Gareev and Ramirez Share Samford Scholarship
By IM John Donaldson   
March 30, 2012
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GM Alejandro Ramirez, Photo Betsy Dynako 2011
The FRANK P. SAMFORD, JR. CHESS FELLOWSHIP, marking its twenty-sixth annual award, has selected Grandmasters Timur Gareev of Brownsville, Texas, and Alejandro Ramirez of Garland, Texas, as its 2012 Fellows.  The Samford is the richest and most important chess fellowship in the United States. 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, which will be divided equally between the two winners.  The prize is awarded for one year and can be renewed for a second year. The winners’ term begins July 1st, 2012.
 
All in all, it gives these brilliant young American Grandmasters the support and resources necessary to enhance their skills and reach their full potential.   
  
Currently rated 2654 by FIDE, Timur Gareev was awarded the GM title at the age of 16. He won the championship of his native Uzbekistan in 2007 and last year took first place in both the Chicago Open and the 11th Metropolitan FIDE Invitational tournament in Los Angeles. Timur is currently a student at the University of Texas at Brownsville which he attends on a chess scholarship.
 
A native of Costa Rica, Alejandro Ramirez earned the title of Grandmaster at the age of 14, being the first (and still the only) player from Central America to ever hold that title. A graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas with a Master’s Degree in Arts & Technology / Design and Production of Videogames, Alejandro won the 2008 Morelia Open and finished at the top of the 2010 US Open.
 
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 Arthur Bisguier and International Master John Donaldson.  The winner's potential was determined based on his chess talent, work ethic, dedication and accomplishments.  The Fellowship is administered by the U.S. Chess Trust with particularly valuable services provided by Barbara DeMaro.  
 
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GM Timur Gareev
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.  America’s two top players, Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura, are not only rated in the top 15 in the world but are former Samford Fellows. 
  
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 chessplayers to admire and emulate.
 
Previous Samford Winners:
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 Irina Krush
2008 Vinay Bhat
2009 Ray Robson
2010 Robert Hess
2011 Alex Lenderman