1996, 1997, and 2005. He has been a regular finisher at the top of North American events, as well as a regular participant in the U.S. Invitational Championships.

One of his students, Alex Fishbein, became a grandmaster. Other notable students include International Masters Eric Rosen, Sam Schmakel, Zhaozhi Li, National High School Champion David Peng, and 9 year old Expert Alice Lee.