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.
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 Afilliate and 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.
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.
GM Eric Hansen
2657 (USCF) | 2580 (FIDE)
2-time Canadian Champion
This charismatic and sporty Canadian became a grandmaster in 2012 and has been a rising star in the chess community since. His internet presence on YouTube and Twitch, chessbrahs, involves himself and other titled players playing chess online for fun. Hansen’s online chess fame has given him many devoted fans and followers.
Hansen started playing chess as a child at school, but excelled more in athletics and did not spend too much time focused on chess. However, his passion for the sport was piqued after he qualified for and lost his first Youth Nationals in 2004. “I began to spend more time on chess as I made the goal to win a National championship,” Hansen says. Hansen made the difficult decision to stop playing sports in school and focus entirely on improving his chess in the fall of 2007.
Hansen’s rating increased dramatically after that point and he began performing very well in tournaments. In 2007 he became a national master, and placed second in the 2008 World U-16 Championships. Later that year, he became a FIDE Master, and by 2010 he earned the international master title. He tied for first in the 2011 Canadian Championship and won the 2012 Canadian Open. Other accomplishments in Hansen’s career include him qualifing for two World Cups and becoming a member of the Canadian National Team, representing Canada in the 2012 Olympiad.
Eric Hansen remains an active tournament player as well as a ubiquitous online blitz and bullet player. He visited the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the first time in 2015 and is a popular addition to the resident grandmaster rotation.