Searching for Diane Savereide
By WIM Alexey Root   
June 9, 2010
Diane Savereide
Nine months ago I decided to dedicate my fourth book (People, Places, Checkmates: Teaching Social Studies with Chess) to Diane Savereide. I figured when the book came out, I'd contact L.A. Times columnist IM Jack Peters (Diane's former chess teacher) for Diane's current address. But when I emailed Jack on March 19, 2010, I learned that he hadn't heard from Diane in years. The "Search for Diane Savereide" began! I knew I'd get help in the search, because of the enormous respect that Diane garnered among chessplayers. Diane impressed me from the first time I met her, at the 1981 U.S. Women's Chess Championship, to the last time I saw her, in 1993.

My first time competing in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship was in 1981. At 15 years old, I had just earned an expert rating and was ranked 10th in the 12-person round robin field. Diane was 26, a master. I thought she'd won the event four times before (1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978). At the isolated Intermountain Inter-tribal School site in Brigham City Utah, I gravitated toward our dorm's common room, eager for company. Diane seemed much more self-sufficient, having stocked her room with chess books and David Bowie cassette tapes. When she joined the common room, she was soft-spoken and dignified. She frequently analyzed chess positions, showing several moves of theory at the start. Later in the game, she'd pause to ponder. Then she would reveal a series of moves that I hadn't considered. She took chess seriously, and shared her passion for the game with the other participants. I thought, and still think, that Diane was an ideal champion.

I was incredibly honored, therefore, when she named her game with me as her best game of her Women's Championship. Here it is:

The U.S. Women's was not held in 1982 or 1983. I wrote an article for Northwest Chess magazine about the 1984 tournament.
Most of the field at the 1984 US Women's Chess Championship: Back Row: TD Alan Glasscoe, Diane Savereide, Inna Izrailov, Ruth Donnelly, Betsy Smith, Vera Frenkel, Pam Ford, Front Row:Diana Lanni, Ivona Jezierska, Rachel Crotto, George Koltanowski (chief arbiter), Alexey Rudolph, Shernaz Kennedy

My writing shows that I respected Diane, and felt fortunate to have drawn her that year:

"Once again, Diane Savereide dominated the Women's tournament. Rated over one hundred points above the field, she is definitely the best female player in this country."

I also annotated the game, and repeat those annotations here.

1. g3 Nf6
2. Bg2 d5

In 1981 I had lost with the Closed Sicilian against Diane, and I was relieved not to have to play against that opening again.
3. d3 c5
4. Nd2 Nc6
5. e4 e6
6. Ngf3 Be7
7. b3?

Much too committal. Better was simply 7. 0-0.
8. Bb2 de
8....d4, shutting in White's dark-squared Bishop might be a better plan.
9. de Ba6
10. c4?

Correct was 10. e5 Nd5 11.Nc4 with the idea of 0-0
11. Qb1 Nb4
12. Ne5 Qb1
13. Rb1 Bb7

If 13....Na2 14. Nc6 with threats of Ne7 and e5 and also of Ra1.
14. a4
Better is 14. a3.
Piling on the pressure.
15. Rd1 Nc2
16. Ke2 0-0
17. Rdc1 Nd4
18. Bd4 Rd4
19. N5f3 R4d8
20. e5!

Sacrificing a pawn for play.
21. Rhe1 Ne5
22. Ne5 Bg2
23. f3 Bg5
24. Rc2 Rd2
25. Rd2 Bd2
26. Kd2 f6
27. Nc6 Bf3
28. Re6

Or else ....e5!
29. Rc6 Rd8
30. Ke3 Rd1
White accepted Black's draw offer (1/2-1/2).

We drew again in 1985, at the Midwest Women's Open where we shared first.

Diane stopped playing as much after 1985, and I continued to improve. The last games we played were in June of 1989, for the Southern California Chess Federation Women's League. Four four-player female teams played matches against each other, one game in the morning and one game after a lunch break where we all dined together. Diane and I played first board for different teams. The time control was G/60, and I won both games. Diane was incredibly gracious about the losses. I was overwhelmed to have won twice in one day against my chess role model.
Diane Savereide and Rachel Crotto

Although I still looked up to her, I think we became more like equals that summer. Defeating Diane pushed me over 2200 USCF for the first time. I won the U.S. Women's a month later. Now I had the title that she'd won so many times before. Also, I'd grown up. I was engaged to be married and about to start graduate school. So the teenager-adult gap no longer existed between us.

Diane, her mom Jackie and Alexey's daughter Clarissa.
The last time I saw Diane was in 1993, when my husband Doug attended a molecular biology conference in California. We were already living in Texas, but I came along on his conference trip to show off our new baby Clarissa. Diane and her mom Jackie drove down from Los Angeles to San Diego to see us. I took much-treasured photos of them with Clarissa. I didn't imagine then that I wouldn't see Diane again. But, in retrospect, it makes sense since I have visited California infrequently since 1993.

In the front of my fourth book, the dedication reads, "For Diane Savereide, Six-time U.S. women's chess champion and my role model." For almost a month this spring, I feared that she wouldn't get to read the book's dedication. Jack Peters suggested that I call Linda Mahan, a fellow participant in the 1981 U.S. Women's. But Linda didn't have current information for Diane, nor did IM Jeremy Silman or WGM Jennifer Shahade. The search was stuck. When I mentioned my search to former USCF President Tim Redman, however, results came quickly. Through his connections among chess politicians, I located Diane on April 9. After locating her, a surprise: She's a five-time, not six-time, champion. There was no U.S. Women's in 1977, emailed Diane. So my dedication is wrong factually, but correct in my continued admiration for Diane Savereide.

Get a copy of Alexey's new book, People, Places, Checkmates at the USCF store.

The 2010 US Women's Chess Championship is coming up soon, from July 9-19, in Saint Louis, Missouri. Go to for details and live coverage.