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     Vera Menchik    

menchik-01.gif, 64 KB

   Born - February 16th, 1906. Died - June 27th, 1944.   

Certainly before the advent of Judit Polgar, this lady was easily the strongest woman player of all time

Still one of the greatest female players who ever lived.  (The games of this player.) 

She lived - and played - in an age when (male) chauvinism ran rampant, yet she held her own at several very strong tournaments. Among competitions that featured only women players, she was dominant in a way and a fashion that NO other female player has ever demonstrated, not even Judit Polgar!  

"Best Question"

"The Vera Menchik Club"
Sam Smith; Jackson, Minnesota

  From  'Chess Life'  / Issue - August, 2004. / Column - Evans on Chess / Page # 38.  

Q  Most world champions went through periods when they were virtually invincible and clearly stood head and shoulders above their competition. However, who can compare to Vera Menchik, (1906-1944); when it comes to dominating their peers? According to the Dictionary of Modern Chess, she won an astonishing 78 out of 83 games in eight Women's World Championships; conceding only ONE loss! After holding the women's crown for 17 years, she was killed in the bombing of England, (During WWII.); at age 38. Do you have any interesting facts about her? 

(This is an exact quote, except for the part in gray. The emphasis is mine.) 

GM Larry Evans  goes on to give a very good account of this player in his answer to this reader's question. However ... for me to use this (his answer) in its entirety, without written permission (in advance) is nothing short of plagiarism, and may even violate copyright laws. Besides, I greatly prefer to give my own account of this interesting player's life! (But this was an unbeatable way of kicking off my new page - which I have been threatening to do for YEARS - on this very great, and possibly very under-appreciated female player.) 

Vera Menchik - Maybe the greatest female champion who ever lived ... period, and bar none. 


Vera Francevna Menchik-Stevenson  

She was born in Moscow on Feb. 16th, 1906; of an English mother and a Father who was Czech - and possibly also Jewish. (Although this is uncertain.) 

Her parents moved to England when she was very young. She was (officially) taught the game of chess at age nine, however her Father was a very enthusiastic amateur player ... it is entirely possible that she saw the game of chess being played at a much younger age ... and this would account for her very strong feel for the game - that gave her an unshakeable hold on the Women's World Championships. Once in England, she quickly played with all the strongest players, and eventually became a pupil of one of the greatest chess players who ever lived - GM Geza Maroczy. 

In 1937 she married R.H. Stevenson - who later died in 1943. However, Menchik continued to use her maiden name when played chess ... probably because she was already a fairly well-known player and wanted to avoid any confusion. 

She had to face another very strong female player - Sonja Graf - to gain the World's Championship. Her second match win over this player, (+9, =5, -2); stands as one of the greatest and most convincing WCS match scores of all time. 

Some other interesting facts about  Vera Menchik:   

  •  She was one of the strongest female champions of all time. 

  •  She has the highest winning percentage of ANY World Champion  ...  since Morphy! 
     (Maybe even the highest of all time ... period!) 

  •  Her score of seventy-eight wins, four draws, and only one loss, (+78,  = 4,  - 1); over  SEVEN  World Championship tournaments/matches,  (1927, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937, and 1939);  .............  will probably  NEVER  be equaled, much less surpassed!!!  (By anyone ... male or female! This represents a lifetime score of 80 out of a possible 83 points in World Championship events. A remarkable % 96.4 average!!! This is better than even Bobby Fischer or Garry Kasparov! Not even WGM Susan Polgar can touch this!!!)  

  •  In 1929, she was equal second, (=2, Capa won this event); with A. Rubinstein, but ahead of Maroczy. (Her former teacher.) She took third place (# 3) at Maribor, 1934. (Behind V. Pirc {1st} and L. Steiner, {2nd}; but ahead of many luminaries - such as the legendary Rudolf Spielmann.) {Maribor is the town formerly known as Marburg of Germany/Austria, and was later a part of the country known as Yugoslavia. Today Maribor is in the country of Slovenia.} 

  •  Her results against men seem rather modest, but the men often studied together and passed each other good lines to play against her! (Can we say,  "UNFAIR!"  ... boys and girls?) 

  •  The Viennese Master, Becker was extremely scornful of her. He harshly criticized and belittled her and stated - very openly - that she was unworthy to even play against (the) men. At the Carlsbad Tournament, he (derisively) suggested that anyone who lost to her being given a "membership" in the "Menchik Club." He then promptly lost to her ... thus becoming the very first (honorary) member

  •  Other male victims included former World Champion Max Euwe, the great Sammy Reshevsky, the incredible Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, C.H.O.D. Alexander, Karel Opocensky, Edgar Colle, and even the English Master, (Six-time British Champion!); F.D. Yates. 

  •  She was the FIRST woman to play in the British Championships!! 

  •  She was the FIRST woman to play in a "real" chess tournament ... against men!!  

  •  She solidly defeated, (+4,  =5,  -1)Jaques Mieses  in a match in 1942. 
     (Though - to be fair, it should be noted that Mieses was 77 at the time!!)

  •  Unlike Judit Polgar, she had an extremely solid - almost dry - positional style. She was fantastic in the endgame. If she had any weaknesses, it was that it was sometimes said of her that she lacked imagination. In later years, she was known to tire (and blunder) in the last hour of play. 

Sadly in June of 1944, with the tide of the war already running against the Germans, Menchik was killed by a "buzz bomb" (V-1 rocket) during an air raid in London.  :(    
(Even more tragically, the same event also took the life of her mother and her sister.) 

Thus passed a true legend of chess.   


Aside from the above- mentioned article in 'Chess Life,' I also consulted  (primarily)   the following books to try and do this particular Biography:  

  1. "The Batsford Chess Encyclopedia,"  by  Nathan Divinsky.  (Copyright (c), 1990.)   

  2. "The Encyclopedia of Chess,"  compiled by  Anne Sunnucks.  (Copyright (c) 1970.)  

  3. "The Oxford Companion to Chess,"  by David Hooper and Ken Whyld.  (Copyright (c) 1992.) 

Later - I plan to try and identify - and perhaps even annotate a few of her games. Stay tuned. (If you like this page - please be sure to let me know.) 

GM Larry Evans - and several other sources as well - give here fine  win  over Max Euwe in Hastings, 1931-32;  as one of here best games. (Maybe so.)  

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(September 10th, 2004.) I have already had many e-mails about this page. Thus far, it has been very positive. 

I also wish to note that one person has copied this entire page ... and placed it on his website. This is - of course! - both amoral and illegal. I am taking steps to see what can be done about this violation of my copyright. 

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I  

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 1985-2012.  
  Copyright A.J. Goldsby, 2013.  All rights reserved.  


  Page first created - from some notes I made earlier - on August 28th, 2004.  Page last modified: January 06, 2013

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