American Woman - Part VII

American Woman - Part VII

| 36 | Chess Players

     An official U.S. Women's Chess Championship has existed for over 80 years.  The USCF lists 1937 as the first year.  There have been many strong and important women players over the early years but when Diane Savereide appeared and dominated the women's chess arena for almost a decade, women's chess stated taking monumental strides.   

     With this series of essays I hope to detail at the development of women's chess in the United States and memorialize the ladies who pioneered that initial progress between 1937 and 1975 when Savereide won her first championship.

Part I  |  Part II  Part III  |  Part IV  |  Part V  |  Part VI  |

                         This installment  goes beyond the original scope of this series.       

     While examining the records from the 1976 through 1990, I was struck by several things.  Women's chess was just coming into its own with the advent of better trained, more scientific young players.  Yet the coverage of the US Women's Chess Championships was almost begrudgingly spotty during this time frame -- sometimes good, other times not so good.  Additionally, the championship was cancelled many of those years (1977, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1988) due to lack of funding and/or sponsorship.   These were years following the Bobby Fischer surge in chess interest and presumably in USCF membership.  While this surge was temporary and the membership dwindled off for a while, there was another resurgence in membership in the 1980s. [see:80 Years of US Chess by Al Lawrence.  Chess Life Dec. 2019].  So, despite the talent that was becoming ever more evident, the road for these ladies was hilly and windy during this 15 years stretch. 

     As late
as April 8, 1985, 
Jim Kaplan wrote an article for in "Sports Illustrated" entitled, "In The World Of Chess, Man Thinks Of Himself As King, Woman As Pawn."

     It starts off with the question: "Why have I yet to meet a woman who plays decent social chess?"  and follows up with some interesting observations:

"At the 1984 Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, each American male player received a $1,500 honorarium, plus additional payment for doing well. The women were paid only $1,150 apiece, with the promise of a 'nice surprise' for a good performance. Fourth-ranked Rachel Crotto of Venice, Calif. finished second. She's still waiting for her surprise. U.S. women's champion Diane Savereide of Santa Monica, Calif. knows how Crotto felt. 'I was once invited to a Connecticut event,' she says, 'but all they wanted me to do was play five-minute exhibition games before the actual tournament began. They couldn't believe a strong woman player existed.'"


"Granted, the U.S. has a handful of women who, like Izrailov, take the time to play in tournaments, but few understand the game's creative possibilities, and as a result most women never get started at all. "Chess is a snore and a bore," says one otherwise intelligent and enlightened woman. The problem is that chess is usually perceived as war, and men have long been considered more warlike than women. The more harmonious side of chess—a duet for two musicians—is frequently ignored in the heat of combat. Says Manhattan's Diana Lanni, the 13th-ranked U.S. woman, 'Chess is pretty, creative, aesthetic and artistic—all things women are supposed to be interested in.'  Alas, few women are exposed to such beauty."

    In short, during that period of time women's chess wasn't yet treated seriously.  The funding and spotty reporting reflected that attitude.


     Let's first orient ourselves by looking at the top 50 U.S. Women list for early 1976

     This list contains some well known names and some that are rather obscure.  The highest rated woman, Diane Savereide, hadn't broken through the 2000 ceiling.

     11 of the top 12 women traveled to Teton Village, Wyoming (adjacent to Jackson Hole)  to play in the 1976 event. The Championship in an invitational and most of the top ten players participated. In fact Linda Mahan was the only one from that elite group excluded.  She was, however, chosen to be the first alternate player and would have participated had any of the invitees bowed out.  As it happened, it was Mahan herself who had located the site during her drive to Milwaukee the previous year for the 1975 championship and became so enamored with the site, she convinced Teton Village to submit a bid for 1976.

     As far as women events go, this was a sweetheart deal.  The USCF partnered with the Teton Village Resort Association with the USCF paying the food and travel expenses, while the Association provided the venue, lodging and $1050.00 in prize money.  The games were played at the Hilton and Sojourner Inns [now, the Best Western Resort at Jackson Hole],  


    Pearl Mann,the only female certified National Tournament Director (and FIDE International Arbiter) was TD. 

         Besides the $300.00 in prize money, Savereide was awarded custody Perpetual Lucille Kellner Memorial Trophy and a sterling silver Paul Revere bowl, plus she received a a silver replica of the trophy as a keepsake. All of these had been donated by Louis Kellner, of Detroit, the brother of the late Lucille Kellner.  Mr. Kellner also provided with refreshments and a momento (an engraved 1oz Commemorative Silver Bar -click here to see the silver bar housed at the Chess Hall of Fame in Louisville Ky) of the tournament.

Miss Savereide's domination of American women is evident in her two point lead over her nearest rivals, Dorothy Teasley of New York and Ruth Herstein of Los Angeles, who shared second place with scores of 6‐4. The only player to win a game from Miss Savereide was Ruth Donnelly of Smithtown, L.I.,
---NY Times 9/26/76


     Diane Savereide was on fire in 1976. 

