2020 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion!
Irina Krush on Santa Monica Pier, California
Irina Krush has won her 8th U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, edging 2nd Place 17-year-old Carissa Yip by a half point. Krush scored an undefeated 8.5/11 in a 12-player single round-robin. The tournament was held October 21-24, 2020 and had a prize fund of $100,000.
Irina has now won the title eight times! Irina Krush won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship seven times between 1998 and 2015–once winning the title four times in a row between 2012 and 2015!
Irina now needs one more title to tie Gisela Kahn Gresser’s record of nine titles.
The Record Holder!
Gisela Kahn Gresser
U.S. Women’s Chess Champion!
Gisela Kahn Gresser won the title nine times between 1944 and 1969.
Gisela Kahn Gresser was born February 8, 1906 in Detroit, Michigan and died December 4, 2000.
Gresser studied classics at Radcliffe, where she won a Charles Elliott Norton fellowship that she used to continue her studies at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece.
In 1927, she returned to New York, where she married William Gresser, a New York City attorney and musicologist. She was a housewife, and raised their two sons, Ion and Julian.
Gresser was also an accomplished painter and musician, as well as a classical scholar. She went on safari many times, even in her eighties.
Coronavirus Strikes! See below.
In March 2020, 36-year-old Irina Krush contracted coronavirus and fiercely battled and beat it.
Irina Krush was born December 24, 1983 in Odessa, USSR (now Ukraine). Her father taught her to play chess at age five.
Also at 5 years old, Irina moved with her family from Odessa to the United States–in a wave of Jewish emigration from the USSR–and settled in Brooklyn, New York.
In Brooklyn, Irina attended P.S. 254, where she learned English, and later she went to Edward R. Murrow High School.
At 6 years old, she won her first tournament at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan, and took home a $20 check. She now teaches at the club!
At 14 years old, Krush won the 1998 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship to become the youngest U.S. women’s champion ever.
She went on to win the championship on six other occasions as well–in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Irina krush 15 years old at chessboard in high school
In 2013, Irina earned the Grandmaster title.
Irina Krush after earning Grandmaster title in 2013
Coronavirus Strikes! What happened?
In recent years, Irina’s focus shifted from competitive chess to teaching. After the last class she taught at the Marshall Chess Club in early March before getting sick, a student told Irina she was not riding the subway home for fear of the coronavirus.
It was the first time that Irina began to consider the implications of the disease in the United States.
Then on March 12, Irina fell sick. By March 17, she developed breathing problems. The next day, she went to urgent care at the Community Hospital in Brooklyn–not far from where she played chess as a child–and tested positive for COVID-19. She spent two days in the hospital.
She returned home, still feeling miserable, and on March 22 she developed severe breathing problems that left her in agony. She could barely sleep–having to sleep sitting upright to alleviate the chest pain.
Fearful that she might not survive, she reluctantly returned to urgent care that night.
“I didn’t want to just die at home alone,” she said.
Irina back at chessboard recovered from COVID-19
In the days that followed, Irina began to think about the similarities between her ordeal and a very challenging chess game, how everything she had learned through chess was helping her–like staying calm, moving quickly in a difficult situation to prevent further damage and maximizing her chances.
“It’s not just a disease,” she said. “It’s a life trial. Chess players know what it’s like to be in a bad position, to suffer. I realized it was going to be a long game, with no easy victory.”
Recovered now and with her health improving daily, Irina Krush looks forward to winning her 9th and 10th U.S. Women’s Chess Championships!
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