U.S. Women’s Championships: Stats and records

by Graeme Cree
8/26/2021 – What is it that separates chess from a game like baseball? One answer is “the statistics”. While baseball fans have a dazzling variety of stats to pore over, chess reporting has tended to focus on the individual games and events rather than overall numbers. With a new book on the U.S. Women’s Champions on the horizon, it’s a good time to look at the records of this tournament series. | Pictured: Mona May Karff playing White against Mary Bain at the 1956 Pan American Championship. | Photo: Nancy Roos / Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame

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Focusing on overall numbers

What is it that separates chess from a game like baseball? One answer is “the statistics”. While baseball fans have a dazzling variety of stats to pore over, from ERA and Slugging Percentage to WAR and Rpos, chess reporting has tended to focus on the individual games and events rather than overall numbers. For a long time, it was not uncommon to see a tournament report with no crosstable included, only notes on some of the best games.

With a new book on the U.S. Women’s Champions on the horizon, it’s a good time to look at the records of this tournament series. Sixty U.S. Women’s Championship events were played from 1937 to 2020. These include 55 Round Robin tournaments, 4 Swiss System tournaments (events that were combined with the U.S. Championship), and one title match. Since the championship is primarily about the title, the first question to ask is who won the title the most times?  

To answer that question, we first must determine what to do about ties for first place. For the purposes of this list, if a tournament ended in an unbroken tie, all players involved in the tie are credited with one title win (not a half title, a third, or whatever). On the other hand, if a tie is broken by a playoff played at the tournament site before the closing ceremonies, then only the winner of the playoff is credited with a title. (In fact, a few tournaments, such as 2006 and 2013, were purposely designed to be resolved by a playoff.) If a tie is broken at a later date, then all winners are credited with one title win, and would be considered co-champions until the time the tie was broken, with the winner of the playoff considered sole champion for the remainder of the reign. This has never happened in the U.S. Women’s Championship but has happened a couple of times in the U.S. Championship. (A 3-way tie in the 1972 U.S. Championship was broken 9 months later, in 1973).

Most Titles

With all this in mind, here is our roll call of U.S. Women’s Champions, in order of titles won.

First Name Last Name Titles
Gisela Gresser 9
Irina Krush 8
Mona Karff 7
Diane Savereide 5
Anna Zatonskih 4
Anjelina Belakovskaia 3
Elena Donaldson 3
Irina Levitina 3
Rachel Crotto 2
Esther Epstein 2
Sonja Graf 2
Lisa Lane 2
Nazi Paikidze 2
Adele Rivero 2
Jennifer Shahade 2
Anna Akhsharumova 1
Eva Aronson 1
Camilla Baginskaite 1
Mary Bain 1
Sharon Burtman 1
Sabina-Francesca Foisor 1
Rusudan Goletiani 1
Elina Groberman 1
Anna Hahn 1
Inna Izrailov 1
Marilyn Koput 1
Nancy Roos 1
Alexey Root 1
Jennifer Yu 1

Throughout these records, Gresser, Krush and Karff will emerge as the players who were the most dominant over the longest period of time. Savereide was also extremely dominant for a 10-year period, during which she only failed once to win or tie for first. However, the most accomplished champion may arguably be Sonja Graf-Stevenson, who played two matches with Vera Menchik in the 1930s, but who only found time to play in the U.S. Women’s Championship twice. (Susan Polgar, the only American to hold the Women’s World Championship, has never played in the U.S. Women’s Championship.)

Of course, titles don’t always tell the whole story. A tournament’s mainstays don’t always win the most titles. John Fedorowicz played in 19 U.S. Championships without a title win, but to be good enough long enough to be invited to 19 championships is itself an achievement.

What makes this comparison difficult is the fact that for a long time, the Women’s Championship was only played every 2, or even 3 years. It took 50 years to play the first 28 events, but only 30 years to play the next 28. This means that players before 1986 had to remain at the top longer to play in as many tournaments. But this fact is somewhat counterbalanced by the fact that in those days there were fewer competitors to stay ahead of.

