The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Samuel Shankland

Samuel Shankland
Full name
Samuel L. Shankland
Oct 1, 1991 (age 32)‎
Place of birth
Berkeley, California, U.S.
United States



Samuel L. “Sam” Shankland was born October 1, 1991 in Berkeley, California. He has represented the country of his birth his entire chess career, a relative rarity for American grandmasters of the past 40 years.

Making IM and GM

Shankland made International Master in 2008 at the age of 17 with his performance in the Under-18 division of the World Youth Championship, a +7 -2 =2. That year he also made his debut in the U.S. Championship, but only scored +2 -6 =1. He has played in the U.S. Championship every year since except for 2012.

Shankland would make Grandmaster three years later, in 2011, after scoring +4 -1 =5 in the Berkeley International tournament. Later on in 2011, he participated in the Chess World Cup as the 111th seed, but that did not stop him from beating 18th-seeded Peter Leko in the first round, 1 ½ - ½, despite entering the match with a rating 178 points lower than the Hungarian GM. Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta would beat Shankland in the next round.

2016 Chess Olympiad

Shankland played the fourth board for the United States in the 2016 Chess Olympiad, with Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So unsurprisingly playing the top three boards. Ray Robson played the fifth and final board.

Shankland with teammates So, Nakamura, and Caruana at the 2016 Olympiad.

It was a momentous occasion for the American squad, who won the Olympiad for the first time since 1976. The Soviet Union did not participate in the 1976 event as GM Robert Byrne led a post-Bobby Fischer U.S. team to the gold. In 2016, all the best chess-playing countries were there, and Shankland’s +4 -1 =3 performance helped get the job done for the United States. 

But Shankland’s best individual tournament performance, to date, was yet to come. 

2018 U.S. Championship

Shankland just after winning the 2018 U.S. Championship

While winning the U.S. Championship in 2018, Shankland reached the coveted 2700 rating threshold for the first time, launching him into the top 50 players in the world by rating. Shankland was undefeated in the tournament, scoring +6 -0 =5, and needed every one of those results to hold off Caruana by a half-point (and to make 2700, as he ended up at 2701). Shankland was able to hold Caruana, So, and Nakamura to draws, while he defeated Zviad Izoria (who won his matchup with Caruana) and Robson among his six victories. A final-round win over Awonder Liang secured the championship:

Other Tournaments

2014 saw Shankland’s best U.S. Championship performance up to that point, a +3 -2 =6 that tied for fourth out of 12. In fact, it was his only U.S. Championship with a positive score until his superb victory in 2018.

That 2018 championship was not his only tournament win of the year, either, as Shankland also cleared a six-man field at the Capablanca Memorial by 1 ½ points with a +5 -0 =5 score in the double round-robin.

At the 2019 Tata Steel Masters, Shankland finished with just a +3 -3 =7 score for a share of seventh place, but it was also his very first time playing three different world champions in a classical tournament setting: Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, and Vladimir Kramnik

In fact, Shankland made a positive score against those three giants. He drew Anand in the third round. He held a draw against the current world champion in the ninth round, no small feat considering Carlsen’s nearly unstoppable form throughout 2019. And in the tournament’s final round, Shankland was able to defeat Kramnik to salvage an even score, as the Russian star knew he was playing his final regular game

Present and Future

Shankland’s rating peaked at 2731 in February 2019, just after his Tata Steel performance, placing him 24th in the world rankings.

Shankland reached the quarterfinals of the 2021 FIDE World Cup, earning a spot in the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix. In the quarterfinals he lost on tiebreaks to GM Sergey Karjakin, 4-2.

Shankland is also a regular producer of content for

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