First she won the U.S. Women's Championship (for the second time), then became the U.S. Open Women's Champion followed by winning the important Marshall Women's Invitational.  


     Not directly related to the U.S. Women's Championship but pertinent nonetheless, Savereide (board 1), Crotto (board 2),  Herstein (board 3) and Orton (reserve) were selected to be on the Olympiad team for the event held in Haifa, Israel October-November 1976.  IM William Martz was the trainer/Captain. 

     The USA team ended up in fourth place in Group A (behind Israel, England and Spain). Ruth Orton won the individual Bronze Medal for the reserve group.
     An odd situation occurred in the game between Diane Savereide and England's chmpion, Jana Harston.  According to Martz, it had been announced at the start that the rule governing one's responsibility to record one's moves would be strictly enforced.  An unspecified Israeli player had even forfeited a game for refusing to record the moves under time-pressure.  In the Harston-Savereide game Harston, in time pressure, stopped writing down on move 34, but Savereide (who was thought to have had an equal or better position but was also in time trouble) continued recording her moves with the impression that the arbiter would intervene. Isaac Kashdan, the chief judge, chose to let it slide, in effect giving Harston a time advantage where little time remained and which most likely was a factor in her blunder on move 39.  In the appeal, it was determined that the judge had the right of discretion in this matter.  It's highly probable that the lack of consistent enforcement of this rule cost Savereide either the game or a draw.  Jana Malypetrova (Mrs.William) Harston (later married Robert Bellin, the Tony Miles) who had been a 2x Czech women's champion and an 8x British women's chess champion, won the individual silver medal for 1st board.

---William Martz                                                                                                  

     Looking at the Top 50 list at the end of 1976, we see Diane Savereide has vaulted past 2100 


      There was no U.S. Women's Championship in 1977.

Both Savereide and Orton were granted WIM titles retroactively.

     Diane Savereide won the prestigious Marshall Women's Invitational  with 4.5/5 score.   Billiancy Prizes were given for each of the 5 rounds and Savereide additionally won three of those prizes. Second place with a 4/5 score was a 4-way tie for Ruth Donnely, Mary Conlon, Dolly Teasley and Victoria Khlopotenkova.  Others with plus scores included Mona Karff (3.5), and Susan Sterngold, Judy Hulse, Reva Thomas, Robin Kavall, Brenda Gilmore, Krista Van Laan, Pat Regan and Tanya Dobratz, all with 3 pts.

Diane Savereide also won the women's prize at the American Open played at the L.A. Hilton Nov. 24-27.

From the Top 50 list for late 1977



     Diane Savereide and Rachel Crotto shared 1st place in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship. 

     Rachel Crotto and Diane Savereide did a splendid job reporting on this event and gave a little insight into each of the other players (shown below the crosstable) The ladies were provided college dorm rooms for lodging. The chapel was used as the playing room, the pipe organ sharing the stage with the chess players.  The college had also donated $500 towards the prize fund. Members of the Rochester Chess Club were very generous with their time. They printed bulletins and manned the wallboards; one member and his wife drove willing players on a free day to Niagara Falls and into Canada. Rachel Crotto, Pam Ford and Karen Street took them up on their offer. The American Chess Foundation contributed $1000 to defray expenses. William Martz personally contributed several special prizes. 
     This was a fighting tournament. Of the 55 games played, only 11 ended in draws. 

Six games from the championship tournament

       Curiously enough, Savereide served as one of the scorekeeper's "wall boys" during the U.S. Championship held in the recital hall of Ambassador College in Pasadena.  

     Diane Savereide also won the women's prize at the the U.S. Open played Aug. 6-18 in the Phoenix Civic Plaza. However, unlike all the other prize winners who received cash, she took home a trophy.

from the end of 1978 . . .


. . . but as 1979 rolls in

     The 1979 championship took place from July 8-22 in the women's lounge of the Ackerman Union Building of UCLA in Los Angeles.  According to Rachel Crotto's engaging reporting, Phil Chase was the prime mover for this event, securing sponsorship from the Piatigorsky Foundation, the American Chess Foundation, the USCF and individual donors. With all the ladies gathered around a round table in the student union, lots were drawn from Kate Gasser's hat to determine the pairings.
     Crotto gave this short introduction of the players:

Both Savereide and Haring are veterans of the tournament. Diane, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., represented the United States in the 1976 Interzonals in Tbilisi and is scheduled to play in the 1979 Interzonals in Rio de Janeiro. She had held the U.S. Women's Championship title from 1975 until 1978, when she and I shared the title. This enabled both of us to participate in the Brazil Interzonals this year. Haring, now of San Francisco, has been a perennial favorite, finishing second in 1974 and 1975. She represented the United States in the 1976 Interzonals
in Holland.
Other veterans included: Katherine Gasser of Saugus, Mass., third place finisher last year; Gisela Gresser of New York, a nine-time U.S.
Woman Champion; Susan Sterngold of Chappaqua, N.Y.; Pamela Ford of San Francisco; and Karen Street and Greta Olsson, both from Los Angeles.
The new faces: Ekaterina Stolyarov, an emigre from the Soviet Union who now resides in San Francisco; Diana Lanni of Ann Arbor, Mich., who subsequently became a rated expert at the U.S. Open in Chicago; and Alison Bert of Atlanta, who at 18 was the youngest player in the tournament.

