Krush I

This woman just became the greatest American female chess player in history

Irina Krush win her seventh US Chess Championship the past weekend in St. Louis. In doing so, she notched her fourth consecutive US title and became without question the best American woman player of her generation and, really, in history.

It didn’t come easy for Krush. Although she was the only Grandmaster in the women’s side of the 12-player, 11-round tournament, she slipped back in the standings early and had to win four games in a row to set up a opportunity to snag the title with a draw in her final game (with the white pieces) against Katerina Nemcova.

In retrospect, however, Krush’s win was easier than her victory last year, when she defended her title in tie-breaker rounds.

This year, her run began with a decisive win over Annie Wang, the youngest player in the field at age 12. Wang became a Master at age 11, a pretty stunning achievement. Her presence in the US Championship was extra-special for me because she’s from Southern California — where my I and my family used to live — and has worked with worked with an organisation there called Beyond Chess that my son, James, has also spent some time with.

But she was no match for Krush, who won her first US Championship when she was 14, making her the youngest woman winner ever. Krush commented that she’d like to keep on competing, perhaps challenging the record of Gisela Gresser, a 9-time champion, with titles in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

Interestingly, while there are many more male GMs and highly ranked male players, we now have plenty of women in the game — and no reason why over time women and men couldn’t more frequently play each other at the top levels. In some tournaments, they already do (Krush’s GM title, by the way, is the equivalent of a man’s — she isn’t a “Woman Grandmaster” of WGM, due her high rating, and its worth noting that the GM title has been gender-neutral for decades).

Krush’s comment about Gresser was classy and demonstrated the Ukranian-born GM’s grasp of chess history (she came to the US when she was 4 and now hails from Brooklyn). Of course, women’s chess in Krush era is a lot more demanding that when Gresser played — the talent pool is deeper, players start a lot younger, the coaching is more intense, and computer analysis enables players to far more deeply prepared than in the past.

For Krush, now 31, the obvious question is, “Can she contend for the World Championship crown?” That title is currently held by Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine, although she captured it through a “knock-out” tournament format that saw the previous World Champ, Hou Yifan of China, decline to play.

Full article here.

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