Grandmaster Julio Becerra: Growing up in communist Cuba, he learned to play chess at the very late age of 13. He earned the title of Grandmaster in 1997. He won the Cuban Championship in 1995 and 1998. In 1999, he represented Cuba at the World Championship in Las Vegas. After the tournament, he defected. “I felt that it was my last opportunity and that if I didn’t take it, it would be in my mind my whole life,” he said. Grandmaster Becerra had very few opportunities to compete between 1999 and 2005 because he did not have an American passport. After having a chance to play, he has blossomed into one of the leading Grandmasters in the United States. In 2006, he won the Florida Open and the U.S. Chess League MVP award as a member of the Miami Sharks. He represented the U.S. in the World Cup in November 2007, and he tied for 1st at the 2008 Foxwoods Open.
Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn: Born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1980, Eugene and his family moved to the United States in 1994. He graduated from the University of Maryland in Baltimore County in 2002 with a degree in computer science, and he was the captain of the UMBC chess team. Eugene is also a former recipient of the prestigious Samford Fellowship. He represented the United States in the World Junior Championship 5 times. He also led UMBC to 5 National Championship titles. Some of his most impressive accomplishments so far include winning the 2003 Generation Chess Invitational, the 2006 Foxwoods Open, and the 2007 SPICE Cup Invitational, the highest-rated invitational tournament in the U.S. in the past 6 years.