Meet the Commentators
Live Broadcast Commentators
GM Yasser Seirawan
2677 (USCF) | 2620 (FIDE)
4-time U.S. Champion
Few names in U.S. Chess are more recognizable than Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan. A four-time U.S. Champion and former World Championship contender, Seirawan was the dominant force in American chess in the 1980s.
Born in Damascus, Syria in 1960, Seirawan’s family immigrated to the United States when he was 7 years old and settled in Seattle. He picked up the game of chess at age 12 and honed his skills playing against top players in the area, including Latvian-born master Viktors Pupols and six-time Washington State Champion James Harley McCormick.
At 13, just a year after learning the game, Seirawan became the Washington State Junior Chess Champion, and by 1979 he won the World Junior Championship.
Seirawan went on to dominate the American chess scene, winning the U.S. Championship title in 1981, 1986 and 1989. He claimed the U.S. Championship title once again in 2000 and continued to play in major world-class events, including serving 10 times as a member of the U.S. team at the World Chess Olympiad, until he announced his retirement in 2003.
Seirawan was lured out of retirement in 2011 to once again play in the U.S. Championship, which was held in Saint Louis. He cited the exciting developments of the Saint Louis chess scene as a contributing factor for his renewed interest in competitive chess.
"Yaz," as he is commonly known, followed the 2011 U.S. Championship with a stunning performance at the 2011 World Team Championship, where he earned an individual silver medal for his performance on board four, defeating some of the best players in the world along the way.
Seirawan is a highly respected teacher, commentator and author and has written several books including Chess Duels, the 2010 Chesscafe.com's book of the year. He is regularly featured as the Resident Grandmaster for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
WGM Jennifer Shahade
2301 (USCF) | 2322 (FIDE)
2-time U.S. Women's Champion
Jennifer Shahade is a chess champion, author, commentator, and poker player. For her the essentials of life involve chess and art. As an author of multiple chess books and writer for Chess Life, Shahade has communicated her passion for both to a broad audience, and has been a strong advocate for greater female participation in chess. Her over-the-board chess career has been just as successful. She is two-time U.S. Women’s Champion winning in 2002 and 2004.
Her first book, Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport (2005), intertwined autobiographical elements with the stories of great women chess champions, past and present. Shahade also co-authored Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess (2009). Shahade’s Play Like a Girl! Tactics by 9 Queens (2010) is the first book featuring solely combinations that are all executed by female chess champions.
Always a viewer favorite, Shahade returns to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis to add her perspective to this year’s broadcast commentary. Currently her artwork is featured at the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Ladies’ Knight: A Female Perspective on Chess exhibition through May 1st, 2016.
GM Maurice Ashley
2459 (USCF) | 2440 (FIDE)
Millionaire Chess Organizer
Through chess, Maurice Ashley has not only made history as the first African-American International Grandmaster in 1999, but has translated his talents to others as a three-time national championship coach, two-time author, ESPN commentator, iPhone app designer, puzzle inventor and motivational speaker. Ashley now works as a Research Affiliate at MIT’s Media Lab to bring the benefits of chess and other classic games to a wider educational audience through the innovative use of technology.
He has traveled the world as an ardent spokesperson of the character-building effects of chess. Ashley’s book, “Chess for Success” (Broadway Books, 2005), crystallizes his vision of the many benefits of chess, particularly for at-risk youth, and he continuously spreads his message of living one’s dream to universities, businesses, chess clubs and non-profit organizations around the globe. His app, “Learn Chess! With Maurice Ashley,” has been sold in over 30 countries, and he has received multiple community service awards from city governments, universities and community groups for his work.
In the fall of 2011, Ashley toured six Caribbean nations to bringing chess, books and technology to kids in the region. In 2015, Maurice announced a partnership with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and Ascension, Your Move Chess. This program supports after school chess in the Florissant-Ferguson School District alongside other schools in the Saint Louis area. Longer term, the goal is to expand the program on a national level.
Co-organizer of Millionaire Chess, GM Ashley has teamed up with Amy Lee to bring high-level competition to a wide audience. Millionaire Chess 3 will offer a $510,000 purse in Atlantic City, October 6-10, 2016.
Live Audience Commentators
GM Ben Finegold
2590 (USCF) | 2501 (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 tie for first-place 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. From 1988 to 1992, Finegold lived in Brussels, Belgium. He returned to the U.S. in 1992 and, in 1993, he was awarded the Samford Chess Fellowship.
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.
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. Still active as a tournament player, GM Finegold is currently enjoying a 15 month undefeated streak in over-the-board chess.
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.