| 0 | Chess Players

Ray Robson of Largo, Florida, a fourteen year old International Chessmaster (“IM”), has been awarded thetwenty-fourth FRANK P. SAMFORD, JR. CHESS FELLOWSHIP. Ray is home-schooled and is able to devote four or more hours per day to chess study.


Ray has been playing chess since the age of three and entered his first tournament when he was seven. He reached the IM level when he was thirteen and is currently the youngest player in the United States with this title. His first major tournament victory was the 2008 Miami Open, then tied for first in the Florida State Championship. He has defeated many international grandmasters (“GMs”) and is working toward that title himself now.


Robson’s trainer has been GM Alexander Onischuk. Because of financial constraints the lessons have been mostly by telephone. With funding provided by the Samford Fellowship the training can now be substantially increased and conducted face-to-face. Travel to strong foreign tournaments and other assistance will now also be possible.


The Samford is the richest and most important chess fellowship in the United States, providing brilliant young American chessmasters the support and resources necessary to enhance their skills and reach their full potential. The total value of the Fellowship is approximately $36,000 per year. The prize is awarded for one year, beginning July 1, 2009, and is renewable for a second year.


The winner was 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 purpose of the Samford Fellowship is to identify and assist the best young American chessmasters by providing top-level coaching, strong competition and access to study materials. The Fellowship also provides a monthly stipend for living expenses so that the winners may devote themselves entirely to chess without having financial worries.

Since its inception the Samford Fellowship has proven very successful. Several of the Fellows have become Grandmasters and a few have won the U.S. Chess Championship and played on the U.S. team in the chess olympiad.. The full list includes:


§Joel Benjamin

§Maxim Dlugy

§Patrick Wolff

§Alex Fishbein

§Ilya Gurevich

§Alex Sherzer

§Ben Finegold

§Gata Kamsky

§Josh Waitzkin

§Tal Shaked

§Boris Kreiman

§Dean Ippolito

§Greg Shahade

§Michael Mulyar

§Eugene Perelshteyn

§Varuzhan Akobian

§Dmitry Schneider

§Rusudan Goletiani

§Hikaru Nakamura

§David Pruess

§Josh Friedel

§Irina Krush

§Vinay Bhat

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). Mr. Samford was active in civic, business, political, educational and cultural affairs. He was also an enthusiastic competitor in chess tournaments.

Generous contributions from Mrs. Virginia Samford and 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.

Contact: Allen Kaufman(718) 544-5036

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