GM Hikaru Nakamura

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Saint Louis, Missouri
  • Rating:
    2817
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 World Team Championship: Silver (Individual Gold), 2009 U.S. Champion, 2005 U.S. Champion, 2007 North American Open Champion, 2007 National Open Champion

Synopsis: Hikaru Nakamura is a record-breaking, medal-earning phenomenon. Since winning the U.S Championship in May 2009, Nakamura has soared, climbing well past 2700 to the #1 spot in the U.S. rankings and #17 in the world rankings. He became the youngest master in American history at the age of 10, then broke Bobby Fischer’s record by becoming the youngest American Grandmaster at 15. In 2004, he advanced into the sweet 16 at the World Championship in Libya. He also won his first U.S. Championship at the age of 16.

He’s racked up numerous championships over the past decade, and despite his aggressive, individualistic style, Nakamura has proven to be a great team player: He was a two-time bronze medallist in the 2006 and 2008 Olympiad, playing for the U.S. team. His gold-medal-winning performance on board one at the 2009 World Team Championship helped the U.S. team earn silver medals. Last year, Nakamura won the 2009 U.S. Championship and is quickly becoming one of the top players in the entire world.

GM Gata Kamsky

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    New York
  • Rating:
    2771
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2007 World Cup, 1991 U.S. Champion

Synopsis: Gata Kamsky came to the U.S. in 1989 and, at 16, became a Grandmaster in 1990. He played Karpov for the World Championship in 1996. Although he lost the match, he was the first American since Bobby Fischer to go that far. After losing, he gave up chess, attended and graduated from law school. After a break of nearly a decade, Kamsky returned to chess, to win the 2007 World Chess Cup just three years after his comeback. Kamsky lost his February 2009 match against Veselin Topalov and with it, the chance to advance to the this cycle’s World Championship, but he is as determined as ever. Kamsky participates in one elite event after another in Europe, making him a top GM to watch in Saint Louis.

GM Alexander Onischuk

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Baltimore, Maryland
  • Rating:
    2765
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 World Team Championship: Silver (Individual Gold), 2006 U.S. Champion, second in the 2007 Grandmaster Tournament of International Chess Festival Biel

Synopsis: Alexander Onischuk has placed first in more than 20 tournaments, including the 2000 Ukrainian Championship. He became a Grandmaster in 1994 at the age of 19 and relocated to the U.S. in 2001. When he won the 2006 U.S. Championship, he called it the happiest moment of his career to have his name on a trophy alongside players such as Fischer and Morphy.

Onischuk was key to America’s bronze medal finishes in 2006 and 2008 Olympiads. He has an impressive international record: He placed second in the International Chess Festival in Biel and also won the super strong Moscow Open in January 2009. He delivered a gold-medal performance on board two at the World Team Championship in Bursa, Turkey. 

GM Varuzhan Akobian

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    North Hollywood, California
  • Rating:
    2671
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 World Team Championship: Silver, 2004 World Open, tied for first place in the 2002 World Open

Synopsis: Varuzhan Akobian is a strong Armenian-American player who emigrated to the U.S in 2001. In 2002, he won the Samford Chess Fellowship, which allowed him to focus on chess for two years. It paid off: Akobian reached his first long-time goal of becoming a Grandmaster in 2004. Var is known for being a great team player: He was a member of the bronze medal Olympiad teams in 2006 and 2008. He also represented the US. team in Bursa, Turkey at the 2009 World Team Championship where he helped the U.S. earn silver medals. He was featured on MTV’s “True Life” series. Akobian is the highest-ranked Californian player.

GM Jaan Ehlvest

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Baltimore, Maryland
  • Rating:
    2669
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2008 Pan American- Continental Championship, qualifying for the 2009 FIDE World Cup, tied for first in the “A2” section of the Aeroflot Open, 2003 World Open

Synopsis: Jaan Ehlvest rose to chess fame quickly in the early 1980s, placing second in the 1981 World Junior Championship and first in the 1983 European Junior Championship. He became a Grandmaster in 1987 and two years later finished clear first in the 1989 Reggio Emilia. Ehlvest won the Grand Prix title in 2006, the same year he switched federations from Estonia to America, making him eligible for the U.S. Championship for the first time.

