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GM Finegold

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Well, "GM-elect" that is. Despite narrowly missing Sergey Karjakin's record of youngest GM by 23 years, Michigan's Ben Finegold is quite pleased to be America's latest Grandmaster. He's long been one of the strongest IMs around so this is long overdue. Is there a record for years over 2500 without becoming a GM? The highest-rated IM right now according to FIDE is Paragua of the Philippines. On the other side, Christiansen and Gelfand are often mentioned as skipping the IM title entirely.

You can read all about it in this fun report by IM Greg Shahade, see below. It was up at the USCF site yesterday but is gone now, but someone sent me a copy. Greg and I are in talks about turning the USCF site into something useful. Will the new board member be writing all the content himself? Anyway, kudos to Ben. (His email address says "IMFinegold" and I've cleverly registered the "GMFinegold" version to prevent some unscrupulous person from extorting beer in exchange for the account password. Gmail is better anyway.)

Ben Finegold Earns His 3rd and Final GM Norm! - by IM Greg Shahade

If I asked "Who is the highest USCF rated American born player in the country?" I doubt that most chess enthusiasts would give the right response. However the correct answer to that question is America's newest soon-to-be Grandmaster, 35-year-old Michiganite Ben Finegold.

Ben earned his final GM norm at the 2005 Martinovsky Memorial, which was a 6 player double round robin held in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and ended on Tuesday August 23. He scored a 9 round GM norm by winning 3 of his first 9 games and drawing the remainder. His wins were over IM Angelo Young (twice) and IM Smetankin, while his draws were against GM Nikola Mitkov (twice), Yuri Shulman (twice), GM Vladimir Georgiev and IM Stanislav Smetankin.

Ben is the strongest member of a chess playing family. Both his brother Mark and his father Ron were USCF masters, with his brother still holding that title today. Ben felt he didn't have enough chess players in the family, so he married another player, Kelly Cottrell, facilitating an all-family entry into the US Amateur Team events. However his wife immediately set out to thwart these plans and made sure the team doesn't fall under the 2200 maximum, as she jumped from 900 to 1700 in the last 4 years and has qualified for this year's US Championship (along with Ben of course!).

Ben has been a colorful part of the American chess scene for well over a decade. I still remember how I went to the 1994 US Open in Illinois and saw some random guy offering people rook odds in 2 minute chess to all comers. At the time I was a young master and was prepared to embarrass the poor sap, however I was blissfully unaware of Ben's blitz prowess and actually had quite a difficult time (and it pains me to admit I may have lost more games than I won.)

Ben has been working towards his GM title for a long time and despite almost always being the highest rated IM in the country he always had trouble getting over the hump. Just this year, though, he has been on a tear and jacked his USCF rating up about 80 points to 2649 while tying for first in the 2005 National Open. With only 12 active American GMs rated higher than him (out of about 40), it was hard to imagine the GM title wouldn't be coming soon.

On a more personal level, Ben is also proud to be achieving results not only in chess, but in other areas as well. He's lost 80 pounds since the beginning of 2005. His goal is to lose 100 more by July 2006. Since he gained 80 USCF points while losing 80 pounds, one can hope that he can keep up the pace. It's possible we will soon be seeing a 2800 USCF rated Ben Finegold tipping the scales at 75 pounds.

Congratulations to Ben Finegold for making America proud! Who will be the next American IM to be mixed in with all the GMs in the top of the rating lists for years? Only time will tell...


My congratulations to Ben Finegold! It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. I will always cherish his statement "everybody sucks at chess, except for Kasparov, who only sucks a little bit".

I vaguely recall that Albin (I think) Planinc from Yugoslavia had a result in a tournament in the late 60s - early 70s that should have made him a GM, but he was not allowed to skip the intermediate IM stage. I would be glad to have more information about that.

Achieving the GM title represents so much passion and dedication. It is a great thing.

Ben: how are you celebrating?

IM is not, and as far as I know, has never been an "intermediate" stage. It's simply a different title with different requirements.

