The Queen of Chess

The Queen of Chess

| 39 | Chess Players

Vera Menchik (16 February 1906—27 June 1944) was born to Czech (father) and
English (mother) parents, in Moscow. She was a British chess player who gained
notoriety as the world's first women's chess champion. From 1927 until her death she was women’s world champion! She was fascinated with the game from the time she first learned it at nine. She left Russia in 1921 and settled in England, where she began taking lessons from Geza Maroczy, considered one of the top chess masters of the early decades of the 20th century.

Menchik was the first woman player in history ever invited to play in top international tournaments, and she competed with some of the world’s leading male chess master, defeating many of them, including future World Champion Max Euwe! Her positional style and endgame expertise netted her victories against several notable male players.

In 1929 she was invited to play in the super tournament at Carlsbad that contained such worthies as Capablanca, Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein, Bogoljubow, Euwe, Spielmann, Tartakower and Maróczy among others chess superstars. There Albert Becker, the Viennese master, poked fun of her presence and said that anyone who lost to Menchik should be forced to join “The Vera Menchik Club.” He became the first member!

Her greatest tournament success was at Ramsgate 1929, where she ended up in a tie for second with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and… ahead of her teacher Géza Maróczy! It was the first tournament at which she played against men! Vera was the only woman to play in men's tournaments in the first half of the 20th century.

She won the first Women's World Championship in 1927 and successfully defended her title six times in every other championship in her lifetime, winning 78 games, drawing four, and losing only one!

In 1937 she married an Englishman, R. H. Stevenson. He died in 1943. Vera Menchik died in 1944, when a German air raid destroyed her London residence, also killing her mother and sister.

The trophy for the winning team in the Women's Chess Olympiad is known as the Vera Menchik Cup.

“She is the only woman to play chess well against men” - Capablanca.

“It is certain, that she is an absolute exception to her sex. She is so highly talented at chess that with further work and experience in tournaments she will surely succeed in developing from her present stage as an average player into a high-class international champion… it is the chess world’s duty to grant her every possibility for development” - Alekhine.








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