Most Events Played

First Name Last Name Total Events Years Played # Titles
Gisela Gresser 22 1940-1979 9
Mona Karff 21 1938-1976 7
Irina Krush 20 1995-2020 8
Tatev Abrahamyan 17 2004-2020  
Anna Zatonskih 16 2004-2020 4
Esther Epstein 14 1990-2008 2
Sharon Burtman 13 1987-2000 1
Mary Bain 12 1937-1969 1
Sabina-Francesca Foisor 12 2009-2020 1
Eva Aronson 11 1957-1976 1
Camilla Baginskaite 11 2000-2014 1
Anna Hahn 11 1993-2006 1
Alexey Root 10 1981-1995 1

The top of this list isn’t too different from the top of the Most Titles List. Gresser, Karff and Krush still top the list. With the exception of Abrahamyan, everyone on the list has won the title at least once. The most conspicuous absence here is that of Diane Savereide, whose 5 titles were won in only 7 attempts.

Most Games Played

The Most Games Played list is not too different from the Most Events List, mainly because the size of the Women’s Championship has been fairly uniform. 80% of the 60 Women’s Championship events have had between 10 and 12 participants.

First Name Last Name Games Total Events Years Played # Titles
Gisela Gresser 207 22 1940-1979 9
Mona Karff 192 21 1938-1976 7
Irina Krush 187 20 1995-2020 8
Tatev Abrahamyan 160 17 2004-2020  
Anna Zatonskih 149 16 2004-2020 4
Esther Epstein 126 14 1990-2008 2
Sabina-Francesca Foisor 118 12 2009-2020 1
Sharon Burtman 117 13 1987-2000 1
Eva Aronson 108 11 1957-1976 1
Mary Bain 108 12 1937-1969 1
Anna Hahn 99 11 1993-2006 1
Camilla Baginskaite 97 11 2000-2014 1
Alexey Root 93 10 1981-1995 1

Most Winning Scores
(5 results minimum, plus some honorable mentions)

It’s possible for a player to score consistently well, without actually finishing in the winner’s circle. With that in mind, which players have had the most winning scores in a Women’s championship event?

First Name Last Name Plus Scores Events Note
Gisela Gresser 19 22 Worst result was -1
Mona Karff 19 21 Worst result was -3
Irina Krush 15 20 Worst result was -4
Anna Zatonskih 14 16 Worst result was -4
Mary Bain 8 12  
Tatev Abrahamyan 7 17  
Eva Aronson 7 11  
Anjelina Belakovskaia 7 9  
Esther Epstein 7 14  
Diane Savereide 7 7  
Rachel Crotto 6 7  
Jennifer Shahade 6 8  
Anna Hahn 5 11  
Irina Levitina 5 5  
Nazi Paikidze 4 4 Plus Score every time, Worst result was 2nd-3rd
Helen Weissenstein 4 5 Played in tournaments 27 years apart
Anna Akhsharumova 3 3 Plus Score every time, Worst result was 3rd
Elena Donaldson 3 5 Skewed by those Swiss tournaments
Ruth Herstein 3 3 Plus Score every time, Worst result was 3rd – 5th
Lisa Lane 3 3 Plus Score every time, Worst result was 2nd place
Sonja Graf 2 2 Plus Score every time, Worst result was a tie for 1st
Inna Izrailov 2 2 Plus Score every time, Worst result was 5th
Irene Aronoff 1 1 Played in one event, finished 3rd-4th
Irene Vines 1 1 Played in one event, finished 5th

Weissenstein was a very solid, but occasional player of the 1940s through 1960s. Though she never won the title, she played in 5 events over the course of 27 years, registering 4 winning scores and one 50% result.

Donaldson had 3 winning scores in 5 tries, and likely would have gone 5 for 5, if not for the fact that the U.S. Women’s Championship was combined with the U.S. Championship in four Swiss System tournaments in the early 2000s.

