In the world of women's chess, Vera Menchik was a legend
Later this year we will see a match for the women's world chess championship between two Soviet stars, Maya Chiburdanidze and Irina Levitina. Accordingly, I will start a series on women's chess by introducing the most famous and probably the strongest woman player in chess history, Vera Francevna Menchik. Vera, who was born in Moscow of a Czechoslovak father and an English mother, came with her family to Hastings in England in 1927, and there became a pupil of the great Hungarian master Geza Maroczy.
She soon dominated women's chess. In the first Women's World Championship tournament, at London in 1927, she won the title with a score of 101/2 out of 11 and retained the championship with great ease in all subsequent Olympiads until, in 1944, she was killed by a V-1 bomb in London. Vera played under the British flag for most of her life and became a British citizen when she married R.H. Stevenson, a secretary of the British Chess Federation. She was the only woman of her time to play and hold her own in men's tournaments, and she enjoyed many excellent tournament results.
Today's game, taken from a 1937 match at Semmering, Austria, shows her dealing severely with her chief adversary in the women's championships. She destroys Sonja Graf in an impressive attacking display. More about contemporary women's chess will follow in subsequent columns.
Queen's Gambit Declined Menchik Graf 1. P-QB4 P-K3 2. N-QB3 P-Q4 3. P-Q4 N-KB3 4. N-B3 QN-Q2 5. P-K3 P-B3 6. B-Q3 B-K2 7. O-O O-O 8. P-K4 PxKP 9. NxP NxN 10. BxN N-B3 11. B-B2 P-B4 12. PxP Q-R4 13. B-K3 (a) BxP 14. B-Q2 Q-B2 (b) 15. B-B3 B-K2 16. Q-K2 P-QN3 17. N-N5 (c) P-N3 18. Q-B3 B-N2 19. Q-R3 P-KR4 20. QR-Q1 N-N5 (d) 21. R-Q7!! Resigns (e)
A. Seemingly a tempo loss but actually a well-thought maneuver designed to lure the Black bishop from its best defensive square at K2.
B. 14. . . . B-N5 would lead to an easier defense, although White would remain with a spatial advantage and possibilities of mobilizing her queenside pawn majority.
C. Very fine. White restrains herself from the obvious 17. BxN, BxB; 18. Q-K4 because of 18. . . . P-N3; 19. QxR, B-N2; 20. QxP, R-R1, with about equal play.
D. White was threatening to win with 21. BxP, PxB; 22. QxP ch; K moves; 23. R-Q7, but Black's 20th move, while preventing this threat, leaves her open to the pretty finish in the game. Note that 20. . . . QxP would also be met by 21. R-Q7, winning at least a piece, since 21. . . . NxR; 22. QxRP forces mate (22. . . . PxQ; 23. B-R7 mate).
E. A lovely finish. If 21. . . . QxR, then 22. QxP!, PxQ; 23. B-R7 mate. Note that an immediate 21. QxP is ineffective because of 21. . . . QxP ch; 22. QxQ, NxQ; 23. KxN, BxN.
WOMEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONS Vera Menchik 1927-44 Ludmila Rudenko 1953-56 Olga Rubtsova 1956-60 Elisabeth Bikova 1960-62 Nona Gaprindashvili 1962-78 Maya Chiburdanidze 1978-