After a dozen years with the IM title, Irina Krush is finally a GM-elect. She becomes the first American woman to achieve the threshhold while representing the U.S.
The first norm came right after becoming an International Master, then nothing for 12 years, then she earned her final two norms in a six-month span.
Krush blistered through the field in the recent Baku Open, picking up her third norm and cresting 2500 in the process - the final two hurdles for her coveted title. The event had 30 GMs and 20 IMs in a field of 69 (count Krush among the IMs participating; she usually eschewed references to the WGM title).
Krush (second from right) alongside teammates at the 2012 Chess Olympiad
In the event, she beat at player rated 2636, finishing with a stylish regrouping of her rooks on the g-file.
She also drew a handful of other strong GMs, and only lost to Super-GM Evgeny Alekseev. Krush needed only a draw in the last round. After it was declined on move seven (something her coach advised her to do), she went on to win.
Krush is now the 16th-highest-rated woman in the world, at 2502.
This comes after a scintillating and undefeated 7/9 at the Women's World Team Championships in Kazakhstan in March. She only played two grandmasters, which might normally pose a problem, but as she explained, FIDE is now considering that event a "performance norm" (along with other big events like the Olympiad) which allows for different requirements.
The first norm came in the New York City Mayor's Cup in 2001.
"I rather like my norm cities - New York, Astana, Baku, very cosmopolitan," Krush said.
"This breakthrough is quite unexpected for me, as I don't feel like I've done anything special."
Krush at the closing ceremony to the 2013 U.S. Women's Championship
With the help of USCF Executive Director and Zonal President Franc Guadalupe, the title was conferred at the 84th FIDE Congress currently taking place in Tallinn, Estonia. Krush will officially get the title after a 60-day waiting period.
"My coach says that I've been close to it for a long time," Krush said. "I've had a number of tournaments where I was half a point short of the norm over the years, including the World Open this year. The little things I may have changed have added up to give me the boost towards this result. I guess that's possible. If someone can come close to norms for a while, and then you give them some favorable circumstances, help from their coach, positive atmosphere during the tournament, more psychological stability, then those things can certainly add up to an extra half point in an event."
Earlier in the year and in between norms two and three, Krush won her second consecutive U.S. Women's Championship. With seven wins and two draws, it was her fifth title overall.
Krush playing this year in St. Louis, USA
She has been at or near the top of the American chess scene for a decade and a half. Though born in Ukraine, she learned chess as a young girl on the same flight she took while immigrating to the U.S.
"My overall feeling is: Very nice, I made GM, now it's time to learn how to play chess," she said.