In a Round Robin tournament, the average score of all the competitors is 50%. In the four combined U.S. Championship/U.S. Women’s Championship tournaments, the average score of the women players was -2.6. In those four tournaments, only three players (Shahade, Goletiani and Zatonskih) managed a +1 score, with 6 others breaking even. Having 4 tournaments with a format so radically different from all other championship events makes it very difficult to compare results between the two formats.

Most Consecutive Tournaments

Playing in every championship event can be difficult. A player not only needs to be good enough to be invited, but must also be available year after year. Even Bobby Fischer, while winning the U.S. Championship eight times in eight attempts, missed one championship in the middle of his run. Who has played in the most consecutive Women’s Championships without missing one?

First Name Last Name Consecutive Years Notes
Gisela Gresser 22 1940-1979  
Mona Karff 18 1938-1969  
Tatev Abrahamyan 17 2004-2020 Streak ongoing
Irina Krush 14 2007-2020 Streak ongoing
Sharon Burtman 13 1987-2000  
Sabina-Francesca Foisor 12 2009-2020 Streak ongoing
Adele Raettig 9 1937-1953 Raettig played in the first 9 championship tourneys
Esther Epstein 8 1995-2003  
Anna Hahn 8 1995-2003  
Jennifer Shahade 8 1997-2005  
Eva Aronson 7 1966-1976 From 1957-1976, missed only in 1965.
Anjelina Belakovskaia 7 1993-1999  
Alexey Root 7 1989-1995  
Camilla Baginskaite 6 2009-2014  
Rachel Crotto 6 1975-1984  
Vesna Dimitrijevic 6 1989-1994  
Ruth Haring 6 1974-1981  
Diane Savereide 6 1975-1984  
Mary Selensky 6 1955-1965  
Ruth Donnelly 5 1981-1989  
Liz Neely 5 1986-1991  
Hedvig/Greta Olsson 5 1974-1979  
Adele Rivero 5 1937-1942  
Olga Sagalchik 5 1998-2003  

Note the word “tournaments.” Gresser played in 22 consecutive tournaments, without missing one in between her first and her last. But she missed one championship, the 1941 Karff-Rivero match (the only title match in the history of the Women’s Championship). If we count that, her record is 21.

Karff played in every event from 1938-1969, including, naturally, the Karff-Rivero match.

Tatev Abrahamyan’s 17-tournament streak is especially impressive because, as mentioned, the tournament has been mostly annual since 1986, with the last off-year being in 2001. This is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it means players have more opportunity to play and rack up numbers now. But on the other hand, they have to be able to find more time to do it. Gresser’s 22 consecutive championships were played over the course of 39 years, while Abrahamyan’s 17 consecutive tournaments have been played in 17 straight years, without an off year. 

Adele Raettig played in the first 9 championships (excluding again the 1941 Karff-Rivero match).

Most Wins (Minimum of 40, excluding Playoffs)

Next let’s look at who has racked up the most Won games.

First Name Last Name W
Gisela Gresser 130
Mona Karff 119
Irina Krush 91
Anna Zatonskih 73
Tatev Abrahamyan 70
Mary Bain 52
Diane Savereide 46
Esther Epstein 44
Rachel Crotto 40

Not surprisingly, Gresser and Karff are in the 100 Wins Club, with Krush likely to join them at some point. Abrahamyan is, by far, the winningest player never to have won the title. (The closest Abrahamyan has come to the title so far has been ties for first in 2005 and 2014, which were broken in playoffs.)

Most Points (Minimum of 50, excluding Playoffs)

Next, Most Overall Points. This category tends to favor the modern players a bit, simply because the Draw Percentage has increased. In the 1940s, the Draw Percentage in the Women’s Championship was 9%. By the 2010s, it had risen to 33.5%.

