COVID-19 survivor Irina Krush wins U.S. Women’s Championship


The U.S. Women’s Championship was held online October 21-24, 2020. Organized by the Saint Louis Chess Club, the time control for the 12-player round robin was Game in 25 with a 5-second increment. Grandmaster Irina Krush won the tournament with 8.5 points scored in 11 rounds. It was Krush’s eighth time to win the U.S. Women’s Championship.

Irina Krush
Irina Krush
photo by John Saunders, courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club

COVID-19 survivors

At two hours and 40 minutes into the last-day Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel broadcast coverage, during her post-victory interview, Krush asked commentators Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, and Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade what was one clue or sign that she would win the 2020 U.S. Women’s Championship. They couldn’t guess. Krush gave them the hint that Grandmaster Joel Benjamin won the U.S. Senior Championship. Then Ashley guessed Brooklyn, as Krush and Benjamin both have Brooklyn roots.

But the actual sign, according to Krush, was that Benjamin, like Krush, had survived COVID-19. Seeing another COVID-19 survivor win a national title, said Krush about her pre-tournament thinking, “opens up the door for me to win” the U.S. Women’s Championship.

While Shahade said that Benjamin had a mild case of COVID-19, Krush suffers from “long-haul effects” of the illness. However, Krush said, “When I’m playing, I don’t feel any problems. I just focus on the game.”

Weight Loss

During the October 21-24 tournament, Krush said that she lost 2-3 pounds. Like over-the-board chess, online chess apparently can cause weight loss. Krush said she is now at her lowest weight in years, which she sees as a positive for her overall health. Even before the U.S. Women’s Championship began, Krush had lost 20 pounds, which she attributed to walking every day. Krush took up walking as part of her recovery from COVID-19.

Not just her weight is lighter either. According to her post-victory interview, her chest (lungs) felt lighter, and there was a lightness to her chess playing, during the U.S. Women’s Championship.

Last-round checkmate

In the last round, Krush had White against Woman International Master Emily Nguyen. Can you find the checkmate for White?

With 1 minute and 30 seconds on her clock, Krush found 36. Qe5+. The longest resistance is 36…Kd8 37. Rh8+ Rf8 38. Qd6+ Kc8 (or 38…Ke8 39. Qxf8#) 39. Rxf8#. Nguyen, also with less than two minutes on her clock, played 36…Kb6 37. Qb8+. Nguyen resigned because of 37…Rb7 38. Qxb7#.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on

About the players