Vrnjačka Banja 1961

Vrnjačka Banja 1961

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 I published something similar to this for that forums about three years go.  I wanted it in my blog.

The Women's Candidate Tournament for the World Championship took place in Vrnjačka Banja, Oct.-Nov. 1961.

I'm looking at this tournament predominantly from an American perspective.  Women in general were yet to be able to even climb the staircase to knock on the gate to Olympia and American women had been towards the rear of these second-ranked players.  This tournament really changed little in that hierarchy, but in reading American journals one could sense the hope and the suppressed excitement.

Before the tournament Chess Life magazine published an article (actually a couple articles) on the American women on which those hopes were pinned. The one below, a partial from the Nov. 1961 issue, was headlined as "All Eyes Are on the Women."



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"Chess Review" Jan. 1962

 

Two American women took part: Gisela Gresser and Lisa Lane.  But Noan Gaprindashvili was the star, winning this tournament in style, which in turn set her up for her one-sided match against reigning Women's World Champion, Elisabeth Bykova, and her own 16 year tenure.
     Valentina Borisenko, then the Soviet Women's Champion, came in 2nd. 
     Another Soviet, Kira Zvorikina, married to Alexey Suetin, and by 1961 past her prime, managed 3rd place.
     Six-time Yugoslavian Womens Champion, Verica Nedeljković, who, like Zvorikina, was married to a chess coach (Srećko Nedeljković), tied took 4th-5th-6th place with eleven-time Yugoslavian Women's Champion, Milunka Lazarević and with the then Soviet player Tatiana Zatulovskaya. Zatulovskaya was the Soviet Woen's Champion in 1960 and 1962 (in 1961, Borisenko held that title).
     7th-8th-9th places were shared among Hungarian-born Alexandra Nicolau, who was the current and six-time Romanian Women's Champion and later a five-time Dutch Women's Champion; Larissa Volpert, a three-time Soviet Women's Champion and Éva Ladanyike-Karakas, the current and five-time Hungarian Women's Champion.
     Elisabeta Polihroniade, who would later be a seven-time Romanian Women's Champion secured 10th place.
    Henrijeta Konarkowska, a four-time Polish and later two-time Yugoslavian Women's Champin came in 11th.
     Chantal Chaudé de Silans, the pioneer of French women's chess and th 1936 Frnech Women's Champion, shared 12th-13th-14th place with the two Americans, Gresser and Lane.
     Current and ten-times Dutch Women's Champion, Fenny Heemskerk, came in 15th-16th along with Friedl Rinder, who at 61 was by far the oldest competitor and who was the German Women's Champion in 1939 and the West-German Women's Champion 4 times.
     Mongolian player, Sandagdorj Handsuren, came in last place.

nullCrosstable from Wikipedia


from "Chess Life," January 1962:

