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 spent much of the past year at his all-time rating’s high, and enters the 2016 U.S. Championship with very good recent results. 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. Shankland will face the toughest U.S. Championship field in 2016. As his past performances have shown, he is up for the challenge.