The happy winners.

     The two newcomers to the U.S. Women's Championship were 18 year old Alison Bert who described herself as a student and a professional classical guitar player. She also edited the Georgia Chess Newsletter and Diana Lanni who had just earned her expert ration at the U.S. Open in Chicago and shred 1st place with Jean Harrow in the Women's Mid-West Open.

Alison Bert at the 1980 U.S. Open

Diana Lanni with Diane Savereide in 1981

What Rachel Crotto considered to be some the best games of the tournament:

     Additionally, Diane Savereide participated in the women's interzonal in Alicante, Spain. Coming in 5th with a score of 11-6, she attained the best result for any American woman in an international competition. The achievement is all the more astonishing when one realizes that john Grefe had been scheduled to assist her, Rachel Crotto and Leonid Shamkovich in Brazil, but Brazil, who was hosting the two women's and one "men's"  interzonals, had to drop one of the women's events.  Alicante agreed to host the other women's interzonal and 23 year old Savereide went there all alone.  The USSR, in contrast, sent 5 women, 5 seconds and 1 coach/captain in their delegation to Alicante.


        There was no U.S. Women's Championship in 1980.

     One interesting item was mentioned in the coverage for the U.S. Open that year (played in Atlanta and covered by Alison Bert):

     Rachel Crotto went on a simul tour in 1980.


     1980 was a good year for Ruth Haring.  From Oct. 19-30, Haring participated in the second annual Thessaloniki Chess Festival in northern Greece which she won, from a field of 10, by a large margin with 8 pts. vs. second place's 6½ pts. . Then, in the Olympiad in Malta, Nov. 19-Dec. 7, the American team finished in 15th place out of 43. USSR won with 33 pts (2nd place Hungary had 32½ pts., so it was an intense event): Bd.1, Savereide 5½-6½;  Bd.2, Rachel Crotto 5½-5½;  Bd.3, Ruth Haring 7½-4½;  Bd.4, Vera Frenkel 3½-3½  (Peter Biyasas served as captain and analyst).


     Alison Bert, who contributed many reports for Chess Life,  did such a superlative job covering the 1981 U.S. Women's Championship, I've reproduced her article in full below: 

