I authored the following tournament report from the 2007 US Women’s Chess Championship held in Stillwater, OK, which was published as the cover story of the October 2007 edition of Chess Life Magazine.
Standing in the playing room was a young lady with rosy, shining cheeks, a glowing smile and a joyful look on her face. It was a refreshing sight given that over the previous five days, her look had been more determined: very serious with the fate of the world seemingly resting on her shoulders. Her head was usually buried in a book when she wasn’t playing chess, staying out of the limelight and just generally minding her own business.
The jubilant lady was IM Irina Krush, winner of the Frank K. Berry 2007 U.S. Women’s Championship held in Stillwater, Oklahoma, from July 16-20, 2007. Going into the tournament as the slight favorite had caused Irina to take the tournament even more seriously than usual, preparing for the event with a determination to succeed and live up to the chess nation’s high expectations.
Irina’s performance was very businesslike. She came to the tournament with a job to do and she did it. There was nothing spectacular about her games, no brilliant sacrificial slaughters and nothing to make use of the regular “Krushing” puns that typically accompany her name in chess articles. After five grueling days over the chessboard, her second U.S. Women’s Championship title was secured thanks to an overnight change in her opening repertoire, and also thanks to a young 16-year-old playing in her first tournament! More on that later.
The championship was a 10-player round-robin event with the top-rated female players in the country invited to participate. Despite a few players declining invitations that I’m sure we would all like to see participate (Polgar, Goletiani, Shahade), when the final list was compiled we had two IMs, Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih; two WGMs, Camilla Baginskaite and Katerina Rohonyan; two WIMs, Batchimeg Tuvshintugs and Tsagaan Battsetseg; and four WFMs, Tatev Abrahamyan, Chouchanik Airapetian, Elizabeth Vicary and Alisa Melekhina. The average USCF rating was 2290. Of the players, three of them had previously won the title: Anna Zatonskih in 2006, Camilla Baginskaite in 2000 and Irina Krush in 1998 when she was just 14.