First Name Last Name Total Points
Gisela Gresser 152.5
Mona Karff 139
Irina Krush 124.5
Anna Zatonskih 98
Tatev Abrahamyan 91
Esther Epstein 66
Mary Bain 65
Eva Aronson 58
Sabina-Francesca Foisor 55.5
Diane Savereide 52.5
Camilla Baginskaite 52

Most Draws (Minimum of 30, excluding Playoffs)

Not surprisingly, the Most Draws list is dominated by modern players. However, Gresser still places 3rd, while Karff and Aronson share a tie for 6th place. Mary Selensky, who played in 9 championships between 1948 and 1969, manages to sneak in at 10th place. “Ahead of her time”, a wit might claim, although Selensky never drew more than half her games. (But she drew exactly half three separate times).

First Name Last Name Draws
Irina Krush 67
Anna Zatonskih 50
Gisela Gresser 45
Esther Epstein 44
Tatev Abrahamyan 42
Eva Aronson 40
Mona Karff 40
Anna Hahn 34
Sabina-Francesca Foisor 33
Mary Selensky 32
Camilla Baginskaite 30

Most Losses (Minimum of 35, excluding Playoffs)

And now a list that no one wants to be on…

First Name Last Name Losses
Sharon Burtman 57
Adele Raettig 52
Tatev Abrahamyan 48
Sabina-Francesca Foisor 46
Alexey Root 41
Elizabeth Wray 39
Esther Epstein 38
Olga Sagalchik 38
Chouchanik Airapetian 37
Camilla Baginskaite 37
Alisa Melekhina 36
Iryna Zenyuk 36
Ruth Donnelly 35
Mary Selensky 35

Several champions appear on this list. Naturally, since the champions tend to play the most games overall. This list is more dominated by modern players, simply because in the old days there was more turnover in the roster (probably because the tournaments were held less often). Gresser, Karff and Krush all manage to avoid this listing, although with 29 losses, Krush might find her way onto it some day.

Highest Lifetime Winning Percentage (70% or better)

We’ve looked at Most Wins and Most Points. How about Best Winning Percentage?

First Name Last Name Pct. Events Titles
Sonja Graf 0.857 2 2
Lisa Lane 0.821 3 2
Anna Akhsharumova 0.796 3 1
Irina Levitina 0.767 5 3
Diane Savereide 0.739 7 5
Gisela Gresser 0.737 22 9
Adele Rivero 0.732 5 2
Mona Karff 0.724 21 7
Nazi Paikidze 0.705 4 2
Irene Aronoff 0.700 1  

The percentage is derived from each player's lifetime score. For example, Gresser’s total lifetime score of +130-32=45. 130 wins -32 losses = +98. And a lifetime score of 152.5 points out of 207 games equals a .737 winning percentage.

As mentioned, Sonja Graf-Stevenson played a Women’s World Championship Match in the 1930s. Although she only found time to play in the U.S. Women’s Championship twice, she finished 1st or tied for 1st both times.

Savereide reappears on this list. Although she only played in 7 championships, this stat shows just how well she performed in those seven. Aside from Saveride, only Gresser and Karff played in as many as 7 championships while still managing a 70% score.

Gresser’s extended career depresses her results slightly in this category. Had she retired in 1969, after winning her 9th and final championship, she would have finished with an 81.5% score, good enough for 3rd on this list, and only behind players who played in three championships or fewer. But instead, she continued competing all through the 1970s, scoring 55% during those years, which dropped her lifetime result down to a “mere” 73.7%.

The only non-champion on this list is Irene Aronoff, who finished +6-2=2 in her only championship, in 1984.

Highest Lifetime Winning Percentage Without a Championship Win
(55% or better)

We looked earlier at the fact that Tatev Abrahamyan had played in 17 championships without winning that title, and that, as a result, she scored very well on the Most Wins list, and was, in fact, the winningest player to have never won the title. Which non-champions have had the highest winning percentages?

