Lekörözte a férfiakat: Vera Menchik, az elsö nöi sakk-világbajnok (1906–1944)

Lekörözte a férfiakat: Vera Menchik, az elsö nöi sakk-világbajnok (1906–1944)

Angol anyától, cseh apától Moszkvában született, 1921-től családjával Angliában élt. Gyerekkorától sakkozott, mestere a magyar Maróczy Géza volt, aki nagy jövőt jósolt neki. Igaza lett – Vera 1927-ben szerezte meg az első női sakk-világbajnoki címet, amit hatszor megvédett, ezekből négyet 100%-os teljesítménnyel, ezt valószínűleg soha senki nem fogja túlszárnyalni. A női sakkemancipáció élharcosa volt, a Menchik klub tagjai azok a férfiak, akiket a hölgy legyőzőtt. Közéjük tartozik pl. Albert Becker, Max Euwe (későbbi világbajnok), Samuel Reshevsky, Harry Golombek, Frederick Yates és Friedrich Sämisch. Az egyetlen női sakkvilágbajnok, aki világbajnokként halt meg. Az ő tiszteletére kapja a női olimpiai bajnokcsapat a Vera Menchik kupát.

Remembering Vera Menchik

The Women’s World Championship match between Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine, the current titleholder, and two-time champion Hou Yifan of China (who is also the highest-rated female player in the world – by a considerable margin) begins March 1 in Lviv, Ukraine. Hou is a heavy favorite to regain the title, and if she does it will be further evidence of her dominance over the women’s game.

She is not the first dominant player in women’s chess. Until last March, the recently retired Judit Polgar of Hungary had been the top-ranked female player in the world for a staggering 26 years (though she never was Women’s World Champion as she did not ever compete for the championship).

There have been other women who dominated their eras. Maya Chiburdanidze of Georgia was the champion from 1978 to 1991, and the woman she dethroned, Nona Gaprindashvili, another Georgian, held the title for 16 years, from 1962 to 1978. But before them all there was Vera Menchik.

Menchik was born in Moscow in 1906, and moved to England in 1921, where she lived the rest of her life. Interestingly, she only played once for the World Championship under the English flag – in the 1939 tournament. She represented Russia in the first Women’s World Championship tournament, in 1927, and represented Czechoslovakia – her father’s country – in World Championship events from 1930 to 1937.

To say that she was a dominant figure in women’s chess would not do her justice. When she won the first championship in 1927, she scored 10.5 out of a possible 11, and she managed to win four subsequent World Championship tournaments with perfect scores. She won six more World Championship tournaments in all (in 1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937, and 1939), along with title matches against Sonja Graf in 1934 and 1937. She never lost such a competition, and in nine World Championship events her total score was an almost preposterous +90-4=9.

Indeed, Menchik was a player of high caliber who regularly competed in strong “men’s” tournaments, where she defeated such stars as Max Euwe (twice), the World Champion from the Netherlands; Mir Sultan Khan, the enigmatic star who had come from colonial British India; Samuel Reshevsky, the eight-time United States champion; Friedrich Saemisch of Germany, who created important opening innovations; and many other professional players. (These victims were informally referred to as members of the “Vera Menchik Club,” a snide title invented by an Austrian master named Albert Becker on the eve of the Carlsbad 1929 tournament. His aim was to ridicule anyone who lost to her, but the result was a self-inflicted wound when he lost to her and became the “club’s” first member.)

Primarily due to the Second World War, there were no Women’s World Championship events from 1939 until 1950. During the interruption, Menchik, along with her sister Olga (also a talented chess player) died in a bomb attack that destroyed their house in 1944. Her death at the age of 38 was a great loss for the chess community. It would have been exciting to see how she would have grown as a chess player had the war not intervened and how long she might have continued to dominant the game.

Despite her early death, she left many games that we can appreciate. She had a sharp style and a nice eye for tactics, as the following selection indicates: