Polgar: A 20-year-old dream finally comes true at the SPICE Cup tourney
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Sunday, October 11, 2009
Story last updated at 10/11/2009 – 2:54 am

Back in the 1980s, Ben Fine-gold, a young phenom from Michigan, emerged as the next bright young American chess star. Over the next two decades, Ben mostly lived up to the expectation.

He has consistently ranked in the top 10 in the United States in the past 20 years. Some of his major accomplishments include winning both the U.S. Open Championship and the National Open Championship, twice. He also won the prestigious Samford fellowship.

Over the years, Ben became one of the most well-liked professional players in the circuit. He is also one of the most well-loved chess coaches. His colleagues admire him and respect him. His students love him.

But there is one thing that was missing in Ben’s illustrious chess resume. The Grandmaster title.

It is much harder to earn the Grandmaster title than a Ph.D. as there are only around 1,000 Grandmasters in the entire world.

In order to be a Grandmaster, one has to fulfill two major requirements:

1. Norm requirement.
2. Rating requirement.

Ben had no problem achieving the rating requirement. He fulfilled that requirement years ago. But he just could not fulfill the norm requirement. He was just one short of the final step. For years, he was so close to earning the final norm for his Grandmaster title. But for one reason or another, he missed it.

As Ben just turned 40, his chances of earning the last Grandmaster norm obviously diminish. It is not easy to compete against up-and-coming young guns less than half his age. His own son is even older than some of the players in the SPICE Cup.

In spite of the odds, Ben did not give up his dream. This is why I was compelled to invite Ben to the SPICE Cup. I wanted to give Ben a chance to fulfill his longtime dream. In my heart, I knew that Ben was more than good enough to be a Grandmaster. But the stress and pressure often got the best of him in crucial moments.

I felt that the warmth and hospitality of West Texas and the excellent environment of Texas Tech were the medicine that Ben needed.
It worked.

Ben was off to a flying start and with one round to go, he successfully earned the final Grandmaster norm. He also tied for first in the B group with two other American Grandmasters, Perelshteyn and Bhat.

After 20 long years, Ben has finally shed the “should have been” label and became America’s next Grandmaster, a 40-year-old Grandmaster. Who says nice guy has to finish last? Not this time. Congratulations Grandmaster Ben Finegold!

Source: Avalanche Journal

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