The title of youngest-ever competitor in the U.S. Women’s Championship may still belong to reigning champion GM Irina Krush - age 11 in 1995 - but that just may be because Ashritha Eswaran got a late start. The California 13-year-old, who learned to play at age 7 (to Krush’s 5), has had an unbelievably fast rise to the top ranks since joining the USCF in just 2008 - currently ranking as the 16th female in the nation, with a rating of 2231.
After a year-plus of “casual play,” Eswaran’s parents took a promising start to the next level - and her response to coaching set her rating on a trajectory that has never come down and never plateaued. Beginning private lessons within the NorCal House of Chess and eventually moving under the guidance of Bulgarian GM Dejan Bojkov, Eswaran doubled her rating in just her first year with direction - entering January 2010 rated 650 and closing the year just past 1300. She padded nearly 500 points onto her rating in the following year, finishing 2011 rated 1786, and another 150 points in 2012 -- rated 1935. Since January 2013, Eswaran has continued her staggering climb by adding another 300 points, passing the 2200 watermark for the first time and landing her first title as Candidate Master this past February. She currently takes lessons with Bojkov, the NorCal House of Chess and Armenian chess coach Arthur Arutjunian.
Eswaran has been the cream of her age category for several years running, first winning the All-Girls National Championship U12 in 2012 then defending the title in 2013 in the U14 section. Internationally, she has represented the United States twice in the World Youth Championships - Slovenia in 2012, and Dubai in 2013 - finishing just out of medal contention in both. She will try for a third time later this year, in South Africa.
“I feel really happy and excited (for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Championship), and I have a lot of respect for everyone who is coming - despite the age difference,” Eswaran said. “I think it’s important to play against players of all ages, you can learn something from everyone.
“Lately, chess just feels like a door that’s opening, where I can explore new things still unknown to me around the world, meet new friends and just treat my chess career like a learning experience.”