Irina Krush: She’s a Chess Grandmaster

September 21 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Where the Action Is

Liar, liar, pants on fire! I’m the boss, applesauce! See you later, alligator! There are tons of silly, memorable catchphrases like this we learn as kids. While the phrase “actions speak louder than words” doesn’t include a charming rhyme, it’s one of those mottoes from childhood that really sticks with me. The more people I meet and situations I encounter, the more I realize the absolute accuracy of that phrase. We can talk up our ambitions and passions, but if we don’t make a move, it doesn’t mean much. Today, when considering someone you care about, don’t simply shoot him or her an email or a text with grandiose praise. Take some action and actually show them how you feel.


Taking action often means standing your ground, refusing to concede. And there are plenty of women throughout history who have stared down misogyny in order to get ahead, from female warriors on the actual battlefield to those forging ahead on the metaphorical battlefield. Take chess, for example, the ultimate game of kings, queens, knights and a whole lot of strategy. The first unofficial U.S. women’s champion was crowned all the way back in 1857, a full 80 years before the first formal U.S. Women’s Chess Championship was held. Even though her name was never released, a bold description of this chess queen did make the rounds, noting she would certainly be ranked as a first-rate player in any club.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Irina Krush, Chess Grandmaster

One modern-day woman totally killing it on the chessboard is Irina Krush, a chess grandmaster who has dominated the game for decades and won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship an astonishing seven times. What else would you expect from a tenacious and sharp-witted woman who mastered chess by the age of 5?

Born in what is now Ukraine, Irina and her family immigrated to the United States when she was a tot. While adjusting to American life was challenging, Irina took to her new home well, and before long, learned the intricacies of her favorite board game, chess. Not too shabby for a preschooler, huh? She was so good that less than a decade later, Irina won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. Yep, at 14 years old, Irina became a chess aficionado and the youngest U.S. champion ever. Talk about “Krushing” it!

That amazing accomplishment was just the beginning of Irina’s storied chess career. She continued to rack up accolades and wins, including four U.S. Women’s titles in a row, and in 2013, landed the title of grandmaster, the highest title a chess player can attain.

So, what does a wickedly smart chess grandmaster do in her down time? Get a degree in international relations from New York University, of course. It’s an education she likely puts to good use in her role representing the U.S. as a chess champion.

Considering the competitiveness required to master chess, boys are often more encouraged to take on this solitary game. Irina notes it takes lots of analytical thinking, a characteristic people typically wrongly associate only with males. That’s why Irina is dedicated to being a role model for a whole new generation of girls interested in becoming chess geniuses like her. I mean, there’s a reason the most powerful piece in chess is the queen!

Thanks, Irina, for proving time and again that women don’t have to settle for being considered simply pawns in the game of chess or the game of life, but can totally rule as the queens we are. Checkmate!


Whether you’re hoping for a work promotion or are inspired by Irina Krush to take down your neighbor in a game of chess, consider these motivating words from renowned pro tennis player Billie Jean King:

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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