At the age of 12, Alan became an Argentinean U18 Champion. At the age of 16, he received first place at the U16 World Championship in Durban, South Africa and at 17 he achieved the Grandmaster title.
Alejandro Ramirez has become a frequent face the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis as he transplanted from Texas and now lives and works in Saint Louis. Ramirez was inspired by the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer when he was four years old. He became FIDE Master at the age of 9, an International Master at 13, and earned his Grandmaster title by the age of 15. That achievement set Ramirez as the first Centro-American to earn the elite title and, at the time, the second youngest grandmaster. A competitor in three U.S. Championships, Ramirez displayed some of his finest chess in May 2013, when he pushed reigning champion Gata Kamsky to a playoff for the national title. He drew the first two playoff games with Kamsky before losing an Armageddon game where he had 19 minutes and 45 seconds against Kamsky's 45 minutes. Ramirez studied video game design at the University of Texas at Dallas, earning a master’s degree in Arts & Technology, and he now currently serves as an editor for the popular chess news website ChessBase. Ramirez expertise has made him the natural selection for the new Saint Louis University chess team head coach position. The team made it to the final four of the Pan-American games in its first year. Along with coaching chess, Ramirez is a regular broadcast commentator in both English and Spanish for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center.
Alexander Shabalov realized chess would be his profession after winning the Latvian junior championship at the age of 11. He went on to win the Under-16 Championship of the Soviet Union in 1982. The four-time U.S. Champion is known for no-holds barred chess, and he thrives on wild moves. Known for fighting chess, Shabalov rarely proposes or accepts early draw offers. In the 2003 U.S. Championship, there were eight Grandmasters vying for first place. After fifteen minutes, the stage was almost empty. All the other contenders had drawn their games, ensuring them a decent payday but depriving fans of exciting, high-stakes chess. Shabalov's game was the exception. He played a six hour slug-fest against Varuzhan Akobian, ending in a victory for Shabalov. In addition to the 25K he won for first place, main sponsor Erik Andersson awarded Alex and Varuzhan $5,000 each for their fighting spirit. Shabalov won clear first in the U.S. Championship four years later in Tulsa, Oklahoma, besting Kudrin in the final to edge out the defending champion, 2006 Champ Alexander Onischuk. GM Shabalov is always a serious contender for the crown.
Antonios Pavlidis was born in Kavala, Greece. He started playing chess at the age of 8 in the local Chess Club of Kavala, where he is still a member. His greatest achievement is winning Greek Men’s Championship three times in 2011,2012 and 2017 and the Greek Youth Championship four times. He has also won two very strong open tournaments in Belgrad (Belgrad Trophy) 2015 and Kavala (Kavala Chess Open) the same year. He has also shared 2nd place in the European Youth Chess Championships twice, in 2007 and 2008, and in the same section in 2009 he finished 12th . In the Team Section, Greece has won the Greek Team Championship four times and Antonios is a member of the Greek National Team. He has also graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where he studied for 5 years in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Josh was born and raised in New Hampshire, where he started playing tournament chess at the age of six. He was State Champion of New Hampshire three times and Northern California twice. Friedel participated in six U.S. Championships, tying for 4th in 2008. In 2009, Josh won the Edmonton International with 7/9 as well as the Toronto Open with a perfect 5/5 score. He has also won or tied for first in numerous open tournaments across the United States, including the Pan Am, Eastern, Saint Louis, National, and American Opens. Friedel was the 2013 U.S. Open Champion. He is also the current North American Open Champion, his second win at that event. Josh currently resides in a suburb of Milwaukee, where he divides his time between playing tournaments and teaching.
Angel Arribas Lopez is a Spanish Grandmaster studying at UTD and living in Dallas. Angel’s best results from this year is tying for 2nd place at the U.S. Open that took place in early August and tying for 1st place at the Philadelphia Open in April. Also, in the past, he has been 4th in the World Chess Championship U18 and has won the Spanish Championship multiple times.
Akshat started playing chess at the age of approximately 9 1/2 years old. He has recorded one of the fastest rises in the history of world chess when his chess rating climbed steeply from 1548 to a GM rating of 2500 in under 5 ½ years. Notable achievements for Akshat include winning the 2015 U.S. Junior Chess Championship in his first appearance and taking first in both the 2015 National High School Chess Championship as well as the National High School Blitz Championship. Since 2014, at age 14, Akshat has been the #1 ranked Junior Rapid Chess player in the country.
Rao Prasanna is an International Master from India. His highest Elo rating was 2477 in February 2017. He is ranked in the top 50 players in India currently. Rao Prasanna is currently a graduate student at The University of Texas at Dallas and a member of their chess team.
Ni Shiqun is a Chinese chess player. Ni won the inaugral Asian University Chess Championship in the women’s division in 2015 and won the Women’s World University Chess Championship in the following year. Earlier this year, Ni made it to the quarter finals of the Women’s World Chess Championship.
Tatev Abrahamyan started playing chess at 8 after her father took her to the Chess Olympiad games in 1996. There she met Grandmaster Judit Polgar, arguably the greatest woman player of all time and the only woman in the tournament. Tatev is a formidable competitor. At the 2010 U.S. Women's Championship, she played her heart out to a fantastic 7/9 score, which would usually be enough to net first place, but actually put her in a tie for second place, half a point behind Irina Krush. Tatev's strong play and fighting qualities in 2010 earned her the 9 Queens/goddess chess fighting spirit award, which was selected by former Women's World Champion, Alexandra Kosteniuk. At the 2011 U.S. Women's Championship, Tatev turned in a remarkable performance, falling just short to Anna Zatonskih in the playoff finals to finish in second place. That same year, Abrahamyan graduated from California State University Long Beach with a double-major in psychology and political science. Tatev is still a strong competitor at the U.S. Women’s Championships and is often a crowd favorite. She is also a regular journalist for Grand Chess Tour tournaments and teaches chess in California.