2013 Samford Fellowship Awarded to GM Sam Shankland

Shankland vs Robson, 2010 US Champ Round 5, Photo courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club. Ray Robson was the 2009 Samford Fellow.

By IM John Donaldson
March 19, 2013

The FRANK P. SAMFORD, JR. CHESS FELLOWSHIP, marking its twenty-seventh annual award, has selected Grandmaster Sam Shankland of Orinda, California, as its 2013 Fellow. The Samford is the richest and most important chess fellowship in the United States. It identifies and assists the best young American chess masters by providing top-level coaching, strong competition and access to study materials.

The Fellowship also supplies a monthly stipend for living expenses so that the winners may devote themselves to chess without having financial worries. The total value of the Fellowship has been increased several times over the years and is now $42,000 annually. The prize is awarded for one year and can be renewed for a second year. The winners’ term begins July 1st, 2013.

All in all, it gives these brilliant young American Grandmasters the support and resources necessary to enhance their skills and reach their full potential.

Currently rated 2612 by FIDE, Sam Shankland was awarded the GM title at the age of 20. His career highlights include tying for first in the under 18 category in the 2008 World Youth Championships, taking third in the 2011 US Championship, beating Hungarian Super GM Peter Leko in the 2011 World Cup (replay game below) and winning both team and individual gold while playing for the US team in the 2013 Pan American Team Championship.

The winners were chosen by the Samford Fellowship Committee, consisting of Frank P. Samford III (son of Samford Fellowship founder Frank P. Samford, Jr.), former U.S. Chess Champion Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier and International Master John Donaldson. The winner’s potential was determined based on his chess talent, work ethic, dedication and accomplishments. The Fellowship is administered by the U.S. Chess Trust with particularly valuable services provided by Barbara DeMaro.

The Samford Chess Fellowship was created by the late Frank P. Samford, Jr. of Birmingham Alabama. Mr. Samford was a distinguished attorney and CEO of Liberty National Life Insurance Company (now Torchmark). He was active in civic, business, political, educational and cultural affairs. Mr. Samford was also an enthusiastic competitor in chess tournaments. After providing financial support for several chess projects he decided to do something significant for American chess. The result was the Samford Fellowship.

Since its inception the Fellowship has proven very successful. Many Samford Fellows have become strong Grandmasters, members of the United States Olympiad team and US Champions. America’s two top players, Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky, are not only rated in the top 17 in the world but are former Samford Fellows.

Generous contributions from the late Mrs. Virginia Samford and the Torchmark Corporation support the Fellowship. The Samford Fellowship is a fitting memorial to an extraordinary man. The dedication, creativity and achievement that marked Mr. Frank P. Samford, Jr.’s life are examples for all chessplayers to admire and emulate.

Previous Samford Winners:


  • 1987 Joel Benjamin
  • 1988 Maxim Dlugy
  • 1989 Patrick Wolff
  • 1990 Alex Fishbein
  • 1991 Ilya Gurevich
  • 1992 Alex Sherzer
  • 1993 Ben Finegold
  • 1994 Gata Kamsky
  • 1995 Josh Waitzkin
  • 1996 Tal Shaked
  • 1997 Boris Kreiman
  • 1998 Dean Ippolito
  • 1999 Greg Shahade
  • 2000 Michael Mulyar
  • 2001 Eugene Perelshteyn
  • 2002 Varuzhan Akobian
  • 2003 Dmitry Schneider
  • 2004 Rusudan Goletiani
  • 2005 Hikaru Nakamura
  • 2006 David Pruess
  • 2007 Josh Friedel
  • 2008 Irina Krush
  • 2008 Vinay Bhat
  • 2009 Ray Robson
  • 2010 Robert Hess
  • 2011 Alex Lenderman
  • 2012 Timur Gareev
  • 2012 Alejandro Ramirez
  • 2013 Sam Shankland
Leave a Reply