2009 U.S. Women's Championship

Goddesschess Fighting Chess Award Winner:

GM Susan Polgar selected IM Anna Zatonskih as the winner of the 2009
Goddesschess Fighting Chess Award (worth $500), sponsored by

Closing Ceremony Photos

Photos by: Betsy Dynako


Prize Fund

  • 1st overall: $15,000
  • 2nd overall: $12,000
  • 3rd overall: $8,000
  • 4th overall: $7,000
  • 5th overall: $6,000
  • 6th overall: $5,000
  • 7th overall: $4,000
  • 8th overall: $3,000
  • 9th overall: $2,500
  • 10th overall: $2,000

Even Scores will split the above prizes.  In the event of a tie, there will be a playoff for title of U.S. Champion as described below.

Playoff Procedures

Prize money will be awarded only based on score in the round-robin and will be split equally among tied Players.  However, ties for first and second will be broken by playoffs to determine the following: the official 2009 U.S. Women's Championship title, rights to the one spot into the 2010 U.S. Championship, two World Women's Championship spots and any other trophies or special prizes designated for the champion and/or runner-up.  The method of tie-breaking is below.  Math tiebreaks if needed (either in the case of Chief Arbiter discretion or seeding players in the scenarios below), wil be: 1. Direct Encounter, 2. Most Blacks, 3. Koya System, 4. Sonneborn-Berger, 5. Number of Games Won.

A. Two Players:
If two Players tie for first, they will enter a tiebreak that begins at 5:00 pm or no earlier than an hour after the conclusion of either Player's final round.  The base time for the game is 45 minutes +5 second increment.  It will be a draw odds game (Black wins on a draw).  The Players will both bid on the amount of time (minutes and seconds, a number equal to or less than 45:00) that they are willing to play with in order to choose their color.  The Player who bid the lower number of time chooses her color and gets the amount of time they wrote down; the other side always receives 45:00.  If both Players pick exactly the same number, the Chief Arbiter will flip a coin to determine who shall choose their color.

B. Three Players:
The Playoff for three Players or more begins at 5:00 pm on October 13, 2009.  If there are three Players tied for first, the Player with the highest tie-breaks in the math tiebreaks will choose between a.) getting a bye in the first round or b.) playing the preliminary round.  If she chooses b.), the bye into the final round will be passed on to the next Player by tibreak, and if the second Player by tiebreak also refuses the bye, it will be forced on to the final Player by tiebreak.

Preliminary round:
Players ranked 2 and 3 by math tiebreaks will contest a bidding draw odds game like the one above except instead of 45 minutes base time the base time will be 25 minutes +5 second increment.

Final round:
After a ten minute break, the winner of the preliminary round will play the Player with a bye in another 25+5 increment draw odds game.  This will not be a bidding game.  The Player who won the preliminary round will choose whether she prefers White or Black and draw odds.

C. Four Players:
The Playoff begins at 5 pm.

Preliminary round:
Math tiebreaks will determine which Players are paired for play: 1 plays 4 and 2 plays 3.  They will contest two preliminary 25+5 second increment bidding games as described above.

Final Round:
The winners of the two mini-matches will play a 25+5 second increment bidding game for the title, as described above.  The loser of the final playoff round will be the official second place winner in the tournament.  In the event of a tie for second, the same tiebreak system will be used.

D. More than Four Players:
In case of any unforeseen or unlikely tie (e.g. - a tie for first through 7th), the arbiters will have the discretion to make a decision in conjunction and/or on behalf of the Chess Club on how to break the ties, using a combination of mathematical tiebreaks and playoffs, within the time frame allotted.

History of Women’s Chess in the U.S.

While chess was not immune to historic gender barriers, women players have long refused to concede the game to men. In fact, the history of chess in the U.S. dates back to the start of the 19th century for both sexes.

For the first few decades women were tacitly banned from traditional chess clubs and tournaments. So passionate female players established their own venues, with some success. An 1897 article in The American Chess Magazine stated: "Ladies' chess clubs are quite the fashion now."

Despite that observation, another 40 years would pass before the first U.S. Women’s Chess Championship would be held in 1937. This was 80 years after the first official U.S. men’s champion was crowned and 40 years after the first-ever international ladies tournament took place in London (where the U.S. had three representatives).

The first U.S. Women’s Championship was held at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, organized by Caroline Marshall, the wife of U.S. Chess Champion Frank Marshall. Since then the event has become a tradition with its own proud history.

Gisela Gresser, a 1992 Chess Hall of Fame inductee and one of the first American women to become a rated grandmaster, has captured the title an unmatched nine times.

Susan Polgar, another repeat title-holder and Grandmaster, crossed the boundary and became the First woman to qualify for the Men's World Championship in 1986.

Also competing with the men was last year’s U.S. women’s chess champ, Anna Zatonskih. She participated in the male-dominated U.S. Championship back in May, also held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. She was joined by Irina Krush, who she faced in the !nals of the 2008 Women’s Championship.

Clearly women’s chess has come a long way in the United States. Indeed, 2009 undoubtedly will offer an inspiring new chapter in the history and development of women’s chess in America and around the world.

Women’s Chess in the U.S. Facts

  • The first unoffcial U.S. women's champion was crowned in 1857. Though her name was never listed, a description of the chess queen secured her legacy: "This lady is believed to be the strongest amateur of her sex in the country, and would certainly be ranked as a first-rate in any club."
  • The first published game by an U.S. woman player appeared in an 8-page brochure in 1830.
  • A Texas man in 1885 publicly offered a $100 bet that his wife could beat any man in chess.
  • Mona May Karff won seven titles, topped only by Gisela Kahn Gresser’s nine wins.
  • Irina Krush holds the record as the youngest player to win the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. She won it in 1998 at age 14.
  • In 1909 Eliza Foot “placed on the market a series of chess puzzles”, making her the first female U.S. chess author.