2019 Frank Samford Fellowship Winners Announced

The FRANK P. SAMFORD, JR. CHESS FELLOWSHIP, marking its thirty third annual award, has selected Grandmasters Awonder Liang of Madison, Wisconsin, and Samuel Sevian of Holden, Massachusetts and International Master Christopher Yoo of Dublin, California, as its 2019 Fellows.

The Samford is the richest and most important chess fellowship in the United States having awarded over two million dollars the past three decades. 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. Awonder Liang will receive a full Fellowship and Samuel Sevian and Christopher Yoo will share a Fellowship. The prize is awarded for one year and can be renewed for a second year. Fellows who share the award are eligible to receive the equivalent of two years of full support, not to exceed $84,000. The winners’ term begins July 1, 2019.

15-year-old Awonder Liang is currently the second rated player in the world under 16 at 2590 FIDE.

Awonder Liang at the U.S. Junior Championship, which he went on to win. Photo Courtesy: US Championship Website

Samuel Sevian, who recently turned 18, is the number 4 player in the world under 20 at 2642 FIDE and will make his debut on the U.S. national team this March in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Sam Sevian, Image Courtesy of the Saint Louis Chess Club

Christopher Yoo, who recently turned 12, currently holds the U.S. record for becoming the youngest International Master (12 years and one month) and is rated 2406 FIDE. He recently defeated Le Quang Liem of Vietnam rated 2714 FIDE.  

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 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, were 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 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 Awonder Liang  
2019 Samuel Sevian                                                                                                                                                                           2019 Christopher Yoo

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