Joel Benjamin started his extraordinary chess career very young. In 1976, he came home with the National Elementary Championship title. In 1977, at the age of 13, Joel became the first person to break Bobby Fischer's record, becoming the youngest U.S. Master to that time. In 1978, he was National Junior High Champion and in 1980 (the year he earned his International Master status) National High School Champion as well as U.S. Junior Champion. In 1981 he repeated his success as National High School Champion. And he repeated his U.S. Junior championhip in 1982.
Joel won his first U.S. Open in 1985 — the year he graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in history. The following year Joel earned the title of International Grandmaster. In 1987 he became the first awardee of the Samford Fellowship as the most promising player under the age of 25 in the United States. Also this year he won his first of three U.S. Championships (with wins in 1997 and 2000).
In addition to finishing in second place five times for the U.S. Championship (and "equal third place" in the most recent '05 U.S. Championship), Joel is a five-time U.S. Olympic Chess Team member and two-time medalist and won two gold medals in the 1993 World Team Championship. Joel also won the last three Harvard Cups, in which Grandmasters played against chess computers.
In 1993, he tied for first at the NY Open. He represented the U.S. at the 1996 World Team Championships helping win the gold medal. He later won the bronze at the 1996 FIDE Olympiad. He earned his first right to be a participant in the FIDE World Championship in 1997/1998 and has qualified for each championship since; four of the past five World Championships Joel has entered the competition.
Owner and editor of the now defunct but riotously funny magazine Chess Chow, the multi-faceted Benjamin prides himself as having played in a record 22 consecutive U.S. Invitational Championships as well as working for IBM as a consultant for supercomputer Deep Blue in its successful match against Garry Kasparov in Philadelphia in February 1996.
His only regulation meeting against former
World Champion Garry Kasparov was at Horgen in 1994. Joel and Garry
played to a draw. Joel appeared in the documentary "Game Over:
Kasparov vs. the Machine", in the movie "Searching for Bobby
Fischer", and was
named to the list of 50 smartest New Yorkers by New York Magazine in 1995.
Pascal was born on May 6th, 1983, in Montreal, Canada. His parents, an actuary (background in math) and a computer science professor creatively matched Blaise Pascal's math with the Pascal programming language to find common ground for a name.
Pascal parent's taught him how the chess pieces move at the age of five, and from this modest introduction went on to play in scholastic tournaments very shortly thereafter. He won the Quebec provincial championship in grade two for the first time, and the national championship in grade five. Some years later, he became Canadian Cadet Champion (three times), Canadian champion under 18 (three times), and Canadian Junior champion (three times).
In the summer of 2000, as a 17-year-old FIDE Master with a rating of 2320, he defeated former World Junior champion GM Igor Miladinovic in a six-game match. This victory impressed Canadian chess authorities enough to send him to the Olympiad, where he has since represented Canada four times.
Pascal became Canadian champion in 2002, and defended his title successfully two years later. Later that year he moved to the United States to attend college at the University of Maryland and had participated with their national champion chess team.
During this time he began amassing the norms for the GM title, most noticeably at the Continental Championship of the Americas, in a field of 30+ GMs, with a tie for third place and a performance of 2665. In January 2006 Pascal achieved his last GM norm by winning clear first place in a Round-Robin event in Chicago.
Soon after graduating in May 2006, Pascal went to the Olympiad in Turin and defeated Vishy Anand, rated 2803 at the time of the game.
Pascal has also established himself as a chess analyst and commentator with a good sense of humor. He began as a teenager by doing audio commentary on the World Chess Network, and went on with more high profile events such as being the official commentator alongside Paul Hoffman at ABC studios for important matches.
Among other interests, Pascal played tennis competively for 10 years and is a certified instructor. He also enjoys basketball, literature, and singing in the shower.
Larry Christiansen, age 51, was born and raised in Riverside, California, a town about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
He learned to play chess at age nine from his brother James and friends at a local swim club. His first USCF rating was 1652 and he showed a steady rise up the rating latter. He won the National High School Championship in 9th grade and repeated that feat as a sophomore and junior in high school. He also won the United States Junior Invitational three times and represented the US twice in World Junior competitions where he finished third in 1973 and 2nd in 1975.
Christiansen became a "grandmaster" in 1977 thanks to some strong showings in several Spanish tournaments. He is one of the few grandmasters to leap over the intermediate title of international master (world champions Mikhail Tal and Vladimir Kramnik also share that distinction).
In 1978 Christiansen was hired by the Church's Fried Chicken Corporation to become their chess goodwill ambassador, playing simultaneous exhibitions (including 10-board blindfold exhibitions) and giving lectures across the US and Canada. In 1980 Christiansen captured his first US Championship crown (shared with Walter Browne and Larry Evans) and repeated that achievement in 1983, tying for first this time with Browne and Roman Dzinzihashvilli. He won the title clear in 2002, defeating GM Nick de Firmian in a dramatic sudden-death playoff. He has also been runner-up four times.
In 1981 came Christiansen's biggest international success — sharing first place in the prestigious Linares International tournament with world champion Anatoly Karpov. Other notable International results include Cologne 1988 (1st), Cologne Cup 1990 (1st) Munich 1991 (1st), Reykjavik 1998 (1st), Merida 1998 (1st). Christiansen has represented the USA 13 times in International team competitions, including the gold-medal winning 1993 USA World Team.
In 1990 Christiansen and wife Natasha moved from New York to Porz, Germany where Christiansen was a leading member of the famed Porz Chess club and helped lead that club to several German chess league titles. He earned the nickname "The killer from Porz" thanks to some outstanding performances during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They returned to the US in 1998, taking residence in Cambridge.
Christiansen is a noted chess author — his works include Storming the Barricades, Rocking the Ramparts and Tallin 1979. Most of his books illustrate the fiery attacking style that has become Christiansen's trademark.