     Diane Savereide and Rachel Crotto repeated as zonal champions at this year's U.S. Women's Invitational Championship, which was held June 10-24 at the Intermountain Intertribal School in Brigham City, Utah. Savereide took clear 1st with 9-2, while Crotto finished in 2nd with 8 pts. For the past several years, they have taken turns holding the title of U.S. women's champion, and the two have had a practical monopoly on interzonal competition.
This year's championship was a zonal tournament — the first step in the world championship cycle which will produce the women's world champion in 1984. The top two finishers in this event receive expense-paid trips to the interzonals, along with their seconds.
     This was definitely the strongest women's tournament in U.S. history. Most participants had candidate master ratings, and four players —Savereide, Crotto, Ruth Haring and Ruth Donnelly — are international woman masters.
Although Savereide led for much of the tournament, she did have to over-come challenges for the lead from Dolly Teasley, who led after six full rounds (beating the top finishers), and from Crotto, who could have still tied for 1st with a win over Savereide in the final round.
     Half the players in the tournament had also played in the 1979 event (no women's championship was held last year) — Savereide, Crotto, Haring, Ford, Lanni and I — while rookies to the event included Baraka Shabazz, Alexey Rudolph and Shernaz Mistry-Kennedy.
     Savereide, 26, was the only national master in the tournament, with a USCF rating of 2262. She also holds the title of international woman master and has played in two previous interzonals. Two years ago she placed 5th out of 18 players in the women's interzonal at Alicante, Spain, achieving the best result ever of any American woman in international competition and coming within one paint of qualifying for the candidates' matches.
     Diane prefers the round-robin for-mat because it gives her a chance to prepare for her games. "It helps to be able to have thought about the opponent before the game," she says, even if there is little time to prepare.
     While most players limited their chess efforts during the tournament to activities which related directly to their games, Savereide sharpened her skills by solving complicated chess problems.
     Savereide is an aggressive yet solid player, preferring an attacking game but rarely taking unnecessary risks. She has an acute sense for tactical possibilities and a penchant for exploiting even the most subtle inaccuracies, particularly in the opening stages of the game. In this tournament, all of her wins were completed during the first playing session, and she had only one adjourned game during the entire event.
     Diane is also an extremely active player, frequently playing in local masters' futurities and National Chess League phone matches. She teaches a chess class at UCLA and takes lessons from Jack Peters.
     One of Diane's favorite players is Walter Browne. "He always plays to win," she says. "And he wants to find the truth in chess."
     Crotto, 22, amazes almost everyone with her resourcefulness, and players are constantly marveling at her consistent ability to win "lost" games.
     While Crotto rarely studies chess books, she has taken lessons from some of the best players and teachers in the United States — Jack Collins, Edmar Mednis, Sal Matera, Larry D. Evans, Bruce Pandolfini and Leonid Shamkovich. Following the tournament, she plans to study with Lev Alburt, one of the country's top-ranked players.
     Teasley has played in two previous women's zonals and, in 1978, served as alternate on the women's olympiad team in Buenos Aires, scoring 7½-2½ to become the team's high scorer.
     Teasley is a high ranking New York executive. In fact, her position as assistant vice president of Manufacturers Hanover Trust would have preempted participation in the interzonals had she placed 2nd.
     While Teasley rarely enters tournaments, she frequently plays speed chess in Washington Square. She credits her imaginative style and tactical proficiency to the pastime and often admits to "coffeehouse" tendencies. Alexander Alekhine is one of her favorite players, and she enjoys playing through his game collections.
     Mistry-Kennedy, 27, is a native of India. Having made a few visits to the United States to study chess, she decided to remain here several years ago. She has studied with Collins, Vitaly Zaltsman, Jeffrey Kastner, and most recently Anatoly Lein.
     Mistry-Kennedy considers herself a good positional player and credits her endgame skill to studying with Lein. She was among the most active female players in the United States last year, playing over 100 rated games. Her favorite players are Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal.
     Ruth Haring, who lives in San Francisco, has long been one of the-top-ranked female players in this country. A frequent participant in Olympic and other international competition, she has the reputation of being a very solid player.
     Ruth enjoys studying the games of various pre-modern players, such as Paul Morphy and Akiba Rubinstein — talents who are nowadays easily overlooked by contemporary players.
     Pam Ford, a computer expert, also lives in San Francisco. She has played in several previous women's championships but continues to be plagued by problems of inconsistency. For instance, in this year's tournament, she began by winning her first three games — dynamic victories over Teasley, Shabazz and me. However, she then proceeded to lose her next three games, one in which she hung a piece, no strings attached. Ford is a good tactician and a good endgame player, but, according to her instructor, Jeremy Silman, who accompanied her to the tournament, her weakness is in the opening.
     Donnelly, a veteran of Women's championship and interzonal competition, was certainly one of the most experienced players in this year's event. Her final round victory over Teasley ensured Crotto sole possession of 2nd and secured for herself a three-way tie for 5th. Donnelly is a high school physics teacher in New York, enjoys swimming in her spare time, and frequently plays in weekend tournaments.
     Linda Mahan, who managed to bring Southern California with her to the tournament (several dozen jars of vitamins, health foods, big white Teasley.
