Frank P. Samford, Jr. Chess Fellowship


The Frank P. Samford Jr. and Frank Samford III Chess Fellowships are pleased to announce the thirty-eighth consecutive annual awards. The Fellowships were created by the late Frank P. Samford Jr. of Birmingham, Alabama to advance the game he loved by identifying and assisting the most promising young chess masters in the United States. 

Since its inception in 1987 the Samford, under the leadership of Frank Samford III, has been successful in promoting the chess careers of close to three dozen young Americans, many of whom have gone on to become grandmasters, members of the U.S. Olympiad Chess Team and United States Chess Champions. Four of the five members of the 2018 silver-medal winning U.S. Olympiad team were Samford Fellows.

The Fellowships are open to American chessplayers who are under the age of twentyfive at the start of the Fellowships, June 1, 2024, and have been permanent residents of the U.S. for at least one year prior to that date. Leadership of the Fellowship program is provided by Mr. Samford Jr’s grandson, Paul Samford of Atlanta, Georgia, with the able help of Al Lawrence of the U.S. Chess Trust. 

The 2024 Samford Chess Fellows will receive expense money for training by leading chess coaches, chess books, computer equipment and other study materials as well as opportunities to travel and compete in tournaments and matches at the highest levels. The yearly value of the Fellowships (including training, study materials and tournament travel) is $70,000. The Fellowships are given for a one-year term. Individuals may apply more than one year and are eligible for maximum funding up to, but not exceeding, $82,000.

The 2024 Samford Fellows will be selected by the Samford Chess Fellowship Committee (“Committee”), consisting of Paul Samford, grandmaster Yury Shulman and international master John Donaldson. Each applicant, who can be male or female, must be able to demonstrate talent, achievement and commitment to chess. He or she must be willing to make the effort required to become a leading grandmaster and possible challenger for the world chess championship. For further details and an application form write to: 

John Donaldson, Secretary   Samford Chess Fellowship  

1623 ½ Martin Luther King Junior Way 

Berkeley, CA 94709             

Or: ( 510) 644-1285 and 

Completed applications for the 2024 Fellowship must be received no later than May 15, 2024. The Committee expects to announce the winner by June 1st, 2024. All decisions by the Committee will be final. 

2023 Samford Fellowship Winners (News)

The Frank P. Samford, Jr. Chess Fellowship, marking its thirty seventh annual award, has selected Grandmasters Hans Niemann of Weston City, Connecticut, Christopher Yoo of Dublin, California and Abhimanyu Mishra of Englishtown, New Jersey, International Masters Jason Liang of Potsdam, New York, and Carissa Yip of Andover, Massachusetts, Women Grandmaster Jennifer Yu of Ashburn, Virginia, and FIDE Master Alice Lee of North Oaks, Minnesota, as its 2023 Fellows. The Samford has become the richest and most important chess fellowship in the United States having awarded over two million dollars the past three decades.

Since its 1987 inception, the Fellowship has proven very useful. The total value of the Fellowships has been increased several times over the years and is now $70,000 annually. Niemann will receive $20,000, Yoo, Mishra, Liang and Lee $10,000, and Yip and Yu will each receive $5,000. Fellows are eligible to receive up to a maximum $84,000 in total support. The winners’ term begins June 1, 2023.

The winners were chosen by the Samford Fellowship Committee, consisting of Paul Samford (son of Frank P. Samford III and grandson of Samford Fellowship founder Frank P. Samford, Jr.), former U.S. Chess Champion Grandmaster Yury Shulman and International Master John Donaldson. The winners’ potential was determined based on their chess talent, work ethic, dedication and accomplishments. The Fellowship is administered by the U.S. Chess Trust with particularly valuable services provided by Al Lawrence.

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. Four of the five members (Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Sam Shankland and Ray Robson) of the 2016 and 2018 US Olympiad teams which finished respectively first and tied for first, 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 chess players to admire and emulate.

Samford Fellows 2023

IM Carissa Yip (2020, 2021, 2022 Samford Fellow) is one of the top female chess players in America. Known for her creativity over the board, Yip has been breaking records ever since she learned how to play the chess from her father at age 6. At age 9, she became the youngest ever female to reach the Expert level. She broke the record for youngest female to earn the National Master title at the age of 11 years, 5 months, and 18 days.

IM Carissa Yip Chess Olympiad 2022 Photo Copyright Dora Martinez

GM Wesley So (2016 Samford Fellow) a two time US Champion (2017, 2021) and former chess prodigy who became the youngest player to pass the 2600 threshold in October 2008, breaking the record previously held by Magnus Carlsen. He represented the US in the 2016 Olympiad, winning team gold and individual gold on board three.

GM Wesley So Chess Olympiad 2022 Photo Copyright Dora Martinez

GM Irina Krush (2008 Samford Fellow) is the highest rated female in the United States, winning the U.S. Women’s Championship seven times! She has represented the USA in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Chess Olympiads.

GM Irina Krush Chess Olympiad 2022 Photo Copyright Dora Martinez

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 Vinay Bhat
  • 2008 Irina Krush
  • 2009 Ray Robson
  • 2010 Robert Hess
  • 2011 Alex Lenderman
  • 2012 Timur Gareev
  • 2012 Alejandro Ramirez
  • 2013 Sam Shankland
  • 2014 Daniel Naroditsky
  • 2015 Samuel Sevian
  • 2015 Kayden Troff
  • 2016 Wesley So
  • 2017 Jeffrey Xiong
  • 2018 Awonder Liang
  • 2018 Samuel Sevian
  • 2019 GM Awonder Liang
  • 2019 GM Sam Sevian
  • 2019 IM Christopher Yoo
  • 2020 Nicolas Checa
  • 2020 Awonder Liang
  • 2020 Carissa Yip
  • 2020 Christopher Yoo
  • 2021 Praveen Balakrishnan
  • 2021 Akshat Chandra
  • 2021 Nicholas Checa
  • 2021 Abhimanyu Mishra
  • 2021 Hans Niemann
  • 2021 Carissa Yip
  • 2021 Christopher Yoo
  • 2022 Alice Lee
  • 2022 Abhimanyu Mishra
  • 2022 Hans Niemann
  • 2022 Carissa Yip
  • 2022 Christopher Yoo
  • 2023 Alice Lee
  • 2023 Jason Liang
  • 2023 Abhimanyu Mishra
  • 2023 Hans Niemann
  • 2023 Carissa Yip
  • 2023 Christopher Yoo
  • 2023 Jennifer Yu
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