Play Live Challenge 2016 Contestants

With the Play Live Challenge 2016 set to start later today, read all about the lucky contestants who have won the opportunity to play Magnus Carlsen in New York City!

Andrew Grojean

Representing: USA Currently Resides in: Kansas City, USA
Andrew Grojean is a social media manager for a digital marketing agency in Kansas City, MO. He began playing chess at the age of eight and entered (and won) several local tournaments as a kid. However, it was only until after college that Andrew began playing chess regularly. Andrew finds chess relaxing, so he makes sure to play a game or two every night. With nearly 900 games against Magnus in the Play Magnus app, Andrew is looking forward to taking on the real deal.

On winning the Play Magnus Live Challenge: "I'm ecstatic to have won the Play Magnus Live Challenge this year. Magnus has been an idol of mine for several years and I cannot wait to meet and play him. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to play against a grandmaster, let alone the greatest player of all time. My goal will be to represent amateur players well and play a good game for as long as possible. I can’t wait to tell my future kids and grandkids about the time I got checkmated by Magnus Carlsen.”

Emil Harveit

Representing: Norway Currently Resides in: Osterøy, Norway
I'm 27 years old and I live on Osterøy, an island outside Bergen in Norway. I currently work at a factory here on Osterøy as a QA inspector. 

My interests are mainly sports. I'm a complete sports junkie and watch almost anything on TV, especially if there are any Norwegians competing. Football is my main interest, and I especially follow my local fourth division team Valestrand Hjellvik FK closely.

Chess and poker are the two sports I play the most, if you can classify them as sports. I of course follow every tournament Magnus plays, especially if they're broadcasted on Norwegian TV.

My personal experience with chess is purely recreational. I've never competed in a tournament of any kind and I'm not a member of a chess club. I play a little with friends just for fun, but I mainly play against Magnus at 8 years old on the Play Magnus app - a couple of games a day on average, I would say. I find that a couple of games of chess helps me relax after a long day at work. I get to lock everything else out for a while and just focus on the next move.
To win the Play Live Challenge 2016 and to get a chance to actually meet Magnus and play against him is of course a huge honor. I never even thought of the possibility of winning this competition because I thought you had to be really good at chess to win. I thought that playing Magnus at higher levels would score you more points and therefore a better chance of winning, so I really didn't see myself as a contestant for the prize. It will be a lot of fun meeting him and though we all know the outcome of the game I'm really looking forward to seeing him in action and playing against him. Frankly I think I would have a better chance against Usain Bolt in a 100 meter sprint than I do here, but as I said I'm really looking forward to it.

Gustav Gudbrandsen

Representing: Norway Currently Resides in: Oslo, Norway
Gustav Gudbrandsen is a 52 year old FIDE master from Oslo, Norway. Married and with two sons, some chess players in Norway find it amusing that his two sons are named Magnus and Simen, resembling the names of Magnus Carlsen and former coach, Simen Agdestein. Gustav was educated as a library and currently works as the Head of Archives at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

In his spare time Gustav likes to read, watch TV, and be together with his family. Some of his preferred TV-programs are “Band of Brothers”, “The Sopranos” and the Norwegian reality show “71 Degrees North”, however one of his favourite things to watch is his 13 year old son’s football matches. Although he probably works too much, he also enjoys physical training such as walking, running and exercising at the gym.

Gustav has been in chessclubs for 41 years, but has been less active in the last few years. 13 years ago, Gustav actually played Magnus Carlsen! In 2003 he lost against Magnus when their teams met in the regional team championship in Norway. Gustav became FIDE-master later that year and has held an International Masters-norm from 1997.

Isaac Wiebe

Representing: Canada Currently Resides in: Winnipeg, Canada

I started playing chess just for fun at age 6 and started studying chess tactics when I was 13. At 15, I qualified for the Scholastic Chess Nationals, representing Manitoba in 2010.

After 2012, I took some time off chess to pursue my undergraduate degree in computer engineering. In 2014 I got back into chess, and was on a mission to become a Canadian National Master (2200+ rating). My Canadian rating went from 1520 in August 2014 to 2220 in January 2016.

Play Magnus is a very unique training tool which I enjoy using. Whenever I am trying out a new opening, I will run a variation by Play Magnus first, to make sure I know the opening theory especially well. Play Magnus has enhanced my tactical abilities as well. I especially love watching Magnus Carlsen play against the app, because he shows everyone how to combat such a dynamic style of play. I cannot wait to meet the greatest player of my generation, Magnus Carlsen. It is an honour to win the Play Magnus Live Challenge.

