Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and received his first USCF rating at age 6. It wasn't long, around his mid-teens, until he realized he wanted to play chess professionally. GM Finegold's first major tournament win came in 1989 when he finished in a first-place tie at the U.S. Junior Closed Championship. Also in 1989, Finegold scored his biggest victory to date with a win against Boris Gelfand at the Euwe Memorial tournament in Amsterdam, Holland.
According to Finegold, this was the most famous player he had beaten at the time, and the fact that it was a Swiss tournament and he was unable to prepare for Gelfand specifically made the win that much more exciting. Finegold said he played an excellent tactical game to secure the victory. He obtained his first IM norm at the event, gained 40 FIDE points and eventually earned the title of International Master in 1990.
In 1991 Finegold won his first major, international, Swiss-paired tournament in Antwerp, Belgium. He was just 21 years old. From 1988 to 1992
Finegold lived in Brussels, Belgium. He returned to the U.S. in 1992 and, in 1993, was awarded the Samford Chess Fellowship.
The Samford Chess Fellowship is awarded each year to the most talented chess player in the United States under the age of 26. At that time, the fellowship gave Finegold a $1,200 per month stipend and also paid for all things chess related. During that time, he worked with Gregory Kaidanov, played in a number of strong tournaments, and began utilizing chess software on is computer to improve his game.
"I wanted to hone my proclivities," Finegold said.
In 1994, Finegold finished in a six-way tie for first place at the U.S Open in Chicago, and then in 2002 he finished in a first-place tie with eight players at the World Open in Philadelphia where he secured his first GM norm. He won the Chicago Spring Invitational in 2005 to earn his second GM norm, and just this year, Finegold achieved his third GM norm at the 2009 Spice Cup Chess Festival in Lubbock, Texas.
Serious chess players are divided by the question of whether it’s better to study a narrow set of openings in great depth, or play a wide variety of systems, to keep opponents wondering. Finegold falls somewhere in between. He’s been playing 1.d4 his whole life but with Black he’s more flexible and can play numerous defenses against both 1.e4 and 1.d4. Ben isn't afraid of trading Queens early in the game, and wins a lot of half points from endgame technique.
When asked about which books he recommended to aspiring players, Ben said “I’m not a fan of books.” His advice was to “Play in strong tournaments (open section) and analyze your games with a strong player. The best way to improve is to play strong players often.”
Finegold's favorite player is Paul Morphy. He said Morphy was ahead of his time, more so even than those who have come after him. According to Finegold, Morphy attacked well, which was the style at the time, but he was also very accurate and played winning positions quite well.
"Someone who played so well and calculated so accurately before books and computers were common is just amazing," Finegold said. "He was so much better than the other players; it's very impressive."
Finegold served as the Resident GM at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis from 2010-2012. He recently launched his own business venture, Finegold Chess Enterprises, with his son, NM Spencer Finegold.