First Name Last Name Pct. Events
Irene Aronoff 0.700 1
Irene Vines 0.682 1
Katerina Rohonyan 0.630 3
Ruth Haring 0.621 6
Ruth Herstein 0.617 3
Dorothy Teasley 0.590 4
Katerina Nemcova 0.583 4
Helen Weissenstein 0.574 5
Tatev Abrahamyan 0.569 17
Yuliya Levitan 0.556 2
Natalya Tsodikova 0.556 2

Weissenstein has been mentioned previously as a strong, but occasional player. Her 5 championships were played over a period of 27 years, but her worst result was 50%. Ruth Haring’s 6 tournaments with an overall score over 60% is also impressive.

Abrahamyan is on this list too, showing that she’s not only played in many tournaments, but also done well in them. Abrahamyan has played in nearly three times as many championships as the next person on the list and scored over 55% over a very long period of time.

The Lifetime Plus/Minus list shows off Abrahamyan’s results better. She’s the only non-champion with a lifetime score better than +20.

Highest Lifetime Plus/Minus (+20 or better, active players in bold)

First Name Last Name +/- Pct.
Gisela Gresser 98 0.737
Mona Karff 86 0.724
Irina Krush 62 0.666
Anna Zatonskih 47 0.658
Diane Savereide 34 0.739
Anjelina Belakovskaia 25 0.660
Mary Bain 24 0.611
Irina Levitina 24 0.767
Rachel Crotto 23 0.658
Tatev Abrahamyan 22 0.569

By now people are used to seeing Gresser, Karff and Krush at or near the top. Diane Savereide making it to 5th on the list in only 7 tournaments is also impressive.

Lowest Winning Percentage (Less than 30%, more than one tournament)

Another list that no one wants to be on:

First Name Last Name PF PA +/- Pct. Events Years
Tatyana Zitserman 4 23 -19 0.148 3 1996-1998
Elizabeth Wray 10.5 39.5 -29 0.210 6 1937-1948
Alena Kats 4.5 13.5 -9 0.250 2 2012-2013
Natasha Us 4.5 13.5 -9 0.250 2 1989-2006
Anna Levina 7 20 -13 0.259 3 2002-2005
Emily Nguyen 8.5 24.5 -15 0.273 3 2017-2020
Sarah Kaufman 5.5 14.5 -9 0.275 2 1964-1967
Gina Linn 7.5 19.5 -12 0.278 3 1986-1994
Cindy Tsai 5 13 -8 0.278 2 2002-2003
Mildred Morrell 16.5 42.5 -26 0.280 6 1957-1967

PF = Points For, PA = Points Against

Most Perfect Scores

The U.S. Championship has only had one Perfect Score. The U.S. Women’s Championship has had three. The first two came in consecutive tournaments.

First Name Last Name # Score Year
Mona Karff 1 8-0 1942
Gisela Gresser 1 8-0 1944
Anna Akhsharumova  1 9-0 1987

Most Tournaments Without Defeat

Whether you finish first or not, finishing a tournament with no defeats is always impressive. How many players have done this, and who has done it the most times?

First Name Last Name #
Irina Krush 8
Mona Karff 7
Gisela Gresser 5
Anjelina Belakovskaia 3
Elena Donaldson 3
Nazi Paikidze 3
Anna Zatonskih 3
Anna Akhsharumova  2
Mary Bain 2
Esther Epstein 2
Lisa Lane 2
Irina Levitina 2
Sharon Burtman 1
Rachel Crotto 1
Elina Groberman 1
Anna Hahn 1
Ruth Haring 1
Inna Izrailov 1
Marilyn Koput 1
Adele Rivero 1
Katerina Rohonyan 1
Alexey Root 1
Jennifer Yu 1

Krush, Karff, Gresser. Gresser, Karff, Krush. Krush, Gresser, Karff. The order changes, but these names always seem near the top. But on this list, we see how badly the Swiss System Championships affected Elena Donaldson’s record. As mentioned previously, she had three winning scores in 5 tournaments, and might have had 5 out of 5 if her last two championships had not been in two of the Swiss tournaments that combined the U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship.

