2016 Samford Fellowship Awarded to Grandmaster Wesley So


The FRANK P. SAMFORD, JR. CHESS FELLOWSHIP, marking its thirtieth annual award, has selected Grandmaster Wesley So of Minnetonka Minnesota, as its 2016 Fellow. The Samford is the richest and most important chess fellowship in the United States having awarded over two million dollars the past three decades. It identifies and assists the best young American chess masters by providing top-level coaching, strong competition and access to study materials. The Fellowship also supplies a monthly stipend for living expenses so that the winners may devote themselves to chess without having financial worries. The total value of the Fellowship has been increased several times over the years and is now $42,000 annually. The prize is awarded for one year and can be renewed for a second year. The winners’ term begins July 1, 2016.

22-year-old Wesley So is currently the 10th rated player in the world at 2773 on the March 2016 FIDE rating list. He won the Bilbao Masters last fall ahead of Anish Giri, Viswanathan Anand and Ding Liren and tied for second in the Tata Steel tournament held earlier in 2015. So also won the inaugural Millionaire Open in October 2014.

The winners were chosen by the Samford Fellowship Committee, consisting of Frank P. Samford III (son of Samford Fellowship founder Frank P. Samford, Jr.), former U.S. Chess Champion Grandmaster Yury Shulman and International Master John Donaldson. The winners’ potential was determined based on their chess talent, work ethic, dedication and accomplishments. The Fellowship is administered by the U.S. Chess Trust with particularly valuable services provided by Al Lawrence.

The Samford Chess Fellowship was created by the late Frank P. Samford, Jr. of Birmingham Alabama. Mr. Samford was a distinguished attorney and CEO of Liberty National Life Insurance Company (now Torchmark). He was active in civic, business, political, educational and cultural affairs. Mr. Samford was also an enthusiastic competitor in chess tournaments. After providing financial support for several chess projects he decided to do something significant for American chess. The result was the Samford Fellowship.

Since its inception the Fellowship has proven very successful. Many Samford Fellows have become strong Grandmasters, members of the United States Olympiad team and US Champions Hikaru Nakamura, currently rated number five in the world, is a former Samford Fellow.

Generous contributions from the late Mrs. Virginia Samford and the Torchmark Corporation support the Fellowship. The Samford Fellowship is a fitting memorial to an extraordinary man. The dedication, creativity and achievement that marked Mr. Frank P. Samford, Jr.’s life are examples for all chess players to admire and emulate.

Samford Winners:


Second ever Samford winner GM Max Dlugy, Lotis Key, 30th Samford fellow Wesley So, Renato Kabigting, and US Chess Trust Managing Director Al Lawrence, Photo Eric Rosen 


1987 Joel Benjamin
1988 Maxim Dlugy
1989 Patrick Wolff
1990 Alex Fishbein
1991 Ilya Gurevich
1992 Alex Sherzer
1993 Ben Finegold
1994 Gata Kamsky
1995 Josh Waitzkin
1996 Tal Shaked
1997 Boris Kreiman
1998 Dean Ippolito
1999 Greg Shahade
2000 Michael Mulyar
2001 Eugene Perelshteyn
2002 Varuzhan Akobian
2003 Dmitry Schneider
2004 Rusudan Goletiani
2005 Hikaru Nakamura
2006 David Pruess
2007 Josh Friedel
2008 Vinay Bhat
2008 Irina Krush
2009 Ray Robson
2010 Robert Hess
2011 Alex Lenderman
2012 Timur Gareev
2012 Alejandro Ramirez
2013 Sam Shankland
2014 Daniel Naroditsky
2015 Samuel Sevian
2015 Kayden Troff
2016 Wesley So



  1. Well Done Samford John Donaldson and All.

    You showed St Louis how to treat a talented player who will bring honor to US Chess.

  2. The Samford should be given to a player who is not yet a GM who is going to aspire into a great one. So is already an amazing player and does not deserve this award. Also this should be only given to true american born players.

      • I agree with John. The Samford should not be awarded to GM So.
        He is already a world class player and secondly not an American .

        • please look and review list of previous awardees, are they all true blooded americans. majority of them are emigrees!

      • Indeed! Mr. Price. America is a land of great immigrants. It should not be confined to Native American Indians. Chess, like other discipline, is not barricaded by race, creed, sex among others. It is nice to see great Americans reading their constitution and upholding its ideals. Greater thanks to Mr. Frank S. And to the committee. From a chess-lover from planet earth.

  3. He’s already a strong GM who’s, I believe, pursuing a career as a chess pro. What happened to the intent of the Samford that it go to players who are NOT professionals in an attempt to get them to follow that path?

  4. Samford has chosen someone who is destined to become a world chess champion: Wesley So. The way Wesley wore his Barong Tagalog was so elegant. Bagay na bagay, pare.

  5. The Samford Fellowship is awarded to those promising young ones who needed help and used it to most advantage.

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