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Best Lady Players #2

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  Stay tuned. I will be bringing you more great Lady Chess Players on these pages.  

  News update:  

This page was put together as a chess detective, taking a little bit here and a little bit there, putting all the little random facts together from various sources and trying to paint "the big picture."  However, I received a letter dated November 14th, 2005. It is from the person in question, so  we can put all the speculation to rest,  we have the actual "straight scoop" directly from the source. (Changes posted here: Nov. 22, 2005.)  [ Changes in blue, I have changed the order of many items, to come closer to a chronological order of representation as well. ]  

(I got a few things wrong, but my 'chess sleuthing' was remarkably accurate about many facts!) 

  Elaine Pritchard  (Jan. 2003)  

Just about all my books fail to mention herYears of research ... have failed to turn up anything really substantial about this player. Even the databases are not much help. (Go to the on-line players database of  ChessBase.  They give you  FALSE  games for Elaine Saunders. Several of the games they give were played in the late 1800's ... LONG   BEFORE  SHE WAS EVEN BORN!!)  

I first heard about her by rumor and/or word of mouth, For instance, when I was very young, (1971?); there was a gentleman, (I do not even remember his name!); who had been a pilot in World War II. (Pensacola - my hometown - is considered the "Cradle of Naval Aviation,"  ... and has long been a place for career servicemen to retire to.) He had been stationed in Great Britain before the War. (He also fought in WWII, as did many others.) Anyway, he used to tell the story ... "of a little girl, who was only 10-11 years old. Yet she beat practically any player she came up against, only the very strongest Masters in England could defeat her." (Usually when he told this story, I would practically sneer. I really did NOT believe him!!) 

The funny thing about this story was that the gentleman said the girl's name was "Ellie." 
(My sister's nick-name. He could not remember her last name.) This always stuck in my head. But as more time went by, I began to believe she was more myth than fact. 

{I also used to visit my Grand-Mother ... who lived in New York. I also remember hearing something to this effect.}  My attitude for years was always that of a doubting Thomas. 

Then imagine my surprise when I was about 14 or 15, and reading the book, "The (1000) Best Short Games Of Chess," by  Irving Chernev.  (An author I have always greatly  respected.) On page # 274, in the introduction for game # 550; we read of a ten-year-old Elaine Saunders, playing and defeating her father in a game of chess. And to top it off, we are told she did it while ... she was playing blindfold!!  I was immediately fascinated and wanted to learn more. I wrote letters, I read continuously, but I never discovered very much about here. 

Fast forward over 10 years later. (Kirtland A.F.B. Albuquerque, NM.) I meet a man of British descent. (His Dad was an R.A.F. pilot, and his mother was an American nurse.) He remembers stories of Great Britain. His Dad too told him the stories of young Elaine Saunders. She was so small, ('wee') she could not reach the other side of the board. Yet she won the (ladies) Championship of Great Britain when she was only 11 years old!!!  

Here are the things I have been able to piece together about this amazing player:  
(Changes from the original version are in blue, these were added after I received a letter directly from the Richardson family themselves.)  


  ELAINE SAUNDERS  She was born:  07 January, 1926

Elaine was taught the game by her Father at the age five. She began beating really good players by age eight! Her Father, as well as several others, (friends and family); all played chess. This is a chess background very similar to what produced Paul Morphy. (Mrs. Richardson sees NO similarity between her background and that of Morphy's ... however, I maintain the two are similar. Perhaps she just wished to be modest.) 

She won the ladies Championship of England/Great Britain in 1939, 1940, and 1946
(She was the strongest lady player in Great Britain for the period of 1941-1945, but 
 the War prevented any real chess competitions from taking place.) 

She (later) later married one David Pritchard. (The marriage of course changed her last name.) David himself was a strong player ... and an "All-Counties Champion." (This is also the same D. Pritchard who later becomes a pilot/navigator for the Royal Air Force (WWII) and wins the chess championship several places ... like Malaysia in the 1950's. (Singapore Champion, 1954; & Champion of Malaysia in 1955.)   UPDATE:  This same Pritchard that E. Saunders married IS a strong chess player ... and also has published a book/catalogue on chess variants. (Mr. Pritchard {one pen name = Richardson?} informs me that he has had over 20 books on indoor games published both in Great Britain and the U.S, many are on chess.)  

One person wrote me and said she came in clear second in a Women's Zonal Tournament in the 1950's. She is also listed as a participant for the first 3 women's (chess) Olympic Teams, according to another fan of my web site. ( As this person used to be an officer of the British Chess Federation, I feel his claim to be relatively reliable.) Note: Mrs. Richardson did participate in the aforementioned Women's Zonal Tournaments AND played on the British Olympic Chess Team. She also won a Silver Medal at the FIDE Olympiad of Haifa, 1976 ... but she does not say which board.)  

She was granted the title of WIM in 1957, according to one FIDE year-book I have. 
(This is confirmed by Mrs. E. Pritchard, herself.)  

I have come across her games, (in old books); or have had people send me her games. 
I have studied these games carefully, and this is what I can tell you:

  •   She was probably  MASTER  strength by the time she was 10 or 11!!!! 

  •   She was one of the strongest female prodigies who ever lived. 
       (And maybe one of the strongest prodigies of all time.) 

  •   She defeated  some  VERY  strong men players, both in tournaments and
      in off-hand games. Long before she was 20, she was easily as strong as 
      the weak GM or strong (male) IM of today!  

  •   She had a style that was strongly tactical, but also a positional vein. 

  •   Mrs. Pritchard, (Formerly E. Saunders.); is still alive ... as of November, 2005. 
      Her and her husband reside in a small village in England. (The town of  
      Cambridge, Glocestershire county.)   {I had like 10 e-mails concerning this.} 

  •   Write them at the following addressDavid and Elaine Pritchard;  
      Longlands; / Bristol Road; / Cambridge;  GL2 7BG 
      Telephone/Fax: 01453 - 890069  (No e-mail!)  

I know little else about this player. I have asked friends and Internet Students to scour the "John G. White Collection," in Cleveland, Ohio about any information about this mysterious lady player. So far, I have not come up with a lot. (This is no longer necessary, as the Pritchards themselves have written me ... and confirmed many of the facts of this web page.)  

You can click  here,  to go to my "Best Short Games Page." There you can replay her daring and amazing Blindfold win over her Father ... when she was only ten years old!

If you have or know of any (other) information about this player ... PLEASE!!!!!!!  
Send it to me!  (I would still like more details about her amazing chess career.) 


  •   In the last year or so, I have received many e-mails about this player. Apparently, she now lives in England with her husband  ...  
      and is doing quite nicely, thank you. 12/2003  

  •   I received a letter from the this family. They are fine and well. (In November, 2005.)  

  •   About a week ago, (Dec. 21st); I received news - from more than one source - that David, (Elaine's husband); had passed away.   
      This was confirmed by a family member. My condolences to the entire family!  

  •   A blog of interest on this  particular subject ... on a very gross-looking web page. 
      (However, they also don't have their facts straight, and have never read a FIDE year-book.) 

Stay tuned for a synopsis of the great lady player,  Vera Menchik.   Coming soon!!! 

  This page last updated:  Saturday, July 15th, 2006. (Last edit or save on: 02/26/2015 23:22 .)  


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