     Spectators keenly followed the progress of the two youngest players — Shabazz and Rudolph — who at 15 were playing in their first national championship.
     Shabazz, a candidate master after having learned the game only three years ago, has become a national sensation. Articles about her have appeared in a number of major publications throughout the country, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and People magazine, and she has since been interviewed on the television shows Good Morning America and The Tonight Show.
     Shabazz's story is as incredible as her progress. Three and a half years ago, she and her family were confined to their home during the severe Alaskan winter. Her stepfather bought the children a chess set and told them the rules ("You have to get your opponent's King"). Several weeks later, she entered her first tournament. Her progress was so rapid that her family decided to move to a place where she would have more competition. Her father quit his job on the Alaskan Pipeline, and they proceeded to move first to Los Angeles, then to Washington, D.C.
     For the past few years, she has been touring the tournament circuit with her parents, who have been living off their savings and her winnings and who have hired a private tutor so she wouldn't have to go to school. A friend of the family serves as her assistant manager and is able to get her reduced plane fare and hotel rates. Her official manager is her mother, who has been in charge of publicity.
     At the end of the summer, Shabazz will play in her first overseas event —the World Under 16 Women's Championship in Sussex, England. Baraka (the name means "blessed") definitely has high ambition: "I want to be the best chessplayer in the world," she told a reporter.
     Rudolph, of Tacoma, Wash., will be entering her junior year at the University of Puget Sound following her 16th birthday. She recently won the 29-player Midwest Women's Open in Chicago (see Chess Life, August 1981, page 12). A frequent participant in weekend tournaments, Rudolph often crosses the border to play in Canadian events. She considers herself a practical player, preferring to spend most of her chess efforts in competition rather than study.
     Diana Lanni, 25, works at the Bar-point, Bill Goichberg's games club in Manhattan. While she frequently participates in other games (last year she toured as a backgammon player, and she frequently plays poker to relax), Lanni enthusiastically admits that, "Chess is my real love." She is a very active tournament player, frequently traveling to events in other states, and, like Teasley, enjoys playing chess in Washington Square.
     Some of the higher ranked players did not perform nearly as well as expected. Haring, one of the favorites for the top two positions, surprised everyone by losing her first three games and scoring only 1½ pts. in the first six rounds. Possibly she was hurt by continual adjournments — she set the tournament's record with seven, her marathon with Lanni continuing through four sessions.
     Lanni also had a disappointing result — fourth ranked going into the tournament, she tied for last place. No doubt her penchant for risk and her never-say-draw attitude worked against her in this tournament. Despite her results, she enjoyed the games. As she remarked during the tournament, "The joy of chess is when you're not sure what's going to happen."
     Most players in the championship consider themselves good tacticians and proficient endgame players while perhaps not as confident in the opening. Few of the players claim to spend a lot of time studying chess books, but most of them take chess lessons and are active tournament players.
     Some of the contestants brought seconds to the tournament to help them analyze adjournments and pre-pare for their opponents. Haring was accompanied by her husband, Grand-master Peter Biyiasas, Ford by her teacher Jeremy Silman, and Crotto by her Polish friend Iwona Jezierska (pronounced ee-VD-nah yeh-ZIER-ska).
     Jezierska began to play chess in America last December and has since been living with Crotto, the two having met previously during Crotto's sojourn in Poland (see Chess Life, January 1981, pages 57-59). She hopes to re-main in this country so she can pursue her chess goals unhindered. A strong candidate master in the United States, Jezierska felt stifled by the limits Imposed on her by the Polish Chess Federation — for instance, being allowed to compete only with other women.
     The tournament was held at the Intermountain Intertribal School — a boarding school for American Indians in grades nine to 12 from about 100 different reservations, run by the government's Bureau of Indian Affairs. The school provided meals and private dormitory rooms for all tournament participants.
The tournament was sponsored by the USCF, with generous contributions by the American Chess Foundation and the Piatigorsky Foundation. Ranging from $500 for 1st prize to $50 for last, this year's prize fund of $1,680 was the highest ever — more than $500 above the fund for the previous championship.
     The event was directed by Bob Tanner, a 24-year-old accountant for General Motors and a candidate master. He and his wife, Angela, who heads the USCF Women's Chess Committee, were responsible for bringing this year's championship to Utah.
     Angela Tanner discussed her plans to increase chess activity among school children, and she also explained that inexperienced women players often feel overwhelmed by regular tournament competition and that she would like to give them a chance to compete among themselves before they face more challenging mixed competition.
     Bob Tanner was assisted by Ed Necefer, who was responsible for securing the services of the Intertribal School. A former Peace Corps worker in Africa, he currently teaches math at the school and coaches its 25-member chess team.
After the tournament, the local city council treated the players to a brunch at the Country Kitchen. Each player was awarded a Golden Spike centennial medallion commemorating the joining of the Union and Central Pacific railroads in 1869.
     Coverage of the tournament was phenomenal — definitely the best of any U.S. women's tournament. Throughout the event, players were interviewed by the local media. Numerous pictures and articles appeared in Utah newspapers, including the Salt Lake City Tribune, and several players were interviewed on television.