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      Vrnjacka Banja is Yugoslavia's Hastings, for here, every year, chess festivals are held. A Women's Zonal Tournament took place here in 1960 and from Oct. 27 to Nov. 25, 1961 the Women's Candidates Tournament. This beautiful place has only eight thousand inhabitants, yet the tournament hall was always crowded; many came from Belgrade, which is not far away, to see seventeen of the best women players in the world.
      The USSR contingent aroused great interest; it consisted of five players, five "seconds" and the group leader. Grand-master Ink Boleslaysky was Zvorikina's second, Grandmaster Igor Bondarevsky was the group leader. Master Sisov was second for Gaprindasvili, Master Makag-onov for Zatulovskaya and Master Kon-dratijev for Volpert. This formidable array of players and seconds made the USSR entries the favorites for top honors. Also in the running were the Yugoslav participants, Mrs. Vera Nedeljkovic and Mrs. Milunka Lazarevic.
      According to FIDE rules, the games between players from the same country had to be played in the early rounds; for the USSR players, this meant the first eight rounds. In their little tournament with five players, Nona Gaprindasvili took first place with three wins and one draw.
      The youngest player in the tournament, 20 year old Gaprindasvili, started off with some fine wins, and led at all times. Let us then first tell her story.
      Two years ago, she played in the Georgian Republic "Men's" Champion-ship. She drew with Masters Gurgenidze and Beslayski, won her game with Blagidze and was in the middle of the final standing table. But her story goes back to that day in Zugdida in the heart of Georgia, when a teacher introduced chess to his five sons and his only daughter. When Nona was five, she learned how to move the pieces; at 12, was champion of her school. Very often she played against her five brothers for the home championship. Only one of the brothers is younger than Nona, and two of them are first category players. With her father's consent, she went to the city of Tbilisi (formerly Tiflis). Here she met a very good chess teacher named Karseladze. She spent two years in the "Dvorac pionerjev"—the house for young boys and girls. In 1957, Mikhail Vasilevic Sisov became her "trainer."
      The young dark-eyed girl, now a student of the English language, will be Bikova's opponent early in 1962 for the women's world title. Up to now she has only played one game against Bikova, and lost it. It was in 1958, when Nona took third place in the USSR Women's Championship and became a chess master. In the Women's International Tournament at Tbilisi in 1960, Nona was second, and became an International Women's Master.
      But the happiest part of Nona's story began in Round 16 at Vrnjacka Banja. When Valentina Borisenko drew with Eilzabeta Polihroniade, applause broke out. Nona, then playing with Mrs. Gisela Greaser, rose in acknowledgment, for she now was two points ahead of Borisenko and officially became the challenger for the women's world crown. Her second, Sisov, said that evening that as part of her preparation for the world championship match, she would play against male opponents in the Georgian Championship. Nona received 100 telegrams that evening, among them messages from Tal and Bikova. Nona told me that the USSR players had been preparing for Vrnjacka Vanja for four months. This was probably the cause of their success.
      Grandmaster Petrosian said after the Candidates Tournament in Amsterdam five years ago that those tournaments brought joy to only one person, the winner. The others did not realize their dreams. So it was at Vrnjacka Banya. Nona Gaprindasvili was elated, but the others?
      Valentina Borisenko, present Soviet Women's Champion, had as a second her husband, a master and theoretician. In her game against Nona, she had the ad-vantage and was expected to win, but under time pressure, she made several mistakes, and lost. After this game, Valentina said: "It is always like this in chess. One never knows whether one will win or lose, but when the end of the tournament rolls around, one finds oneself just about where she belongs." But generally, she played very well in-deed, and will be seeded into the next Women's Candidates Tournament.
      Before the beginning of the battle, Kira Zvorikina was conceded the best chance for victory, because she was first in the previous Candidates Tournament in Plovdiv, and had played in a world title match against Bikova. But she did not live up to these expectations. How-ever, in the last rounds, she was at her best and took third place, thus qualifying for the next Women's Candidates Tournament.
Ex-world champion Mikhail Tal said before the tournament that Tatiana Za-tulovskaya had the best chance for first place. Tatiana told me afterward the reason for Tal's view. She had won the prize for the best game at the Women's Championship at Riga, where Tal was one of the judges. But in several games, she left a piece en prise — and her dreams were not fulfilled.
      Vera Nedeljkovic was without the help of her husband Srecke, an international master, who was busy at his profession. But this was not the main reason why she did not realize her dreams. She lost her first game, but still had high hopes toward the end. In the match last May between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, Vera had five points out of six and it was the best score. Because of this, the Soviet players were a little bit afraid of her, but Vera, in her turn, lacked self-confidence.
      Three different styles—three different persons had at the end the same number of points: Larissa Volpert, Eva Karakas and Alexandra Nicolau. Volpert is a professor of French, and Nicolau an expert in the Chinese language. Of course, everybody expected more from Volpert, several times the USSR Women's Champion. She did not play in her usual manner. Karakas, in the first hall of the tournament, was one of the biggest surprises. Nicolau played a wonderful game against Zvorikina.
      Elizabeta Polihroniade is a Rumanian radio reporter. But the reports from her chess board were not too favorable. Henrieta Konarkowska, in the last round, had the better position against Zvorikina, but still lost.
      Lisa Lane's first visit to Yugoslavia was a real sensation. When she arrived at the Belgrade Airport, we thought she was a film star from Hollywood. Everybody recognized her from newspaper photos. Yugoslav chess columns often told of a young, beautiful lady who wanted to become a Grandmaster. In the first round, she was unlucky, leaving a piece en prise against Gresser, but the next round showed us the big talent of this player who could be very soon a world champion. Lack of experience is holding her back. Her best game prob-ably was the one with Zvorikina; the American champion played in real master style, was near victory, but just couldn't make it. The same thing happened against Zatulovskaya. Lisa said later; "I expected more from the USSR players; they have not shown very much in the games with me. If I practice enough till the next Candidates Tournament, I will be the first."
      Lisa Lane's popularity in Yugoslavia was very high. She got lots of letters, telegrams and invitations to visit various parts of Yugoslavia. One letter was ad-dressed only with her photo and it reached her. When she visited Sarajevo, over five hundred people came to the chess club to listen to her being inter-viewed. "Everybody has a million excuses for not fulfilling her ambitions," said Lisa. But I can tell you that I was not well prepared for the tournament. Or else, I haven't enough luck." For half an hour afterward, she had to sign autographs, like a film star.
      After the tournament, Lisa got invitations to play at Hastings, England and at Beverwijk, Holland in December and January.
      The second American representative, Gisela Kahn Gresser played several good games. She drew with the winner, and her victory over Heemskerk was very fine. She also needs more practice and theoretical preparation.
      Madame Chaude de Silans did not play as well as she did some years back. She played a fine game against Volpert. Fanny Heemskerk is a very good singer, but she didn't feel like singing, because of her lost games. She began with a sensational victory over Zvorikina, but it was her first and the last but one victory at Vrnjacka Banya. At the closing ceremony the biggest applause went to the tailender, S. Hundsuren of Mongolia.
      Other seconds were: For Nedeljkovic, International Master Djurasevic; for Lazarevic, Master Minic; for Konarkow-ska, Polish Master Doda; for Karakas, Master Silagy; for Heemskerk and de Si-lans, Master Withuis; for Polihroniade and Nicolau, Master Simeany; for Lisa Lane, International Master Drageljub Ciric.

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Some games from the 1961 Women's Candidate Tournament:

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