I have all different favorite chess players. I love Paul Morphy; I am intriqued with Prince Dadian of Mingrelia and I am enamoured with Misha Tal. But I also have favorite women players such as Miss Rosa Jefferson, Ellen Gilbert and . . . the lovely Adele Rivero.
Adele Rivero 1936
We first hear of Belgium-born Adele Rivero in 1934 when she tied for 2nd place along with Mrs. B. W. McCready behind the winner, Marjorie Seaman in the first ladies' tournament organized and promoted by Caroline Marshall at the Marshall Chess Club. She won a copy of Chess Potpourri by Alfred C. Klahre.
After this tournament, Adele joined the Marshall Chess Club and that same year played in two inter-club tournaments in which she was the only female contestant. She won her game in the first and lost her game in the second tournament. It was said that Mrs. Rivero took up chess only after her husband claimed that women weren't suited for chess. It was also joked that her husband was the only man she never beat.
It almost universally noted that Adele Rivero was the first U.S. Women's Chess Champion (1937). It's also a univeral mistake.
The second Marshall Club Women's tournament was held in 1936. Adele Rivero beat out Mary Bain and Mrs. B. W. McCready with a perfect 5-0 score and a third tournament was announced. This next tournament was hoped to have been for the purpose of determining the American woman chess champion. This, however, didn't quite occur. The tournament was an National Chess Federation event. At the time there were two federations however and the American Chess Federation wasn't represented. According to women's chess chronicler, Edith Weart, "As the tournament this year was sponsored by the National Chess Federation. Mrs. Rivero now holds the title of woman champion of that organization." However, In the February 1938 issue of Chess Review, Weart did write, "Feminine chess takes a step forward with the announcement by the National Chess Federation that a tournament will be held in connection with the regular U. S. Championship tournament to determine the U. S. Woman Chess Champion." This indicates clearly that until 1938 there was no U.S. Women's chess champion. N. May (Mona May) Karff won the 1938 tournament, played expressly for determining the U.S. Women's Chess Champion, making Ms. Karff the first women's chess champion. Mary Bain won 2nd place and Adele Rivero, third. (Mrs. Jean Moore Grau, woman champion of the American Chess Federation, was invited to participate but was unable to make the journey.)
Mrs. Rivero was usually presented as a nervous player whose anxiety level could be measured by the amount of tissues she shredded in the course of a game. Her loses in the 1938 championship tournament were the first to any woman player in two years. In fact, on May 20th, less than two weeks before the commencement of the championship tournament, Mrs. Rivero played an eight-board simul at the Providence (R. I.) Chess Club - "Playing against the strongest women in the state, Mrs. Rivero made a clean sweep of the eight boards."
-a nice win by N. May Karff over Adele Rivero for the Women's Championship:
Adele Rivero was conspicuously absent from competition in 1939, but in 1940 she rejoined the fray beating all her opponents by a large margin and becoming, for the first time, the U.S. Woman's Chess Champion .
-a nice win over N. May Karff:
In 1941 the tournament format was put aside and Adele Rivero accepted a match challenge for the title from N. May Karff.
Lady Chess Stars to Play for Title
As announced last month, Mrs. Adele Rivero, Woman Chess Champion of the United States, has agreed to defend her title in an eight-game match with Miss N. May Karff, the former champion. The match will be held in November and the games will be played at the leading New York chess clubs.
The contest between these fair young women chess stars has been arranged by CHESS REVIEW to promote interest in the royal game and help to dispel the erroneous idea that all chess players are old men! Mrs. Rivero and Miss Karff will demonstrate that attractive young women can play good chess.
Slim, petite Adele Rivero (seated at right in above picture) plays strong, conservative chess. Inclined to be nervous, she exercises remarkable control in important games, displays great powers of stamina and concentration, nurses small advantages into the end-game. Mrs. Rivero dethroned Miss Karff and won the Women's Championship title in the open tournament held in New York last year at the Hotel Astor.
Adele Rivero and N. May Karff
The day before the first game, Adele Rivero married Donald Belcher and played the match under her new name, Adele Belcher. Possibly her newly-wed status coupled with her own natural anxiety affected her play. N. May Karff swept through the match with a 5-1 victory. Mrs. Belcher's play was uncharacteristically weak and several of her games contained outright blunders. This led Horowitz to write, "Mrs. Belcher, on the other hand, was nervous and self-conscious, made some incredible blunders, showed every sign of being badly out of practice. After losing four straight, she came to life in the fifth game, smartly out-played her opponent, put on a real show for her many admirers, only to lapse into defeat in the sixth and final game."
The winner of the match took possession of the new Chess Review Trophy and each player received a purse of $98.50, splitting the $197.00 raised through contributions.
I. A. Horowitz, Adele Belcher, Referee L. Walter Stephens, Herman Helms, Miss N. May Karff, Frank Marshall
Adele Rivero congratulating N. May Karff.
Adele Belcher again played in the 1942 championship but Karff won with a comfortable margin 8-0. Belcher and Nancy Roos tied for 2nd place with 6-2.
Adele Belcher vs. Miss C. Fawns, Nancy Roos (standing)
Adele (Rivero) Belcher moved to Bristol, Vermont, where, for an unspecified period, she was undefeated in Vermont tournament chess. At one point she gave a 26 board simul scoring +25=1.
After this, I lost her trail.