The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Irina Krush

Irina Krush
Full name
Irina Krush
Dec 24, 1983 (age 39)‎
Place of birth
Odessa, Ukraine
United States



GM Irina Krush is one of the strongest women in U.S. chess history, winning the national title at the age of 14 and going on to become eight-time (and counting) U.S. women’s champion (1998, 2007, 2010, 2012-15, 2020). By earning the GM title in 2013, she became the first and, as of October 2020, only American woman to do so. (GM Susan Polgar represented Hungary when she attained the title and later immigrated to the United States.)

Life And Career before 2000

Born on Christmas Eve 1983 in Odessa in present-day Ukraine, Irina Krush moved to New York City with her parents in 1989.

Krush won her first U.S. Women’s Championship in 1998 when just 14 years old, a national record. The event was not close, as Krush scored +8 =1 for a two-point victory over WIM Anna Kahn (now Hahn). In third was 17-year-old and future two-time champion WGM Jennifer Shahade.

The next year, Krush battled wits with the world champion, GM Garry Kasparov—not directly, but as an advisor in Kasparov’s internet match against “The World.” Other advisors for the world team were GM (1997) Etienne Bacrot, IM (2009) Florin Felecan, and IM (then WGM) Elisabeth Paehtz, all of whom were under the age of 20. Despite their youth, Kasparov’s status, and a public vote deciding every move, the world gave Kasparov a big challenge. It was Krush’s move, 10...Qe6, that threw the game into chaos, and the game did not end until 52 moves later.

Early 2000s Career

Krush won her first GM norm in 2001 with a share of first at the New York Mayor’s Cup, although it would be more than a decade before she completed her final two. One of Krush’s wins at the event came against 14-year-old (GM by 2003) Hikaru Nakamura.

Six years later, Krush achieved another big-name win, this time against someone on the opposite end of his career from Nakamura: GM Viktor Korchnoi, then 76. It came at the fifth Gibraltar Chess Festival, where Krush also defeated GM Vladimir Akopian in arguably a better-played game. The year 2007 was also when Krush won her second U.S. Championship.

Krush has also won against GM Fabiano Caruana, in 2008 in Group C at the Corus Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Caruana (then 15) lost just one other game in the event, which he won, while Krush finished fifth at 7/13.

Throughout the decade, Krush maintained a balanced lifestyle, earning her degree from New York University in 2006.

Becoming GM

Despite establishing herself as the top woman in United States chess by 2012 and winning her fourth national championship that year (while reaching the third round of the world championship tournament), Krush was still an IM by title. That changed the following year.

First, she scored five wins and four draws at the Women’s World Team Championship in March. In May, she confirmed her position at the top of America’s women with a +7 =2 performance at the U.S. Championship. It was her fifth overall, third in a row, and helped bump her rating from 2470 to 2482. Then, at the Baku Open in September, Krush scored +3 -1 =5 in a field of almost half GMs and three-fourths IMs or better. In addition to being a norm-level performance, that tournament also brought Krush’s rating up to 2502, sending her to GM status.

Career As GM

GM Krush did not let up and won the next two U.S. Championships as well, giving her four in a row and seven total through 2015. In 2014, Krush was even at 6.5/9 with WGMs Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan before winning in rapid tiebreaks. In 2015 Krush won outright with 8.5/11.

Missing from Krush’s resume is a women’s world championship. In 2015 and 2018, she did not make it past the second round of the event, and in between in 2017 she did not play in the event.

Team play at the world level has been better. Krush has represented the United States at the Chess Olympiad since 1998. In recent years she has been at or near the top of the U.S. team: first board in 2016 and second board in 2018. Both times the Americans finished in the top 10 but outside the top three.

Irina Krush, 2016
Krush in 2016. Photo: Wikipedia/Andreas Kontokanis (CC BY-SA 2.0).

But after a four-year drought at the U.S. Championship, Krush won the event for a record eighth time in 2020, proving that her competitive chess career is far from over. (WIM Gisela Kahn Gresser won nine, but only five outright in an era before tiebreakers.) Undefeated in 11 games while winning six times, Krush edged out 17-year-old IM Carissa Yip by half a point. 

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