U.S. Women’s Chess Championship History

by Alexey Root
2/18/2021 – The history of the U.S. Women's Chess Championship contains a wealth of information about chess in America and countless fascinating stories about champions from all walks of life. Alexey Root, who is currently writing a book about the history of the U.S. Women's Championship, takes a look at some recent research about women's chess in the U.S. | Photo: Reigning and eight-time U.S. Women's Champion Irina Krush winning the title 2015 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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U.S. Women’s Chess Championship History

US Chess has a list of U.S. Women’s Chess Champions and the year each won her title. In January of 2021, more details about each championship year became easily accessible. WIM Alexey Root tells what was posted last month about U.S. women’s chess history.

Participants and Champions

In 2016, Dr. Phil Chase compiled a list of U.S. Women’s Chess Championship participants, published in Rank & File. He was well qualified for that research. In addition to his Ph.D. in history, Chase was the USCF Women’s Chess Committee Chair and organized the 1979 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship in Los Angeles. However, because Chase’s research was published as a PDF, its participant list is hard to manipulate.

In January of 2021, the Chief Technical Officer of SparkChess, Armand Niculescu, converted the PDF into an Excel file. Each participant had a line within that file. After I made corrections on that file, and added participants for the years 2016–2020, Niculescu turned the Excel file into a graphic listing the participants. Now you don’t have to wonder who has competed in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championships: The 148 names are displayed in an attractive graphic.

Here's the link to the pdf.

Niculescu also created another graphic, showing the birthplaces of the U.S. Women’s Champions.

The graphics are in my article for SparkChess. Besides my articles, found under the Learn Chess tab, SparkChess offers an online app and site for casual chess players and chess enthusiasts.


Before January of 2021, viewing the crosstables for the U.S. Women’s Chess Championships meant paging through back issues of chess magazines (before 1992) or finding online tournament rating reports (after 1992). When I first visited it in December of 2020, Graeme Cree’s website had the World Championship, U.S.S.R., and U.S. Championship crosstables. And it had an invitation, "If anybody wants to contribute a complete set of crosstables for any other nation’s championship, I’d be only too happy to post them."

I emailed Cree, who I knew from living in Austin, Texas from 1992-1996, asking if he would post the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship crosstables. Cree still lives near Austin, in Hutto, Texas. Cree was the 1988 Austin Chess Enterprises Champion, a three-time Austin G/30 Champion, and has his National Master title. Earlier, Cree was the youth champion of Böblingen, West Germany.

Cree’s website is the latest manifestation of his longtime interest in chess history. He emailed, "Baseball is loaded with stats, box scores, and numbers, but chess always seemed to hide that information. I had a whole notebook full of typewritten pages of box scores from World Championships and U.S. Championships, copied piece by piece out of various books and magazines." 

To gather the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship crosstables, so Cree could add them to his website, I searched through the Chess Review, Chess Life & Review, and Chess Life archive. I also consulted the online archive of The New York Times.

Within my SparkChess article, I mentioned an error that Cree spotted in a 1975 crosstable, about a game between Gisela Gresser and Ruth Herstein. I spotted other errors, such as Rachel Crotto’s first name being spelled as Rachael in the 1978 and 1979 Chess Life crosstables and Ivona Jezierska being listed as an FM in the 1987 Chess Life crosstable. She’s a WFM. Because I competed in 10 U.S. Women’s Chess Championships between 1981 and 1995, I spotted those errors pretty easily.


At the start of this article, I wrote, "US Chess has a list of U.S. Women’s Chess Champions and the year each won her title." That list is on the "old" US Chess website, here.

Along with the Chess Review, Chess Life & Review, and Chess Life archive, this list is an important resource for researching the U.S. Women’s Chess Championships.

For McFarland, I am writing United States Women’s Chess Champions. The work posted at the SparkChess and Graeme Cree websites contributes to my book and to the efforts of all women’s chess history researchers.


Irina Krush wins her 8th U.S. women's title

Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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