In fact, not only did Donaldson have a “winning” score in her first three championships, she finished undefeated in all of them and also won the championship each time. But her final two championships were Swisses where she achieved a very misleading combined score of +4-6=8, to break the streak.

Largest Margins of Victory (More than 1 point, ties count as 0)

Next, let’s look at the biggest margins of victory. Most of the championships have been won by a single point or less. Here are the titles that have been won by more than that.

Year First Name Last Name Margin Notes
1941 Mona Karff 4 Karff-Rivero Match
1987 Anna Akhsharumova Gulko 3 Perfect Score
2019 Jennifer Yu 2.5  
1942 Mona Karff 2 Perfect Score
1976 Diane Savereide 2  
1992 Irina Levitina 2  
1998 Irina Krush 2  
1937 Adele Rivero 1.5  
1940 Adele Rivero 1.5  
1979 Rachel Crotto 1.5  
2009 Anna Zatonskih 1.5  

The top result on this list was in the lone title match, which is also a bit misleading. Jennifer Yu’s 2019 victory is the largest tournament victory that didn’t take a perfect score to achieve.

Only two of the three Perfect Scores appear on this list. The final one, in 1944 (Gresser’s 8-0 victory) was only won by a single point, as Karff scored 7-1. (Karff and Gresser’s individual encounter decided the tournament).

Best Winning Percentage, Single Tournament (90% or better)

Speaking of Perfect Scores, what results, apart from Perfection, have been the best results in a single tournament?

Year First Name Last Name PF PA W L D +/- Pct.
1987 Anna Akhsharumova  9 0 9 0 0 9 1.000
1944 Gisela Gresser 8 0 8 0 0 8 1.000
1942 Mona Karff 8 0 8 0 0 8 1.000
1979 Rachel Crotto 10.5 0.5 10 0 1 10 0.955
1938 Mona Karff 9.5 0.5 9 0 1 9 0.950
1951 Mary Bain 8.5 0.5 8 0 1 8 0.944
1946 Mona Karff 8.5 0.5 8 0 1 8 0.944
1998 Irina Krush 8.5 0.5 8 0 1 8 0.944
1937 Adele Rivero 8.5 0.5 8 0 1 8 0.944
2009 Anna Zatonskih 8.5 0.5 8 0 1 8 0.944
1953 Mona Karff 7.5 0.5 7 0 1 7 0.938
1948 Gisela Gresser 6.5 0.5 6 0 1 6 0.929
1948 Mona Karff 6.5 0.5 6 0 1 6 0.929
2019 Jennifer Yu 10 1 9 0 2 9 0.909

Irina Krush, who makes this list once, just misses making it 3 more times, with 89% results in 2008, 2010, and 2013.

Crotto’s 95% score in 1979 is the only time between 1975 and 1985 that Savereide failed to win a title.

Most Wins, Single Tournament

Going hand in hand with most wins, and best percentage, is Most Wins in a Single Tournament.

Year First Name Last Name Wins W L D
1979 Rachel Crotto 10 10 0 1
1987 Anna Akhsharumova  9 9 0 0
1957 Sonja Graf 9 9 1 1
1938 Mona Karff 9 9 0 1
2019 Jennifer Yu 9 9 0 2

Many with 8 victories

Thanks again to that 95% result in 1979, Crotto holds this record alone.

Most Draws, Single Tournament (7 or more)

If we’re going to look at most wins in a tournament, we should also look at Most Draws and Most Losses.

Year First Name Last Name Draws W L D
2000 Anna Hahn 9 0 0 9
1965 Helen Weissenstein 7 2 1 7
1966 Mabel Burlingame 7 1 2 7
1967 Mildred Morrell 7 1 2 7
2015 Nazi Paikidze 7 4 0 7
2016 Katerina Nemcova 7 3 1 7
2017 Katerina Nemcova 7 2 2 7
2018 Anna Zatonskih 7 3 1 7
2020 Anna Zatonskih 7 0 4 7

Anna Hahn’s 9 draws top the list and make her the only player to draw all her games in a championship. Interestingly, although the draw rate has been going up, four of these 9 results, were registered in the 20th century. (Yes, 2000 was the last year of the 20th century).

