Everyone has moments that will change their lives forever. Such moments are usually few and far between, often with years separating them, but they do happen. And when they happen, the person knows it. I myself have had many such moments, both as a chessplayer and as a person. Until recently, I was fortunate enough that the last lifechanging moment of my chess career was caught on camera.
However, last March that all changed. Something happened in my life that would change it forever. I was awarded the prestigious Samford Fellowship, a scholarship valued at $84,000 given out once a year to the most promising American player under the age of 25. As soon as I saw the announcement that I was chosen as the 2013 Samford Fellow (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12134/704/), I knew that my career, and my life, would never be the same.
For as long as I have been playing competitive chess, it has been my dream to reach my maximum potential. I believe I can do it. I believe that I can become a far stronger player than I am now. And I believe that given the right amount of time and resources, I can enter the world elite. The Samford Fellowship will give me the opportunity to test all of these hypotheses, and for that I am most grateful. It is an incredible privilege and opportunity, but it is also a responsibility. By accepting this award I made a promise to myself that I would do everything I felt necessary to reach my maximum potential as a chessplayer. And the first thing that involved was devoting all of my chess efforts to myself.
I was fortunate enough to have the support of my parents when I was growing up- without them to take me to tournaments, pay my entry fees, get me private lessons one hour every week, and give me food, shelter, and clothing, I never would have made it where I am today. But while their support was wonderful and enormously appreciated, when I was 17 it was clear that I had to start being responsible for my development. Financially it was very hard to take care of myself and have enough money to make it to tournaments abroad and hire coaches, so I decided to start teaching. I became quite a successful teacher, and it brings a huge smile to my face every time one of my students does well. I was also very fortunate to be hired as a chess.com video author. Teaching private lessons and recording videos for chess.com were wonderful opportunities for me to fund my chess career. But now all that has changed. I have the money I need to push myself to make further progress without having to teach, so I have decided to discontinue all private lessons and video work on chess.com. While it does make me a little sad that my life as a chess teacher is probably done forever, it is a decision I felt I had to make, and one I am happy with, because of both the promise I made to myself and the responsibility that comes with being a Samford Fellow. My last chess.com video was published on April 16, 2013. It can be seen here: http://www.chess.com/video/player/my-pan-american-experience-vs-gm-isan-reynaldo-ortiz-suarez---game-2
I should mention that while I was recording it, I had no idea that I would win the fellowship or that it would be my last video.
Lastly, I want to say that while I no longer consider myself a chess.com employee, the parting has been only on the best of terms. I wish them nothing but the very best, and I am sure they will continue to be the premiere chess site on the net for many years to come. And I am enormously appreciative of all they have given me, which is not only work, but a very loyal and supportive fanbase. I really hope that all my chess.com fans continue to cheer for me at tournaments even though I am no longer working for them. Your support really means a lot to me, and I can never thank you enough for sticking with me through thick and thin, through some of the happiest moments I have ever had and through some of the darkest, worst times I've ever experienced. The next two years will be an incredible experience that will likely shape the course of the rest of my life, and I hope to have all my fans there to support me through them. To show my appreciation, I’ll be keeping everyone updated by maintaining this blog, posting 1-2 times a month from now on. My next post will be about my plans for using the Samford, and where my first travels will take me. Until then, I bid you adieu.
Best of Luck to All,
GM Sam Shankland