A Tribute to Vera Menchik by Kevin Marchese

Vera Francevna Menchik (Mencikova) was born in Moscow, Russia on February 16, 1906. Her father was Czech and her mother was British.

When Vera was 15, the family and she moved to England in 1921. She became affiliated with Geza Maroczy, who started coaching her in 1922.

In 1923 she began participating in men’s international tournaments.

FIDE established the 1st world championship for women in July, 1927, which Vera won at the age of 21 in London.

She won every Women’s World Championship after that (Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937, and Buenos Aires 1939). Her record in championship play was 78 wins, 4 draws, and only 1 loss.

She was the women’s world champion from 1927 until 1944 when she and her family were killed by a Nazi bomb in England, during the Second World War. She was 38 years old.

She was the first woman strong enough to compete with men and was the only woman to play in men’s tournaments is the first half of the 20th century.

In 1929 she participated in an international tournament in Carlsbad. The Viennese master Albert Becker, who played in this event, said that anyone who lost to Menchik would have to be put into the “Vera Menchik Club”. He wanted to ridicule any master who lost to this woman. Becker turned out to be the first victim.

She finished last with a score of +2 –17 =2 at Carlsbad that year.

The “Vera Menchik Club” went on to include Max Euwe (twice), Samuel Reshevsky, Conel Alexander, Edgar Colle, Sultan Khan, Jacques Mieses, Karel Opocensky, Sir George Thomas, William Winter, Friedrich Saemisch, and Frederick Yates.

When the women’s Chess Olympiad began in 1957, the trophy for the victorious team was called the Vera Menchik Cup.

Her peak historical rating would be around 2390 in 1931.

A fact that is not often mentioned is that she also played an important part in one of the strongest tournaments in the history of chess at Moscow in 1935. Mikhail Botvinnik and Salo Flohr shared 1st place, but it should me mentioned that Menchik’s draw with Flohr ultimately cost him an unshared title. That game is shown below:

[Event “Moscow”]
[Site “Moscow”]
[Date “1935.??.??”]
[Round “14”]
[White “Menchik, Vera”]
[Black “Flohr, Salomon”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]

1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Bf5 3. Bf4 e6 4. e3 Bd6 5. Bd3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Ne7 7. Ne5 a6 8. Qd2
c5 9. Nxg6 hxg6 10. Bxd6 Qxd6 11. dxc5 Qxc5 12. Ne2 Qd6 13. f4 Qb6 14. O-O-O
Nbc6 15. c3 O-O-O 16. Kb1 Kb8 17. Nd4 Ka8 18. h3 Nc8 19. Rhe1 Nd6 20. Nxc6 Qxc6
21. Qe2 Rhe8 22. Bc2 f5 23. Qd2 Qb6 24. Qd4 Qc7 25. g4 Rh8 26. gxf5 Nb5 27. Qd2
gxf5 28. Rg1 Rxh3 29. Rg6 Qb6 30. Bxf5 Rxe3 31. Bd3 Rf3 32. Bxb5 axb5 33. Rxg7
Rf8 34. Rg4 Rf2 35. Qd4 Ka7 36. Qxb6+ Kxb6 37. Rd4 Kc5 38. a3 Rf6 39. Rb4 Kc6
40. Ka2 Re2 41. Rh4 Re4 42. Kb3 Rc4 43. Rg4 Kc5 44. Rh4 Rxb4+ 45. axb4+ Kd6 46.
Kc2 b6 47. Kd3 Rg6 48. Rh7 Rg3+ 49. Ke2 d4 50. Rb7 Kc6 51. Re7 dxc3 52. bxc3
Kd5 53. Kd2 Rf3 54. Rd7+ Kc4 55. Rd6 Rxf4 56. Rxe6 Rf2+ 57. Ke3 1/2-1/2

Click here to replay the game.

Thank you Kevin for sharing this with us!

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