Known for years as a blitz specialist, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (formerly known as Jorge Zamora) will be making his second U.S. Championship appearance. He qualified for the 1997 U.S. Championship by winning the U.S. Junior Championship the previous year, but a long absence from competitive chess took his name out of the national chess spotlight.
In his youth, Sammour-Hasbun was recognized as a child chess prodigy. Born in Honduras, he won the U10 and U12 World Youth Championships and broke numerous records including being the youngest FIDE Master ever in 1988 and the youngest player in the U.S. to defeat a grandmaster in 1991. He even received lessons from the legendary Mikhail Tal.
Jorge left chess for a steady paycheck in the construction industry, and soon after started a family. He now lives in Warwick, Rhode Island. In an interview with Chess Life Online, Jorge spoke of his long absence from competitive chess.
"Chess was like my lover, my woman," he said. "I thought I couldn't live without her ... but then three years go by, and you forget. Humans will set themselves not to think about things that bring them pain ... and chess was like that, an impossible, painful love."
Jorge made major waves in the chess community after winning the 2007 Dos Hermanos Blitz Championship on ICC. Top players from around the world were skeptical that this relatively unknown or forgotten player could put up such a fight against the world's best blitz players. Jorge's qualification into the event prompted the ICC to require that Jorge play the tournament under the supervision of a tournament director in his home. He accepted the slight and turned away all doubters by cutting through the field and defeating GM Tigran Petrosian in the finals. He would go on to repeat as champion the following year.
Jorge is an incredibly strong tactical player and will be an intriguing player to watch at this year's event.
Image courtesy Chris Bird and the Boston Blitz of the U.S. Chess League.