Most Losses in a Single Tournament (9 or more)

Another list nobody wants to be on:

Year First Name Last Name W L D
1957 Lenore Simon 0 10 1
1999 Sharon Burtman 0 9 0
2006 Kelly Cottrell-Finegold 0 9 0
1962 Greta Fuchs 1 9 0
1955 Kate Henschel 0 9 2
1955 Wally Henschel 2 9 0
1957 Mildred Morrell 2 9 0
2017 Emily Nguyen 0 9 2
1938 Elizabeth Wray 1 9 0
1998 Tatyana Zitserman 0 9 0

The interesting thing about a list like this is seeing how its members performed in other events. Did they do better in other years?

Fuchs, Cottrell-Finegold, and Simon were playing in their only championship.

Zitserman and Nguyen played in 3 Championships (and Nguyen played in the most recent one in 2020, so the book is open on her). Zitserman played in three championships in the late 90s, with her best result being 9th.

The Henschels were two sisters who played in four early championships, never without both of them present. Kate’s best result was +2 in 1944, while Wally’s best was +1 in 1953.

Morrell and Wray each played in 6 championships between the 30’s and the 60’s. Morrell’s best result was -1 in 1967, while Wray’s best was a tie for 6th in 1942.

Most Last Place Finishes (More than 2)

Another negative record. Most Last Place Finishes.

First Name Last Name Last Note Titles
Sharon Burtman 5 3 ties for last 1 time Champion
Elizabeth Wray 4 1 tie for last  
Alisa Melekhina 3    

Most Appearances Without a Championship Win

We looked earlier at Abrahamyan’s status of Winningest Player Not to Win a Championship. What other players have played in the most championships without a title?

First Name Last Name Events Years
Tatev Abrahamyan 17 2004-2020
Adele Raettig 9 1937-1953
Mary Selensky 9 1948-1969
Iryna Zenyuk 9 2005-2014
Ruth Donnelly 8 1972-1989
Alisa Melekhina 8 2007-2016
Olga Sagalchik 8 1994-2005
Chouchanik Airapetian 7 1999-2008
Tsagaan Battsetseg 7 2002-2009
Kathryn Slater 7 1937-1974

As mentioned, Abrahamyan has a lifetime score of almost 57%. Nobody else on this list scores over 50%. The next highest result is Battsetseg at 44.2%.

Largest Gap in Time Between First and Final Title (5 years or more)

Many players have a window of time during which they are most competitive. Who had the biggest window? In other words, which champions have won championships over the longest period of time?  

First Name Last Name # Titles First Title Last Title Gap Note
Mona Karff 7 1938 1974 36  
Gisela Gresser 9 1944 1969 25  
Irina Krush 8 1998 2020 22 Active
Diane Savereide 5 1975 1984 9  
Sonja Graf 2 1957 1964 7  
Lisa Lane 2 1959 1966 7  
Esther Epstein 2 1991 1997 6  
Anna Zatonskih 4 2006 2011 5 Active

Probably no one is surprised to see Karff, Gresser and Krush top the list, but look at the margin. All three have won titles more than 20 years apart. No one else is as high as 10.

The 36-year gap between Karff’s first and final championship is the same length as the gap between Sammy Reshevsky's first U.S. Championship win in 1936 and his final one in 1972.

Players who have competed under more than one name

Not a “record” or statistic, but indispensable knowledge. In Women’s tournaments, many participants have a tendency to change their names over time. Here are participants in the U.S. Women’s Championship who have competed under more than one name.