GM Yury Shulman

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Chicago
  • Rating:
    2668
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 World Team Championship: Silver, 2008 U.S. Champion, 2006 U.S. Open Championship, tied for first in the 2001 World Open

Synopsis: Yury Shulman achieved the Grandmaster title in 1995 and moved to the U.S. four years later to become one of the top American players. Shulman also uses chess for philanthropic causes. He founded the Yury Shulman International Chess School and consistently contributes to not-for-profit entities, schools and camps. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA. 2008 proved to be a great year for Shulman: In addition to winning his first U.S. Championship title, he was also part of the bronze medal Olympiad team in Dresden, Germany. This year, Shulman represented the U.S. at the World Team Championship in Bursa, Turkey and helped the team earn silver.

GM Larry Christiansen

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Rating:
    2657
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 U.S. Senior Champion, 2002 U.S. Champion, 1983 U.S. Champion, 1980 U.S. Champion, 2001 Canadian Open Chess Championship

Bio: Larry Christiansen was the first junior high school student to win the National High School Championship, taking the title in 1971. He went on to win three invitational U.S. Junior Championships and three U.S. Championships. He became a Grandmaster in 1977 at the age of 21, skipping over the usual step of becoming an International Master. Christiansen has won the prestigious Linares tournament twice. He has a thrilling chess style that is always fun for spectators.

When playing Larry, you’re hereby advised to defend your h7 pawn at least five times.  Larry Christiansen is an American master of attack. He even published two widely praised books on the subject of attacking chess, Storming the Barricades and Rocking the Ramparts.

GM Robert Hess

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    New York
  • Rating:
    2657
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 World Team Championship: Silver, 2009 U.S. Championship: T-2nd, 2008 Foxwoods Open: T-1st, 2006 U.S. Junior Championship, 2002 Pan-American Youth Championship in Argentina, won 2009 National High School Championship with a perfect score

Bio: Grandmaster Robert Hess is one of a handful of promising young stars on the U.S. chess scene. Hess was awarded the International Master title in 2007. He achieved his first norm for the Grandmaster title in Foxwoods 2008 and earned the final two in quick succession at the SPICE Spring Invitational and Foxwoods 2009. 

Robert swept the 2009 High School Championship in Nashville, where he also led his high school, Stuyvesant, to a team victory. After being awarded a wild card berth to the 2009 U.S. Championship, Robert, originally seeded 17 out of 24 players, put on a remarkable performance to fall just short of the championship with a second-place finish. His 6.5/9 performance at last year's U.S. Championship came against opponents with an average FIDE rating of 2625.

Hess was recently awarded the Samford Chess Fellowship and just found he was accepted to Yale University.

GM Alexander Shabalov

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Rating:
    2643
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2007 U.S. Champion, 2003 U.S. Champion, 1997 U.S. Champion, 1993 US. Champion, T-1st 2003 World Open, 1st in Chicago and North American Opens

Synopsis: Alexander Shabalov realized chess would be his profession after winning the Latvian junior championship at the age of 11. He went on to win the Under-16 Championship of the Soviet Union in 1982. The four-time U.S. Champion is known for no-holds barred chess, and he thrives on wild moves.

GM Alex Lenderman

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Brooklyn, New York
  • Rating:
    2643
  • Title:
    Grandmaster-elect
Chess Highlights:
2009 USCF Grand Prix Winner, 2009 U.S. Open, 2009 Atlantic Open: First Place, 2008 USCF Grand Prix Winner, Gold Medal winner at the 2005 World Youth Chess Championship

Bio: Alex Lenderman first started playing chess with his grandfather when he was 9. From 2004-2007, he attended Edward R. Murrow high school in Brooklyn, NY, and was a member of the super-team that won four straight, national high-school titles. The journey of this high-school, chess dream team was documented in the 2007 book The Kings of New York, by Michael Weinreb.

Since that time, Alex has been a formidable force in the chess world and has solidified himself as a young rising star. In 2008, he managed to barely edge GM Sergey Kudrin to win the USCF's Grand Prix, and in 2009, he ran away with the competition. Lenderman has been playing an exciting brand of chess as of late and will be a formidable contender in this year's championship.

GM Gregory Kaidanov

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Lexington, Kentucky
  • Rating:
    2633
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2002 U.S. Masters winner, 2002 Chicago Open Winner, 1992 World Open Winner, 1992 U.S. Open Winner

Bio: Gregory Kaidanov’s first major win came in a Moscow tournament in 1987, and he was awarded the Grandmaster title a year later. Kaidanov moved to the U.S. in 1991. He’s racked up a number of tournament championships. Kaidanov was a member of the silver Olympiad team in Russia in 1998, won a silver board medal at the Calvia, Spain Olympiad in 2004 and was a member of the bronze medal Olympiad team in 2006. Kaidanov is one of America’s premiere chess coaches. In 2008, he coached the U.S. team to a bronze medal finish at the Women’s Olympiad.

