Frank P. Samford, Jr. Chess Fellowship

Carissa Yip, Photo IM Rosen

2021 Samford Fellowship Awarded to GM Nicolas Checa, GM Hans Niemann, GM Akshat Chandra, IM & WGM Carissa Yip, IM Praveen Balakrishnan, IM Abhimanyu Mishra and IM Christopher Yoo

The FRANK P. SAMFORD, JR. CHESS FELLOWSHIP, marking its thirty fifty annual award, has selected Grandmasters Nicholas Checa, and Hans Niemann of New York, Grandmaster Akshat Chandra of St. Louis, International Masters Praveen Balakrishnan of Centreville, Virginia, Abhimanyu Mishra of Englishtown, New Jersey, Carissa Yip of Andover, Massachusetts, and Christopher Yoo of Dublin, California, as its 2020 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 $60,000 annually. Checa, Niemann, Mishra, Yip and Yoo will each receive $10,000 with $5000 apiece for Chandra and Balakrishnan. Fellows are eligible to receive up to a maximum $84,000 in total support. The winners’ term begins July 1, 2021.

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.

Nicolas Checa (Photo Austin Fuller)

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.

Christopher Yoo, Photo by Eric Rosen

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
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