Jennifer R. Yu ’25 Captures U.S. Women’s Chess Championship


College sophomore Jennifer R. Yu ’25 took home the 2022 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship title late last month after a 17-day tournament in St. Louis.

After winning eight out of the first 13 rounds in the tournament, Yu won two out of three playoff rounds against Irina B. Krush, a Grandmaster and eight-time U.S. Women's Chess Champion. Yu claimed the $40,000 prize after her victory in the final round.

Yu competed in her first U.S. championship at age 13. She played in the tournament each year until she won her first championship in 2019. Her victory this year makes her one of 16 women to win the title more than once in the tournament’s 85-year history.

After tying in the first two playoff matches against Krusih, Yu’s victory came in a “winner-take-all game” that is rare in chess tournaments, according to Wesley Wang ’26, a Harvard Chess Club member. The Armageddon game is a single time-controlled game guaranteed to produce a winner.


Christopher Y. Shen ’26, another Harvard Chess Club member, described this final high-stakes game as “stomach turning.”

During the game, Yu made what she called a “really rudimentary mistake.” She moved a bishop where it could be taken by Krush, a blunder that put her win at risk.

“In the moment, everyone thought it was over,” Shen, who was watching the game, said.

Despite Yu's blunder, a few mistakes from Krush — along with what Harvard Chess Club president James C. Toliver ’23 described as a “deliberate, well-planned” recovery — led to Yu’s final victory.

“She managed to win," Toliver said. "It was crazy,"

"I’m surprised we didn’t get a noise complaint,” he added about the club’s watch party for the match.

This tournament marked Yu's first U.S. Women’s Chess Championship since she entered college. Though she said it was “nice” to take a break from chess, she said she feels as though chess “was a major part” of her identity growing up and that she wanted to return.

Yu said she does not memorize opening move sequences as much as she should, especially after her break.

“Anyone that looks at my game, they know that I’m pretty weak there. So when I’m playing tournaments like these, I’m oftentimes just worse off the bat,” she said.

Yu said her playing style relies on trying to make up for her weakness by complicating the game for her opponent.

“I don’t really give up,” she said.

Though she has balanced schoolwork and chess since she began playing in elementary school, Yu said it’s “much more difficult now.”

Currently a Woman Grandmaster, her next goal is to become an International Master, the second most difficult chess title to attain. Guaranteed a spot by her recent victory, Yu is also set to compete in the 2023 Chess World Cup.

She also plans to return to the 2023 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship.

“Hopefully, I’m going to defend my title next year,” Yu said.