First Name Last Name Last Name Last Name Note
Pamela Ford Ruggiero    
Elena Akhmhilovskaya Donaldson-Akhmilovskaya    
Alexey Rudolph Root    
Marilyn Koput Braun Simmons  
Inna Izrailov Koren   Married after career ended
Beatriz MacArthur Marinello    
Elizabeth Vicary Spiegel   Married after career ended
Laura Ross Ross-Smith   Married after career ended
Anna Akhsharumova Gulko    
Natasha Us Christiansen    
Catherine Dodson Willis Willis-Dodson  
Diana Durham Gherghe    
Elina Groberman Colter   Married after career ended
Ruth Haring Orton Biyiasis  
Zenaida Huber Wagner    
Lisa Lane Hickey   Married after career ended
Gina Linn Finegold    
Greta/Hedvig Olsson      
Adele Rivero Belcher    
Sonja Graf Stevenson    
Beatriz Marinello MacArthur    
Katherine Sillars Gasser    
Shernaz Kennedy Mistry-Kennedy    
Catherine Willis Willis-Dodson    
Gisela Kahn Gresser   Married before career started

It took a bit of finagling, but we finally managed to create a list where we could put Gresser at the bottom.

Youngest Champions

With Abhimanyu Mishra recently achieving the mark of Youngest Grandmaster, let’s take a look at the oldest and youngest people to win the U.S. Women’s Championship. First the youngest:

First Name Last Name Years Months
Irina Krush 14  
Jennifer Yu 17 2
Elina Groberman 17 7
Rachel Crotto 19  
Rachel Crotto 20 5
Diane Savereide 20 8
Jennifer Shahade 21 0
Lisa Lane 21 7
Diane Savereide 21 8

Oldest Champions

On the other end, the oldest players to win a title:

First Name Last Name Winner's Age
Mona Karff 65
Eva Aronson 64
Gisela Gresser 63
Gisela Gresser 61
Gisela Gresser 60
Gisela Gresser 59
Gisela Gresser 56
Sonja Graf 55
Gisela Gresser 51
Nancy Roos 50

This one proved surprisingly difficult to determine. One chess site claimed Karff had been born in 1914. The World Chess Hall of Fame said 1912. And Wikipedia said 1908. If either of the first two were correct, the oldest champion would be Aronson. If the 1908 date was correct, then the honor would go to Karff. But thanks to some searching on ancestry.com by Katherine Lhota, Karff’s birthdate was finally determined to be October 20, 1908.

We’ll close this out with a few individual records.

  • The first US Chess Federation Rated Expert to play in a championship was Gisela Gresser, who played in the 1951 Championship with a 2115 rating. However, in those days, the Expert category ran from 2100-2299, (today it runs from 2000-2199). By today’s standards, Karff’s 2086 would also have qualified as an Expert rating. In addition, the winner, Mary Bain, emerged from that tournament with a rating over 2000.
  • The first US Chess Federation Master in the tournament was Gisela Gresser in 1964, who had achieved a 2211 rating in the April 1963 Rating Supplement. 
  • The first US Chess Federation Master to hold a 2200 rating at the time the championship was played was Diane Savereide in 1981.
  • The first tournament with an average rating higher than 2200 was held in 1991.
  • The first tournament where all participants were rated over 2200 was held in 2004.
  • The final tournament where any of the participants were rated under 2200 was held in 2009.
  • Most champions have either finished undefeated or lost a single game in winning the title. The most losses in a winning effort is 2. This record is jointly held by Crotto and Savereide (1978), and Foisor (2017).
  • …But, that’s only counting the Round Robins. As usual, the four Swiss System combined championships affect the records. Counting the Swisses, Goletiani lost 4 games in winning the 2005 Championship (+4-4=1).
  • The only champions to die while holding the title were Nancy Roos and Sonja Graf.

For more information on the U.S. Women’s Championship, see the U.S. Women’s Championship crosstables, located at:



Graeme Cree is a USCF National Master. He graduated from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) with a bachelor’s degree in History. He lives in Hutto, Texas, where he works on computer technical support.


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