Ivet Sala Samarra

Representing: Spain Currently Resides in: Matadepera, Spain
My name is Ivet Sala Samarra, and I am 16 years old. I live in Matadepera with my family and have two little sisters. I’m actually going to start the sciences and technologies baccalaureate, so in two years I want to start studying a course at university, although I’m not sure what I want to study just yet.

In my free time I like to do art things and artistic crafts as I really like art and design. I also like to do mathematics; to solve difficult problems and to learn different and new mathematical topics. I appreciate the logic of mathematics, and I also really like to do mental calculations. I like to read too, especially about interesting things from which I can learn. I play sports as well, particularly hockey and exercising at the gym. In my free time I hang out with my friends, usually to the mall or cinema. I am also trying to learn computer programming. I adore dogs and also love thrilling experiences and adventures. Of course, in my free time I also play chess.

I was introduced into the chess world by my sports teacher when I was 13 (the 1st high school year). I had never played chess before, so I was the worst in my class. Chess was a very important component in the final grade, so just like other sports, I had to dedicate a lot of time to improve. I improved all the way to becoming the best in my class in the 3rd year. At this point my teacher encouraged me to participate in the city tournament. Some class partners and I participated in the tournament, but unfortunately I lost all my games and I returned home sad, but with a purpose: next year I’ll do better. And that’s what I did. During the Summer of 2015 I downloaded the “Play Magnus App” and I started playing against Magnus, dreaming that one day I could play against the real Magnus and meet him.

When summer finished I returned to school, and was significantly better at chess. With Magnus’ videos and lessons, I improved so much. So I attended the city tournament again as the only girl, and uncovered a great surprise: I won all my games and I won the competition! After winning this tournament I qualified for the Catalonia Championship, but couldn’t finish it because I was on a Final Course trip for school. I really love chess and try to play and improve every day. I play with different applications, and I often read some parts of a chess book or watch chess YouTube videos.

Meeting Magnus is a dream come true for me! I always wished that one day I would meet him and play against him too! To see how he plays with my own eyes! He is one of my favourite public figures, and the possibility of meeting him is incredible for me; I already can’t believe that it’s true!

Michael Dimitriadis

Representing: Austria Currently Resides in: near Riegersburg Castle, Austria
  My name is Michael Dimitriadis and I was born in 1966 in Graz, the second biggest city in Austria. My father was born in Greece and came to study in Austria. He met my mother here, married her and has since then become an Austrian citizen. I grew up in Graz and during my college time I developed a great interest for mathematics, which had it's brightest moment when I participated in the 1985 International Mathematic Olympiad in Finland and won a bronze medal. Later I added informatics to my interests and finished my education in 1991 as a Master of Technical Mathematics at the University of Technology in Graz. Immediately after finishing university I began working at Infonova (then a small company but now having more than 300 employees and being part of Bearingpoint) and worked the last 25 years there as an expert in database issues.

I am married since 1994 to Silvia and am a father of two sons, Philipp and Georg. Since our marriage we have lived about 60 kilometres away from Graz near the castle of Riegersburg. I learned the basics of chess at the age of 7, but my main activity then was playing soccer during my free time. I started playing soccer in a team at 14 and played with several clubs up to the age of 30, with my highest engagement being in Austria’s fourth division. After finishing soccer training on a regular schedule at the age of 30, I started playing chess on a more serious basis and also joined a local chess club. I played several tournaments a year, while nowadays this number has decreased to one or two, with the intention to become more active again. My top FIDE ELO-rating was 2150, but it has decreased a bit and is now closer to 2000. So chess is definitely my main interest now, along with watching several TV-series and listening to audiobooks.

The first time my attention came to Magnus was when I read about a young guy who crushed his higher-rated opponents and was trained by Simen Agdestein. I knew about Simen Agdestein before, who was a soccer player of the Norwegian national team and a great chess player, which I found very impressive. From then on I followed Magnus’ progress in tournaments and later his world championships as a fan, which is easy these days with all the broadcasts on the internet.
I started participating in the Play Live Challenge without really expecting to have a chance to win something. But when I saw that I could gather a lot of points at the lower levels, I spent half a year competing with an american guy in playing thousands of games against Magnus at the ages from 5 to 7.

I began dreaming of meeting Magnus Carlsen in person, who obviously likes both activities I spent most of my leisure time in, chess and soccer, but got disappointed when I did not appear in the list of winners of the Play Live Challenge 2015. I continued to play against the app but my appearance in the winners list of the Play Live Challenge 2016 came as a big surprise. I can't await to meet Magnus in person, sitting (maybe standing) on the opposite side of a chess board. I look forward to some memorable moments with my chess-hero. I am sure I will not forget this for the rest of my life.