One can be awarded the GM title without ever becoming an IM for any of several event accomplishments (such as winning the World Junior or World Senior Chamionship). To become a GM by norms, one has to earn three GM norms and have a minimum rating of 2500. There's no rule that says one has to be an IM first.



Ben, congratulations again! Well-earned and well-deserved. :)

warm regards,

Don't forget that Kramnik skipped the IM title too... we wouldn't want any accusations of favourtism to arise now would we?

;) ;) ;)

At least from what I remember reading, the first 5 soviet players to get the GM title were just appointed the title, I'm not sure how all these norms got wrapped up in it :-). I don't think they were IMs first either....

Why not just have the Czar award the title.

Duif, in the days I am speaking of, the World Junior Champion (there was no Senior Champion then) was awarded the *IM* title, and the winner was happy to get it. Please remember that I am talking about times that seem very long ago to most people here. Information about current FIDE practice is completely irrelevant. (Well, it always is, if you ask me.)

Duif, it actually isn't three norms, but rather norms covering now 27 games (used to be 24), so if you could find two long tournaments, for example, two norms would be fine. I realize this is rare, but just wanted to clarify.

http://www.fide.com/official/handbook.asp?level=B0101 section 1.50a

World Junior is GM. Most of the winners are already GM these days. An example was Tal Shaked. Also, the winner of the European Women's Championship is awarded the GM title if her name is Kosteniuk.


I'll publicly congratulate you here Ben. You rule.


Thank you for the correction. Yes, there are a number of exceptions.

Charles Milton Ling,

You are certainly right, the exact rules have changed a number of times. As I mentioned, I don't believe that being an IM was ever a FIDE requirement for becoming a GM.

However, there may have been rules set by various individual countries as to whether or not they would submit someone for a GM who hadn't been an IM, so perhaps the difference lies there.

(I don't know that to be the case, but it's possible--FIDE won't accept an application from an individual, only from the country federation.)

I am not a chess historian, but I did used to write the chess trivia column for the USCF website, so I have done some research into the various title issues. Hopefully someone with information more specific to GM Planinc will be able to speak directly to your question.


I believe Mark Paragua's title was confirmed in Dresden. It's been in limbo for a year. Amazing talent! I remember China's Ni Hua being a 2560+ FM and he practically skipped the IM title... held it for a very short time. There are some pretty strong untitled players as well.

Thanks everyone.

I celebrated by playing golf and bridge today. :)


And Fries.

Congrats Mr. Finegold. I admire your hard work and plan to devote my upcoming weekend study time to a few dozen of your games. For now, a double shot of Jim Beam hoisted a foot and a half over my head in your honor.

Mig: "I've cleverly registered the "GMFinegold" version to prevent some unscrupulous person from extorting beer in exchange for the account password"

Meaning that now instead a scrupulous person will, I guess ...

Here's a little collection of critical positions in Ben's games. Congratulations !

(Click on TWHarvey to go to the page he's talking about.)

I will admit many of those positions have fun tactics, but I would hardly call them all "critical". Many of the positions can be won without the tactical solution (of course it takes longer).

I played Ni Hua at the 2001 National Open Blitz, back when he was "only" an FM. Somehow I managed to spring a particularly evil tactic on him to win that game, but I remember thinking he was just about the toughest FM I had ever faced. I wonder how soon after that event he became a GM.

Ben, congratulations! I am very happy for you and hope this is a sign of more victories to come! You seem like a great guy.


Hi Yuriy,

Well observed! The only guy even POSSIBLY better than me is Bender, although I would doubt the ship would agree.


That's a great site you have put in, Mr.Harvey. My son visits your site al least once a week.

Thanks. Keep it accessible, if you know what I mean! lol

Sure thing.

Your son? I wondered where all those hits were coming from.... :-)

Btw, I first 'met' GM-elect Finegold through eBay where he was kind enough to autograph one of his books.


A very, very sincere congratulations to Ben Finegold! From all his Michigan friends AND FANS (some of us have known him for over 25 years) it makes us very proud to see one of us make it to the big time! You've only just begun Ben!

For all those who claim the GM title has been devalued. See how difficult it is even for a strong and high-rated player.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 25, 2005 5:38 PM.

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