Ruth Haring, a top U.S. chess player in the 1970s and 1980s who played for the national women's team in five consecutive Chess Olympiads and became a rare female president of the U.S. Chess Federation, died on Thursday in Chico, California. She was 63.
The cause was not immediately known, her son, Theodore Biyiasas, said. She had gone to the hospital a day earlier with symptoms of pneumonia, he said.
Haring, the standout in a family of chess players, was chosen for the women's national team for the 1974 Chess Olympiad, a biennial tournament in which teams from all over the world compete. (The team did not win a medal that year.) The leading four or five women in the country were usually selected for the competition.
That same year, Haring played in the U.S. Women's Championship, finishing second to Mona May Karff; it was the best result of Haring's career.
She played in the next four Olympiads—in 1976, '78, '80 and 8'2—and several other U.S. Women's Championships.
Haring married Peter Biyiasas, a Canadian grandmaster, in 1978 after her marriage to Bill Orton ended in divorce. She and Biyiasas were living in San Francisco at the time and, seeking a steady income while starting a family, she reduced
her tournament play and went to work for IBM as a project manager. She later worked for Lockheed, TRW and eBay.
She had three children with Biyiasas before the marriage ended in divorce in 2005. In addition to her son, Theodore, Haring is survived by two daughters, Lauren Biyiasas Eltoukhy and Christina Biyiasas Hudson; three brothers, David, Brian and Fred; her parents, Maryanne Magoon and Robert Haring; and her companion, Tom Kozik.
During Haring's early years in San Francisco, she and her husband had a frequent guest: Bobby Fischer, the reclusive former world champion. He often played against Biyiasas, at one point beating him in 17 straight blitz games, but he also played Haring, removing one of his pawns at the start to give himself a handicap. He won all the same.
Theodore Biyiasas recalled his mother coming home from work one day to find that Fischer had found and analyzed all her tournament games. Fischer told her that she often played as if she were behind and needed to be more aggressive -to play to win.
She returned to tournament chess in 2008.
At the time, the U.S. Chess Federation, the sport's governing body, was emerging from a period of acrimony stemming from a series of lawsuits over an election of officers to its executive board. Haring decided to dive into chess politics.
She was elected to the board in 2009 and two years later was elected president, becoming only the second woman to head the group.
Beatriz Marinello, who led the organization from 2003 to 2005, said by email that it is exceedingly difficult for a woman to oversee the federation because the game is so dominated by men, an imbalance that spills over into its politics.
"She became president to help heal the differences between people," Marinello wrote. "Her strength was being willing and available to talk."
After Haring's term as president ended in 2015, she remained on the federation's board for another year.
Ruth Inez Haring was born on Jan. 23, 1955, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, in Barnstable County. She learned to play chess from her father and her brothers, though she would surpass all of them in skill, Theodore Biyiasas said.
When she was young, the family moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, and then to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where her chess career took off. She became president of the chess teams in high school and at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Writing years later in Chess Life, the official magazine of the U.S. Chess Federation, Haring recalled that on most weekends from 1969 to 1973 she and family members would travel around the country by car, sometimes up to 700 miles, to play in tournaments.
Haring continued to compete until recently, including in a tournament in November at the Sacramento Chess Club. Her son won it.