(Vinay Bhat gave live commentary for the top boards at the 2007 CalChess Scholastics.)
According to a press release on the USCF homepage, Bay Area International Master Vinay Bhat was awarded one of two Samford Fellowships for "chess talent, work ethic, dedication and accomplishments." The nation's largest chess Fellowship, which is renewable for up to two years, provides $32,000 annually to the recipient for "top-level coaching, strong competition and access to study materials." The stated goal is to cultivate young American masters who may compete with the best players of the world. Bhat shared the honors for 2008 with IM Irina Krush of New York, the reigning US Women's Champion. Other recent Samford fellows include local IMs David Pruess and Josh Friedel.
Always a friendly and cheerful person, Vinay Bhat is quite popular among Bay Area chess players. At 10 years old in 1995, he set the record for the youngest USCF master, a mark that has been broken twice since then, most recently by NM Nicholas Nip. These days, he plays for the San Francisco Mechanics in the US Chess League, stunning top rated GM Hikaru Nakamura last October despite a 70-1 time disadvantage. Last July in Balaguer, Spain, Bhat earned the final of three norms required for the Grandmaster title. FIDE approved his application for GM, conditional on achieving an international rating of 2500. He needs less than 20 points before the title becomes official. It is merely a matter of time before we can refer to GM Vinay Bhat! Congratulations!