Moshe Inoyatov

Representing: USA Currently Resides in: Forest Hills, New York, USA
  My name is Moshe Inoyatov. I have lived in Forest Hills, N.Y. for my entire life. My family moved to the US from Tajikistan in 1993 and had me one year later. I guess it was the old Soviet heritage and Jewish religion in our blood that made my father, Rosher, a huge lover of chess, and what lead him to pass his passion of the game onto me (his only son). Being born in the US, chess never caught my interest in early childhood days, but by age ten my dad insisted I learn and taught me how to move the pieces. 

Sometime around when I was eleven, I was at my cousins house for the afternoon and he insisted we play a game of chess. My cousin is two years older than me and had more experience in the game at the time. He won the first three games swiftly, but by the fourth game he accidentally blundered his queen and I happily took it off the board. He told me it was a slip of his hand, but wanting to win I refused to give it back. After a bit of arguing, my cousin looked up to me and said “Fine, I can beat you with or without my queen, play on!”. I did and needless to say that was the first time I ever beat him. However it was from that instance that my competitive personality for the game developed.

Every Saturday afternoon, me and my dad would sit down and play a few games. After he’d win he would go over some of my mistakes in the post-game analysis. I was thirteen when I first beat my dad, and it felt great! I wanted to feel it again, so I kept playing with him and winning.

At eighteen I went to college and majored in biology. It was at that point when I really started to use chess as a constructive outlet from all the heavy studying that was required (especially after the Play Magnus App. came out). It was also around this time that I started looking into chess literature and analyzed some of the greatest games in history.

I am currently enrolled in a rigorous competitive Doctoral Program of Pharmacology at Touro college, and I truly believe that it was chess that gave me the right attitude to trust my calculations that I make on my exams and even in life.

Meeting the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, means the world to me. For the past four years I have been watching his games in awe and wondering how his brain thinks like an engine and sometimes even better! By meeting Magnus, I am hoping to gain some of his knowledge and attitude towards the game which is precisely what makes him a hero in my eyes.

Polina Karelina

Representing: The Bahamas Currently Resides in: The Bahamas
  I was born in Ukraine and I have lived in the Bahamas since I was 4 years old. I have been playing chess since I was 5 years old, but due to scoliosis I sadly had to stop when I was 11. I had surgery last year so I'm feeling great now. I became interested in playing chess again after the surgery.

Of course, it isn’t easy returning to a sport after taking such a long break. I found out about the PlayMagnus app, and decided to try it out. Having the option to choose the different age levels was very nice since I wasn’t sure what level I was on. I noticed I started making progress and winning against higher ages. It brought my confidence back. I played my first tournament after the break in January 2016. I want to become a professional chess player. This is an amazing opportunity to play the world champion.

Soeren Marx

Representing: Germany Currently Resides in: Kiel
  I was born on Feburary 7th, 1997 in Würzburg, Germany. When I was 10 years old, my family moved to Mannheim. Currently I'm studying law at the University in Kiel. In my free time I like to go to the gym, be with my girlfriend and play online chess.

I started playing chess only in 2014, after reading an article about Magnus Carlsen in the German magazine "Der Spiegel" called 'Carlsen der Große'. The article and Magnus Carlsen himself fascinated me so much that on the same day, I looked for a chess board in our house. Shortly after, (probably just a few days later) I installed the Play Magnus App on my phone and played it daily. After a while, I started playing online chess as well.
It's hard to put it into words what the Play Live challenge and meeting Magnus Carlsen means to me, but I can probably summarize it as the biggest dream I had for the last 2 years coming true, since Magnus Carlsen is my idol and a person I look up to in many more ways than just chess.

Vedic Panda

Representing: USA Currently Resides in: Alpharetta, Georgia, USA
  My name is Vedic Panda. I am a highschool student chess player from Alpharetta, Georgia. I am currently a freshman at Cambridge High School as well as an active chess expert. My main interests are to get 95+ in every subject in high school, become a chess national master by the end of 2016, and help my high school chess team get 1st in the high school team state championship.

I am currently a chess expert (over 2000 USCF). I started playing chess in the 5th grade (2012) and have always been regarded as a late starter chess wise by my grade rivals. Recently at the start of February 2016, I have gained over 100 points (No where near in comparison to Magnus) and recently crossed 2000 to 2100, although I have recently dropped to 2000. I feel very excited to meet one of my chess idols, THE Magnus Carlsen, THE Mozart of chess. I believe that playing strong players is the best way to get better at chess, and the fact that I have the opportunity to play the strongest chess player ever is a dream come true. It was always a dream for me to meet a super GM and the fact that I am going to meet and play against the best chess player in the world is a great opportunity that I hope will improve my chess in more ways than I thought possible.