It is undoubtedly pleasing for chess fans in New England to receive the news from John Donaldson speaking for the selection committee of the US Chess Trust that Sam Shankland is the new recipient of the Frank P. Samford Jr. Chess Fellowship for 2013. This award is the most prestigious and generous benefit that could be received by any US player. The fellowship was created many years ago by the philanthropist Frank P. Samford Jr., working with Allen Kaufman of the “Chess in Schools” program. Management of the fellowship was later assumed by the US Chess Trust. The family has increased the award several times over the years. Franklin Samford III now sits on the selection committee.
The present prize will be worth $42,000 a year to help a player defray living expenses. It may be renewed for another year. New England players know Shankland as a student at Brandeis University whose sparkling chess led the New England Nor’easters in winning the 2010 US Chess League Championship. Shankland enjoyed considerable popularity in doing so, He regularly reported for work as first board, was completely cooperative, and scored victory after victory, often with his complex queenside openings. In his early days he had played the Sicilian Dragon as Black but lost faith in it.
Just what his plans will be, he has yet to say, but he has already stated, “One thing is certain: My life will never be the same.” Three years ago, after winning the Under-18 World Youth Championship, he was interviewed about his future and he mentioned that he had applied for the Samford. If he got it, he said he would like to play in Europe, especially in England or France, where he knows the language. At some point, he said, he might move into the GM House, a residence inhabited by a number of grandmasters in the San Francisco area. A number of players with whom he studied in California already live there. These include prior Samford winners Vinay Bhat, David Pruess, and Josh Friedel.
There can be no doubt that Shankland deserved this award. Aside from the Under-18 championship, beginning at the age of 19 he won the California state title in 2008, 2009, and 2011. He also won US Junior Championship in 2010. In 2011, he became a grandmaster and placed third in the US Championships He tied for second through seventh in the 2011 ZMDI Schachfestival Dresden. He won a Gold medal playing for the US in the 2013 Pan Am Team Championship.
The most notable Samford award winners, who have challenged the European hierarchy, include Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura. Kamsky competed for the world championship vs. Veselin Topalov in 2010. Nakamura is currently rated ninth in the world; he fell just short of qualifying for the recent Candidates’ tournament.
Brevity: E. Schiendorfer v. Hayes (2010) 1.d4 f5 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nd7 5.Qc2 g6 6.Nf3 h6 7.BxN NxB 8.e4 e6 9.0–0–0 Bg7 10.exf5 exf5 11.Re1+ Kf7 12.c5 Be6 13.Bb5 a6 14.Ba4 Qc8 15.Re6 Qe6 16. R(h)e1 Qc8 17.Qb3+ Kf8 18.Nh4 Ne4 19.Ng6#; 1–0
Winners: Worcester Mellow March Open: 1st: Mike O’Dell, 3-1; 2d – 5th: John Curdo, Muharrem Brahimaj, Alonzo Ross, Richard Marseglia, 2.5-1.5; Boylston Grand Prix: Tied for 1st, Eric Godin, Carey Theil and Sandeep Vadlamudi, 3-1.
Coming events: April 21, Boylston Scholastic Grand Prix, and April 20, BCF Game/
30 Marathon, 240B Elm St., Somerville;
www.boylstonchessclub.org; April 21, 23d Mass. G/60 Championship, Best Western Plaza Hotel, 181 Post Road West, Marlborough,