     IM Jeremy Silman wrote a short essay on his experience as Pam Ford's second. Here's a delightful and insightful excerpt:

"Biyiasas and I were seconds to Haring and Pam Ford in this important zonal event. During the course of the tournament, we both learned that it is much easier to play than to watch. . .
. . . Biyiasas was given a seemingly hopeless position between Haring and Diana Lanni. After three days work he found a very deep and beautiful drawing idea. When the game was finally played out, Haring forgot all the analysis, deviated early, and lost.  In her defense I must say she was exhausted due to her having to play three adjourned games in one day. Biyiasas's eyes almost jumped from their sockets, and it was not at all easy to calm him down. Till five that morning I could hear him asking, 'But Ruth, why did you play that move'?"

     In 1982 Marcy Cohen scribed the following profile of Rachel Crotto:

     Rachel Crotto is an International Woman Master with a rating of 2057. She is currently the third-ranked American woman behind Diane Savereide and Dolly Teasley), and has consistently been at the top of the USCF's Top 50 list for the past several years. She's played in an interzonal tournament, was a U.S. women's champion one year, co- champion another, and finished second in last year's event in Brigham, Utah. But Rachel says that's not enough. "It means much more to me to become a master than it does to be the best woman player," she says. "Women's chess has been more detrimental to me than anything else din encouraging her to improve her game]. People are always Wm-up to me and saying, "Wow, you're terrific ... You're such a great player!' But what they mean is a good player for a woman. They think that there's a difference between the strength of an expert and that of a woman expert." For this reason, Crotto says she finds it easier to relax during women's events. "It's easier for me to play against women, because I think they respect me as a strong player. Also, I feel I have a chance to be No. 1.   Diane Savereide is my toughest opponent, but I feel that I can beat the other players in women's events at home."
     Unlike most chess players, who start their tournament careers with poor or mediocre results and a low rating, Crotto, now 23, achieved a 1784 rating after her first event and never dipped much below 1700. She scored 6-0 to win one of the first events she ever competed in, an under-13 novice tournament. "I played a lot of skittles games —especially with my father — before I entered my first tournament. He wasn't a tournament player, but on natural ability was probably about 1600 strength," she says. Rachel joined the chess club at junior high school and played in some "kiddie" tournaments, but says that it wasn't until she entered "grown-up" events that her game really improved. "In same ways, women's tournaments are thought of like kids' tournaments,", says Rachel. She explains that the adults who tell boys that it's absurd to lose a game to a girl also look down on female chess players for playing what they would call "women's chess" as opposed to "chess chess."
     Looking Ahead Crotto would like to be a professional chess player, but says that she's "not good enough." She occasionally gives simuls and lessons, but works part-time as a billing clerk to pay her own bills. Rachel is a graduate of New York's High School of Music and Art, where she studied piano, clarinet and music theory. She chose to study Russian when required to take a foreign language, keeping in mind the wealth of chess literature written in the. Soviet Union. She's earned some college credits, but wasn't happy in school and preferred to play chess, although she admits that a lot of the time she's "too lazy to study." But recently, in anticipation of her upcoming interzonal competition, she has been spending more and more time on tin-proving her game. Rachel doesn't like poring through opening lines in encyclopedias, but prefers to study the combinations and best games that are featured in the back of Informants. She also enjoys studying with other strong players who she can bounce ideas off of, and she sometimes prepares with groups of friends. Rachel often plays in tournaments during evenings after work. "It's hard playing a tournament game after working all day. I'm usually very tired," she says. "I look forward to the national women's championship and the interzonals, because it gives me a chance to travel — a vacation —to meet new people and just enjoy playing chess. I can put myself all-out when I don't have to work."
     This will be Crotto's second interzonal. In her first, she tied for 12th place in a field of 17 players in 1979 in Rio de Janero, which was then one of the best results ever by an American woman. Rachel has also played in international events in France and Poland, and notes the many differences between woman players here and abroad: "Most European women wouldn't think of competing in chess tournaments with men. They're just not interested. It's just not done." But these foreign players are taken very seriously by their countrymen when it comes time to play in the interzonals, she explains. "Polish women get sent to a training camp on the Baltic Sea. There 'they relax and prepare with grandmasters." It's hard to compete against players who are . well prepared, she adds.
     Rachel believes that women players worldwide are discriminated against.  She explains that men are first rated in FIDE by starting them at 2200 and then letting their rating go up or down from there. A woman, however, starts at 1800. A man and woman could play in their first FIDE event together, make the same score, and yet the woman would come out with a much lower rating. This discrimination also has a cumulative effect, Crotto says. "Let's say a woman has a FIDE rating of 1950. She could play in a futurity or other international tournament and have a spectacular result. Her rating will only go up a few dozen points. But if a man without a previous FIDE ratings has the same result, he'd get a rating of 2200 or higher. It would take five or six wonderful results for a woman to get the same master's rating as the man who qualified on the basis of one event. It's not fair!" Rachel also notes that Soviet GM Nona Gaprindashvili — who is an international grandmaster and not just a women's grandmaster — is not even listed among the other grandmasters on the rating lists in Informants. They list her only on the women's list of rated players. Although Crotto's rating is not that impressive among male players, she is among the top women players in the world — and there has never been an American woman in the candidates' matches.

     Alexey Rudolph had come into national attention back in April by winning the Midwest Women's Open:


     There was no U.S. Women's Chess Championship in 1982.

Diane Savereide made both lists.

     Diane Savereide, Ruth Haring, Diana Lanni and Rachel Crotto traveled to Lucerne, Switzerland on the American olympiad team.



    There was no U.S. Women's Chess Championship in 1983.


     The U.S. Women's Championship took place in Berkeley, CA, from July 8-30.  Diane Savereide proved her superiority by winning her 6th championship.  Rachel Crotto followed on her heels, just a half point behind. 

     A new participant was Irene Aronoff who had emigrated from the USSR three years prior. She'd been preoccupied with earning her degree from the University of Scranton (PA) from which she had just graduated the previous Decenmber.


sitting: Diana Lanni, Ivona Jezierska, Rachel Crotto, George Koltanowski, Alexey Rudolph, Shernaz Kennedy, Irene Aronoff
standing: Andy Lazarus, Alan Glasscoe, Diane Savereide, Inna Izrailov, Ruth Donnelly, Betsy Smith, Vera Frenkel, Pam Ford, Mike Goodall

     Pam Carolyn Ford (now Pamela F. Ruggiero) won the Brilliancy Prize vs. Alexey Rudolph (now Alexey Root) for this game:

     The Olympiad took place in Thessaloniki, Greece from Nov. 18 to Dec. 5, 1984


     There was no U.S. Women's Championship in 1985.
     Being a particularly slow year, here are a few random items:

                                            Bermuda Open, played Feb.1-3.
Patrick Wolff took first place ($1000) Kleszczewski (above) shared 2nd ($1600) with 6 others.   Regardless her results, Diana Lanni, planning her itinerary, looks like she came out a winner.



     In the U.S. Championship, Izrailov was the only national master participating and therefore was the favorite. Liz Neely was close on her heels.
     Inna beat Liz in their individual game, winning the Albert Brilliancy Prize ($50, as opposed to Michael Rohde's $250 in the U.S Championship).  Izrailov took home $1300; second place Neely, $800.