GM Ben Finegold

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Saint Louis, Missouri
  • Rating:
    2621
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 SPICE Cup, 2007 U.S. Open, 2005 Chicago Spring Invitational, 2002 World Open, 1994 U.S. Open, 1989 U.S. Junior Closed Championship

Synopsis: In January, Ben Finegold took on a full-time position as the resident GM at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. He has been ranked as high as 2662, at which point he was neck and neck with GM Larry Christiansen for the distinction of being the highest rated American born chess player in the country. For many years,  Ben Finegold was missing the two most vital letters in a pro chess player’s career, “G” and “M", giving him the double-edged honor of the "strongest IM in America." That all changed in 2009. Just after his 40th birthday, Ben earned his final GM norm at the SPICE Cup in Lubbock, Texas.

Ben Finegold is also somewhat understated; in contrast to many confident grandmasters who strut around with their heads in the clouds, Ben is funny, friendly, and apt to make self-effacing jokes. His description of his style is characteristically modest: “I play simple moves and try not to blunder or get in time trouble.” He won first place at the 2006 U.S Championship blogging contest, and now he has a blog of his own (Ben's Blog: Musings of a Grandmaster) where he posts anecdotes, games and crosstables from his tournaments. 

GM Joel Benjamin

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    New Jersey
  • Rating:
    2621
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2000 U.S. Championship, 1997 U.S. Championship, 1987 U.S. Championship

Bio: Joel Benjamin became a national master at the age of 13, breaking Bobby Fischer’s record for youngest-ever master. A three-time U.S. Junior Champion, he became a Grandmaster in 1986. Benjamin also goes into the U.S. Championship histor y books for playing in a record 22 consecutive championships. His most-famous gig was helping the Deep Blue IBM Computer team defeat Garry Kasparov in 1997, a win that was later featured in the documentary “Game Over.”

GM Melikset Khachiyan

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Glendale, California
  • Rating:
    2619
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
Frank K. Berry 2007 U.S. Championship, tied for first in the 2006 American Open, 1997 World Team Championship: Bronze (Armenia)

Bio: Melikset Khachiyan began playing chess at the age of 8, won the Baku Junior Championship two years later and became a Soviet Candidate Master two years after that. He began coaching early in his career and has brought up three Junior World Champions. In 2001, he immigrated to the U.S., where he participated in the National Open in Las Vegas. He earned his Grandmaster title in 2006.

GM Vinay Bhat

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    San Francisco
  • Rating:
    2610
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 SPICE Cup equal first, 2008 Samford Fellow, 2007 U.S. Chess League MVP, 2001-2002 California High School State Champion, 1998-1999 California High School State Champion, 1992 California Primary School State Champion, Author "Whiz Kids Teach Chess"

Bio: Vinay Bhat learned chess at six and a half years old and achieved the then-current record of youngest national master at ten years, six months old. Having represented the United States nine times at different World Youth competitions, including five top-five results, Bhat brings International experience to the U.S. Championship. He blazed through the rankings and earned his International Master title in 2000. After a relatively inactive period, during which he earned a degree in Statistics and Political Economy from U.C.

GM Alexander Stripunsky

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    New York
  • Rating:
    2607
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2010 Philadelphia Open equal first, 2009 National Chess Congress equal first, 2008 Continental Open first, 2007 World Open equal first, 2004 U.S. Championship equal first, 2002 World Open 6th

Bio: Alexander Stripunsky, 39, missed out on qualifying by rating for the 2010 U.S. Championship by a single rating point. In a similar fashion, his hopes were dashed in 2009, missing out by just one spot. It seemed his fate was cursed until receiving, and accepting, a wildcard invitation to play this year.

GM Ray Robson

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Largo, Florida
  • Rating:
    2607
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 World Team Championship: Silver, 2009 U.S. Junior Champion, 2008 Miami Open, National Champion, elementary division, 2005 Super Nationals, tied for first in 2005 and 2006 Pan American Youth Championships

Bio: Ray Robson learned chess at age 3 and has earned seven national scholastic titles since. For winning the Super Nationals in 2005, he will receive a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas. Robson finished in the top 10 at the World Youth Championship from 2004 to 2007. He defeated his first Grandmaster in 2006, the same year he earned the USCF National Master title.

