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|WIM Esther Epstein|
Esther Epstein is a systems manager in the bio-medical engineering department at Boston University. Despite a demanding job in a field that is nearly as male-dominated as the chess world, Esther has actively played chess since she moved to the United States.
Esther married GM Alexander Ivanov in 1977 and moved to Lithuania in 1980, where they waited for an opportunity to escape from the oppressive USSR to greater freedom in America. Esther's own brother Shmuel was jailed for over three years. "His crimes were reading Solzhenitsyn and meeting the banished Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrey Sakharov," she said. In 1988, Esther and Alex finally received permission to move to the United States.
Esther won two U.S. Women's titles including a clear first at the 1997 U.S. Championship. At her peak, her rating was over 2300. She is proud to have represented the U.S. at five Olympiads, "the best tournaments on the calendar" she says. Her most memorable Olympiads were Manila, Philippines, in 1992 and Elista, Russia, in 1998. Manila was the first Olympiad held after the breakup of the Soviet Union; Esther said it was link a reunion of players from republics who previously could only qualify if they were one of the top few players from the entire USSR. The Elista Olympiad was held in Chess City, a place dreamed up by Kirsan Illimujinov, president of both FIDE and Kalmykia (the Russian republic, of which Elista is the capital). Chess City is a controversial place, because the money Kirsan spent on constructing Chess City could have been spent on Kalmykia, where most citizens don't have access to medical care or electricity. It was a well-organized Olympiad in which teams stayed in cozy brand new cottages. Chess City suited Esther, who played well in 1998, contributing to the U.S. team's top ten finish.
Esther and Alexander live in Newton and they have two sons, Alex and Andrew.