INTRODUCTION – Longest-Reigning Women’s Champion of Chess
“The first’s are always a history
Because they broke all barriers
To create something epic”.
Once upon a time there was a woman who played the game of chess like a man. She went to become the first Women’s World Champion and made a record of eight World Champion wins from 1927 to 1944. She is also the longest-reigning Women’s Champion in the game of chess. She is none other than Vera Francevna Mencikova.
HER EARLY LIFE IN RUSSIA
Vera Francevna Mencikova was born in Moscow on 16th february 1906 to a Czech father and English mother. She had a younger sister, named Olga who was also a chess player. Her mother and father worked for estate owners where her mother acted as a private tutor for the owners children while her father was the manager for the estates. Menchik was taught to play chess at the age of nine by her father.
THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AND THE BEGINNING OF HER CHESS JOURNEY
In 1917, the Russian Revolution began which completely changed Menchik’s life. She had to shift from a private girls school to a Soviet Public school. There the student’s began a chess club and Menchik joined in that club. Here Menchik got to play her first tournament at the age of fourteen with other students who were boys and male teachers. But the tournament was left incomplete and if it would have continued, Menchik would have finished second or third. This tournament gave rise to the sporting spirit in her. In 1921, Menchik along with her mother and sister moved to Hastings in England due to the Russian Revolution.
LANGUAGE IS NOT A BARRIER TO PLAY THE GAME
Menchik only knew to communicate in Russian in England. But rather than brooding over the language barrier, she thought that to play chess she does not need to know the English Language. She began to concentrate on her chess.
At the age of seventeen, Menchik joined the Hastings Chess Club which was conducting an annual tournament called the Hastings International Chess Christmas Congress which featured some of the best players in the world.
HER INITIAL TRAINING
Menchik began her training in the club where her coach was James Drewitt. He was the club champion that year. Then she was trained by Geza Marcozy, who was awarded the grandmaster title. Menchik became the only female chess player to take part in the formal training in the club.
MENCHIK’S SUCCESS SPREE
In the initial months itself, Menchik began to regularly compete in the chess tournaments at the Hastings Chess Club. She represented Hastings in the Sexton cup inter-club competition. Few months later for East Sussex, Menchik began to play at the country level. Not only that, Menchik defeated Edith Price who was the British Champion twice to establish herself as the best female chess player in the country. Menchik also finished as a runner up to George Thomas in the Stratford tournament. Also, before reaching the semi-finals of the country championship, Menchik was recognized as a first class palyer by the Sussex Chess Association. Her other victories include,
In 1925, she became the first female player to play in the major section of the Christmas Congress.
Menchik won the first two edition of the London Girl’s Championship in 1926 and 1927 with perfect scores.
Her first notable tournament victory was a win in the Major level reserve section at Christmas Congress. She defeated Abraham Baratz, who was an established master in the next edition of the same game.
From 1928, Menchik began to play master-level events.
Menchik also began to play in the Premier Section and demonstrated she could compete in it. She also made her premier debut in the reserve section and played in the main Premier tournament of the Hastings Christmas Congress.
Menchik had a successful open tournament in the Kent Congress at Ramsgate which made her receive regular invitations to play in the international tournaments.
Menchik became the Hastings Club Champion in 1930, which was her first and only time.
In 1931, she won the British Championship in the Major open Section.
Menchik got married in 1937 and became a British Citizen. This made her represent England in competitions and became the first woman to compete in the British Championship.
WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
In 1927, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) hosted the first Chess Olympiad and they decided to have a women’s tournament and the winner of the game was to be declared as the First Women’s World Champion. The tournament had twelve players who represented eight European countries competing with each other. Menchik won the tournament and became the first Women World Championship creating history. After that she defended the tittle many times until her sudden death.
HER UNTIMELY DEATH AND HONOURS
In 1944, Menchik was killed due to bomb attacks during the Second World War. The bomb also destroyed the records of Menchik’s life like her game records, her writings and her trophies.
Her honours include,
Menchik was inducted into the World Chess of Hall Fame in 2011.
The winner of the Women’s Chess Olympiad receives the Vera Menchik Cup.
FIDE commerated the 50th anniversary of her death by making 1994 the Year of Vera Menchik.
Menchik has been featured on postage stamps for some countries.
MENCHIK WAS AN INSPIRATION FOR MANY
Menchik was once invited to the Moscow tournament to help bolster Soviet’s Women’s Chess. Two decades later, Elisaveta Bykova, a Soviet Player and a Women’s World Champion stated that Menchik’s visit to Moscow inspired her to take the game of chess seriously. Also, the Soviet Union became the leading country in Women’s Chess after Menchik’s death.
Vera Menchik broke all obstacles and consistently played in top level events in the game of chess. Her victory encouraged many female players to come out and compete without any hesitation or doubt.
“History does not happen
It is created
By people like
By: Samyuktha R