GM Ben Finegold
2587 (USCF) | 2500 (FIDE)
U.S. Open Champion
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.
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 then 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.
A familiar face around the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and a popular name within the Club's Resident Grandmaster rotation, Finegold has offered outstanding commentary - both live and on the broadcast - for several of the Club's elite events, including the U.S. Championships, the U.S. Junior Championships and the Sinquefield Cup.
FM Aviv Friedman
2407 (USCF) | 2359 (FIDE)
FIDE Senior Trainer
FM Aviv Friedman is a well-known coach and author, and he has worked with a number of the competitors for the U.S. Junior Championship at various chess summer camps and instructional venues throughout his career.
In 2009, Aviv won the USCF Scholastic Service Award and was later awarded the FIDE Senior Trainer title -- the highest title FIDE bestows on coaches. He has been the U.S. Youth team coach and head of delegation in many world events for almost 20 years including:
- The 1999 Pan-American Youth Championship, where he was the lone coach for seven players, resulting in five gold medals and one silver medal.
- In 2002, coached Dmitry Schneider to a gold medal at the Pan-American Junior Championship.
- In 2005, coached Alex Lenderman to a gold medal at the World Under 16 Championships.
- Coached teams that received approximately two dozen medals in several other World Youth and Pan-American Youth competitions.
Aviv also helped improve the standards of international scholastic tournaments by showing leadership in protesting the inadequate conditions at the 2005 WYCC in Belfort. (see http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2557) Aviv’s letter eventually led to FIDE issuing sanctions to prevent this from occurring in the future.
He He has written numerous articles about scholastic chess for Chess Life and Chess Life for Kids.
In 2008, Aviv started the Schein-Friedman Scholastic Recognition Project, which awards scholarships annually of over $10,000 to leading juniors.
GM Alejandro Ramirez
2545 (USCF) | 2568 (FIDE)
U.S. Open Champion
Alejandro Ramirez has become a frequent face the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, through roles as both the Club’s Resident Grandmaster and as a player in the nation’s elite events. He currently serves as the chess coach for Saint Louis University and is recruiting its inaugural team to start play in Fall of 2016.
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 the last 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. His personal familiarity with both fields of the 2016 U.S. Championships, coupled with his outstanding, plain-talk understanding of the King’s game, makes Ramirez an outstanding commentating option for the live audience at the 2016 U.S. Chess Championships.