Inna Izraelov (at age16)

      The U.S. Women's team tied for 13th place in the olympiad played in Dubai from Nov. 14 to Dec. 2. The ladies were thrashed solidly early in the event by the Soviets but bounced back. Both Gina Linn and Ivona Savereide (Jezierska)  earned their WIM norms with their results.


     The 1987 women's championship is a particularly unique women's tournament. Probably the strongest to date as it included four WIMs (as opposed to the previous event which fielded only one FM) and it featured the recent immigrant, Anna Akhsharumova, a 2x Soviet Women's Champion, who along with her husband Boris Gulko, was the current darling of the USCF, as well as many mainstays of the contest and some new faces such as Sharon Burtman, Mary Kuhner and Catherine Dodson. One can see from the rating chart that Akhsharumova was so significantly stronger than her opposition, it led to her victory being considered a foregone conclusion.

    Gina Linn's (above) coverage, though short, is excellent:

     As in the plot of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, Anna Akhsharumova picked off her opponents one by one in the 1987 U.S. Women's Championship. But unlike the climax of the Christie story, there was no one left around at the end to spoil WIM Alchsharumova's plans. For this recent emigrant from the Soviet Union scored a perfect 9-0 in the strongest-ever women's championship, a field which included six-time women's champ WIM Diane Savereide plus four other strong titled players.
     That Akhsharumova should win this event —which was held from November 7 to 18 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado — was hardly a surprise. Since arriving in this country with her husband Boris Gulko, she has taken a considerable toll on leading GMs and IMs. Her victims already include the likes of U.S. co-champion Joel Benjamin and Hungarian powerhouse GM Istvan Csom. In short, she is indisputably the most powerful U.S. women's player ever.
     Yet six-time champion Savereide was also on hand, though people wondered about the effects of her relative inactivity in the last few years. After scoring only 11/2 points in her first four rounds, it was clear that she was off form and would pose no threat to Anna. Indeed, it was with this score that Savareide would begin — and end — her fifth round game against the tournament winner.

Who's on Second?     
     Second place was pretty much up for grabs. But who would grab it? In the early rounds, Catherine Dodson seemed a good bet. This lawyer from Virginia won her first three games, downing Liz Neely, Sharon Burtman and Savereide; and she shared the lead with Akhsharumova until the two tangled in round four. But she went downhill from there and dropped five more games.
     Everyone waited for FM Ivona Jezierska, the star who shined so brightly at the 1986 Dubai Olympiad, to make her move. But she played be-low her strength in this event and never came close to matching her 81/2-31/2 score at Dubai. Diane Savereide, though, did get moving just when her opponents were thinking that it was safe to sit opposite her at the board. She tallied 3½-½ in the final four rounds and landed in clear third.
     The winning bet for second place turned out to be WIM Dolly Teasley, a computer consultant from New York who rarely competes these days in USCF events. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Teasley enjoys poker on weekends. Her calm nerves and steady positional play leave little doubt that she usually walks away from the table a winner in both games.
     The remaining players all turned in erratic performances, though retired schoolteacher Ruth Donnelly played more solidly than the others and finished tied for fourth at 4½-4½ with championship newcomer Mary Kuhner. Donnelly's draw with Savereide featured the most interesting adjournment of the tournament. In the adjourned position in the diagram, Black seems to be winning — at first glance. At second glance, the Bishop is lost and all of those menacing Kingside pawns can do no more than draw.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto

     Dick Gardner had the overwhelming job of directing both the men's and women's championships which were going on simultaneously in adjoining rooms. Given that in events of this type an official is required to be present in all time pressure situations, his job was a big one. Asked how he would do it, Dick replied, "Roller skates." But what really saved him from a TD's nightmare was the assistance of Dr. Craig Crenshaw and the device o staggered starting times for the two events. All of which leaves the most important part of this article: special thanks to the staff of the Stanley Hotel, to Liz Woods for editing the women's bulletins, to all the other volunteers who truly made the tournament possible, and to the generous Paul Albert who awarded $500 in brilliancy prize money — $400 to Michael Rohde for his victory over Jay Whitehead and $100 to Sharon Burtman for her win against Mary Kuhner.

[N.B. WCM Kuhner has also written beautifully about her experience at this championship tournament on her blog:   Part I  and  Part II ]


      There was no U.S. Women's Championship in 1988.


     1989 marks the first of two championship tournaments held at the Converse College for Women in Spartanburg, South Carolina, possibly one of the nicest venues ever selected and the fruition of a two year effort with an estimated cost of $15,000, shared among The Spartanburg Chess Club, Converse College, the USCF,  the Spartanburg County Foundation and Spartanburg County accommodations tax funds. 
     Two other events were held in tandem with the championship. On Sunday, July 9, a speed chess (10/0) tournament was held for anyone willing to pay the $7.00 entry fee as well as a fee-free scholastic tournament, both held in separated rooms of the Blackman Music Hall and both offering a $100 prize to the winner as well as trophies. 
     Part of the choice for venue was attributed to Anna Akhsharumova who have been to Spartanburg in 1988 for a simul and lecture and was impressed with the location. Unfortunately she, and 6 other of the top 10 rated American women had conflicting schedules and didn't participate.  According to USCF Assistant Director, Bob Nasiff:  "The Women's Championship is totally unlike the men's [sic]. There the players are largely professionals. I do not know of any women pros in the U.S." 

