Vera Menchik

Professional Experience

wom-faviconVera Menchik (born February 16, 1906,Moscow, Russian Empire – died June 26, 1944, London, England), Russian-born British international chess master, who was the first women’s world chess champion from 1927 until her death. Over the course of her career, she competed for Russia, Czechoslovakia, and England.

Menchik learned to play chess at the age of nine from her father. In 1921 her family moved to England, where she studied with the Hungarian chess master Géza Maróczy, whose style greatly influenced her.

“I have often been asked why I began to play chess seriously. It seems that an atmosphere of blank silence and dense puffs of smoke is not considered appropriate for a young lady. Maybe, under any other circumstances, I wouldn’t have dreamt of spending my time in this way, but chess is a silent game and an excellent pastime for a person who does not speak the language well,” wrote Vera Menchik in an autobiographical article printed in Shakhmaty in August 1928.

She won the first Women’s World Championship in 1927 in London and successfully defended her title six times in every other championship held during her lifetime untill 1939, when World War II brought an end to the tournaments.

She lost only one game, while winning 78 and drawing four games.

  • 1927, she represented Russia in 1st WWCh in London winning 1st place with (+10−0=1).
  • 1930, she represented Czechoslovakia in 2nd WWCh in Hamburg winning 1st place with (+6−1=1).
  • 1931, she represented Czechoslovakia at 3rd WWCh in Prague winning 1st place with (+8−0=0).
  • 1933, she represented Czechoslovakia in 4th WWCh in Folkestone winning 1st place with (+14−0=0).
  • 1935, she represented Czechoslovakia in 5th WWCh in Warsaw winning 1st place with (+9−0=0).
  • 1937, she represented Czechoslovakia in 6th WWCh in Stockholm winning 1st place with (+14−0=0).
  • 1939, she represented England in 7th WWCh in Buenos Aires winning 1st place with (+17−0=2).

She won two matches for the Women’s World Champion title against Sonja Graf, who was the second strongest women’s player in the world at the time and coached by the legendary Siegbert Tarrasch.

The fourth world champion Alekhine, who, writing about one of her victories against Sonja Graf in 1939, noted that “it is totally unfair to persuade a player of an acknowledged superclass like Miss Menchik to defend her title year after year in tournaments composed of very inferior players”.

Menchik defeated many men chess players in tournaments, including Max Euwe and Samuel Reshevsky. They and other notable players she beat became members of what was known as the “Vera Menchik Club.”

One of her greatest successes was at Ramsgate 1929, when she tied for second with Akiba Rubenstein just a half-point behind Jose Raul Capablanca and ahead of her teacher Géza Maróczy.

Menchik’s career was cut tragically short when she, her sister, and their mother were killed in an air raid at their house in London in June 1944.

The Women’s Olympiad trophy is known as the Vera Menchik Cup in her honor.