US Champion Sam Shankland

Sam Shankland after winning the 2018 US Championship. Photo: Lennart Ootes

Sam Shankland

2018 U.S. Champion and Super-Grandmaster

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Birthday: October 1, 1991

City: Walnut Creek, California

Sam Shankland has been a major force in American chess for many years and reached a new peak when he won the 2018 US Championship convincingly as an underdog over the “Big Three” of American chessplayers, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So, all of whom were within the world’s top 10. In his own words, Shankland has had the unique experience of being a top player who originated from a traditional American upbringing:
“I am American born and raised, there is no chess culture in my family, I played my first tournament at an age when most top talents are already masters, I never had more than one hour of coaching per week, I went through the full American K-12 education system in the traditional timetable, and I completed a four year degree from a highly ranked university. Yet in spite of all this, I have been able to consistently improve my chess…” -Sam Shankland, "Shankland on His Rise from GM to Top Hundred"
Shankland has a myriad of chess achievements that demonstrate the consistency of his improvement throughout his chess career. He became the US Junior Champion in 2010. He earned the grandmaster title in 2011 and crossed 2600 FIDE for the first time the following year. In 2014, Shankland won the individual gold medal for board 5 while competing for the USA at his first Olympiad. Later that year, he crossed into the top 100 players in the world. In 2016, he won Biel Masters with the highest score in the event’s history, reaching a new peak at #57 in the world. In 2018, along with his US Championship victory, Shankland won the Capablanca Memorial by a 1.5 margin and reached the world’s top 30. After his incredible performance in the Olympiad, he continued the momentum with back to back victories in the Capablanca Memorial and 2018 Continental Championship. Here is Shankland's victory over the legendary Judit Polgar on his route to an Olympic gold medal in 2014:
[pgn][Event "Chess Olympiad"]
[Site "Tromso NOR"]
[Date "2014.08.10"]
[Round "8.8"]
[White "Samuel Shankland"]
[Black "Judit Polgar"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2624"]
[BlackElo "2676"]
[ECO "E11"]
[EventDate "2014.08.02"]
[PlyCount "119"]1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Nbd2 b6 5.a3 Bxd2+ 6.Qxd2 Bb7 7.e3 a5 8.b3 d6 9.Be2 Nbd7 10.Bb2 O-O 11.O-O Qe7 12.Qc2 c5 13.Rfd1 h6 14.Rac1 Rfc8 15.a4 cxd4 16.Nxd4 Nc5 17.Ba3 Nfe4 18.Nb5 d5 19.f3 Nf6 20.Qb2 e5 21.cxd5 Nxd5 22.e4 Nf4 23.Bc4 Rd8 24.Kh1 Rxd1+ 25.Rxd1 Rd8 26.Qc2 Rxd1+ 27.Qxd1 Qg5 28.Qd2 Nxe4 29.fxe4 Bxe4 30.Bf1 Bc6 31.Bc1 Qg4 32.Nc3 g5 33.Qc2 Kg7 34.Be3 Qe6 35.Kg1 Bb7 36.Nb5 Nd5 37.Bf2 Nf4 38.Nc7 Qg4 39.Bxb6 Nh3+ 40.Kh1 Qf4 41.Qc4 Qd2 42.Qe2 Qc1 43.Ne8+ Kf8 44.Nd6 Bd5 45.Be3 Qb1 46.Qd3 Qe1 47.Qe2 Qb1 48.Nc4 Qxb3 49.Qd3 Qxd3 50.Bxd3 Nf4 51.Bxf4 exf4 52.Nxa5 f3 53.gxf3 Bxf3+ 54.Kg1 Bd1 55.Bb5 Ke7 56.Nc4 Bf3 57.a5 f6 58.a6 Kd8 59.Kf2 Bh1 60.Ne3 1-0[/pgn]