      At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 6,  there was an evening banquet introducing the tournament . . .

. . . with play beginning the next day at 1:00 p.m.

      Although the field of players was relatively weak, Alexey Rudolph won convincingly with a 7-2 score and no losses.  Rudolph herself was quoted as saying, “Every game was so tense. Everyone is trying to beat you. That’s real tough. You just have to be strong mentally and physically.”  So despite the one-sidedness the results might indicate, it was no walk-in-the-park.   Sharon Burtman of Stoughton, Mass.,  Shernaz Mistry-Kennedy of Forest Hills, N.Y. and Vesna Dimitrijevic of Boston tied for second, a full point behind, but a win or loss here or there could have altered the results significantly.  

in the background on the right is Sharon Burtman and Colette McGruder

     Rudolph earned $2000 (of the $5000 total prize fund) and possession of the trophy.

     The college provided dorm rooms for the players and for the TD (Dick Gardner). The games were played in the recital hall and performance auditorium (which featured enhanced lighting, temperature and sound controls). The USCF defrayed the travel expenses, supplied all the chess boards, sets, clocks and demonstration boards and provided the TD, 
    Spencer Mathews Jr., a psychology professor at Converse College and the coordinator for the Spartanburg Chess Club’s tournament committee did the reporting. He mentioned that Vesna Dimitrijevic and Chris Hendrickson designed the logo for the tournament T-shirt, that Shernaz Mistry-Kennedy was the most dangerous ping-pong player and that Chris Hendrickson, who worked in a library in Boulder, Colorado, was also a volunteer firefighter.

    Zesna Dimitrijevic-Kelleher (married to FM William Kellehner) , noted to be "a nuclear engineer from Cambridge, Mass.,"  was originally from Yugoslavia.  Natasha Us, who had played on the MIT chess team, would marry the GM Larry Christiansen in 1989.  Alexey Rudolph would marry IM Doug Root, also in 1989.   

     Alexey Rudolph, Vesna Dimitrijevic, Sharon Burtman and Shernaz Kennedy all received their WIM titles in late 1989.

     The U.S. had been sending 2 players to the interzonals but in 1989 a third spot opened up. The 1988 and 1989 U.S. Women's champions, Anna Akhsharumova and Alexey (Rudolph) Root were seeded into the first two slots. To determine who would fill the third, the USCF decided to hold a play-off among the three second-place winners in the 1989 tournament : Sharon Burtman of Stoughton, Mass., Vesna Dimitrijevic of Cambridge, Mass. and Shernaz Mistry-Kennedy of Middle Village, NY. All three had WIM titles conferred on them by virtue of having achieved a 2/3 score in the aforementioned championship which was also an interzonal.
     The games were played at the Boylston Chess Club of Boston. first prize, of course, was a trip to the 1990 Interzonal, but Harry Lyman provided monetary prizes to 2nd and 3rd place.
     Bill MacLellan served as TD. As it turned out, scheduling forced the players to move to the Armenian Cultural Center in Watertown, Mass. after the first day. Sharon Burtman ended up winning with 31/2 pts. Vesna Dimitrijevic took second place with 2 pts. and Shernaz Mistry-Kennedy scored 1/2 pt.
     Below are a couple photos from that event:

Their 1990 Interzonal results were:
In Interzonal "A", played in Genting Highlands Malaysia, July 1-26, Akhsharumova placed 6/18, while Alexey Root placed 18/18 (Nona Gaprindashvili won).
In Interzonal "B", played in Azov, USSR, June 4-29, Burtman placed 18/18. (Alisa Galliamova won).


     Missing a chance at a good story, Jim Meyers did an apparent rush job reporting on this event which was won by the only WGM in the group, the recently defected Elena Donaldson, formerly Elena Bronislavovna Akhmilovskaya of Russia (she defected while in Greece and married IM John Donaldson in 1988).  Second-place Esther Epstein also moved to the U.S. from the USSR in 1988 (with official permission) along with her husband, GM Alexander Ivanov.  A newcomer to the championship was 26 year old Krystina Więckiewicz who had moved from Poland to Boston, Massachusetts sometime after 1984 (her last recorded Polish tournament that i could find). 

     One interesting observation Meyers did make was that as impressive as Donaldson's score already looks on the surface, she had been called away towards the end of the tournament on a family emergency and played that last two games for quick draws so she could leave.  She was undefeated throughout the tournament. 

     Mayer did praise the venue and those who made the championship a pleasure for the ladies.

    Diane Gherghe won the Paul Albert Brilliancy Prize for her game against Sharon Burtman:

      Notice that in the very first "Top 50" list in this presentation not a single woman showed a rating above 2000.  14 years later 18 of the top 20 ladies have 2000+ ratings.

     It was indeed a bumpy and arduous road, but you've come a long, long way, baby.

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