GM Sergey Kudrin

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Stamford, Connecticut
  • Rating:
    2579
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 U.S. Open T-1st, U.S. Open Champion 2007,

Bio: Sergey Kudrin has been a dominant force on the U.S. Chess scene for decades. His tie for first place at this year's U.S. Open earned him a bid to play in the U.S. Championship, and Kudrin plans to make the most of the opportunity. 

Sergey became a Grandmaster in 1984. He has participated in the 2005 Chess World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, the 1999 Las Vegas FIDE World Champonship and the 2004 FIDE World Championship in Tripoli, Libya.

GM Alex Yermolinsky

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Rating:
    2572
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 U.S. Open: T-1st, 1999 U.S. Open Champion, 1996 U.S. Champion, 1993 U.S. Champion

Bio: Born in the Soviet Union, Alex Yermolinsky, also known as "Yermo" immigrated to the United States in 1990 after a brief stint in Italy. He earned his Grandmaster stripes playing second board for the American team in 1992. For a while, his main US gig was as as a chemist, a job he was trained for in the Soviet Union.

GM Jesse Kraai

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    GM House, Bay Area, California
  • Rating:
    2550
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 U.S. Open T-1st, Winner Denker High School Tournament of Champions 1998 and 1999

Bio: Jesse Kraai won the New Mexico State title in 1999, and then went on a run winning the state title five years in a row from 2003-2007. He earned his Grandmaster title in 2007. 

Jesse won the Denker High School Tournament of Champions in 1998 and 1999. He currently lives in the GM House in East Bay located near San Francisco, Calif. Read Jesse's depiction of the GM House at Chess Life Online by clicking the link here. The GM House initially consisted of Kraai, GM Josh Friedel, GM Vinay Bhat and IM David Pruess, but in a recent article posted to Chess Life Online, Jesse said he and Friedel were looking for a few vacancies to fill.

IM Sam Shankland

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Berkeley, California
  • Rating:
    2541
  • Title:
    International Master
Chess Highlights:
2009 Champion of State Champions, 2009 Philadelphia International third, 2008 World Under 18 co-champion, 2008 Calchess State Champion

Bio: Sam Shankland, 18, is the top rated player Under age 21 who was not already invited to play in the U.S. Championship. He won a gold medal for the USA at the 2008 World Youth Championship in Vietnam and is just one performance norm away from his Grandmaster title. The incoming Brandeis University freshman called the U.S. Championship "his dream tournament for the year" and his wildcard invitation spotlights yet another promising young player.

IM Levon Altounian

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Tucson, Arizona
  • Rating:
    2534
  • Title:
    International Master
Chess Highlights:
2001 North American Open, 1993 Armenian Junior Championship

Bio: Levon was introduced to chess by his grandfather, who was a good chess player himself, at age of 10. Chess very quickly turned from a recreational interest into a passion for Levon and he joined the Tigran Petrosian Chess School. After performing well in numerous chess competitions and showing good chess ability, he was accepted by a coach who himself grew up with chess legend and World Champion Garry Kasparov.

GM Dmitry Gurevich

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    Chicago
  • Rating:
    2514
  • Title:
    Grandmaster
Chess Highlights:
2009 U.S. Open: T-1st, 1996 U.S. Masters Chicago, 1981 World Open, New Paltz, NY: T-1st,

Bio: Dmitry Gurevich was born in Moscow, USSR, in 1956. He first learned to play chess when he was just 6. In 1980, he emigrated to the U.S. and began playing chess in New York. While there, he earned all three GM norms from '82-'83.

Dmitry earned a bid to the 2010 U.S. Championship because of his first-place finish at the 2009 U.S. Open in Indianapolis where he tied with five other players. He also took first place at the U.S. Open in 1988 and 1994.

Irina Krush

  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Residence:
    New York
  • Rating:
    2500
  • Title:
    International Master
Chess Highlights:
2009 National Chess Congress equal second through fourth, 2009 Canadian Open second, 2007 U.S. Women’s Champion, 1998 U.S. Women’s Champion, 1998 Pan-American Youth Champion

Bio: Samford Fellow, International Master and Woman Grandmaster Irina Krush is a renowned team player and frequent face at top-level American events. She led the 2008 bronze medal Olympic team in Dresden and was part of the 2004 silver medal Olympic team in Mallorca. Irina, 26, hails from Brooklyn, NY, where she manages the New York Knights U.S. Chess League team. Krush is also a two-time U.S. Women's Champion and will be the only woman in this year's U.S. Championship. She seeks to earn her third U.S. Women's Champion title in the 2010 U.S.