Person of day   -  16 FEBRUARY 2021

VERA MENCHIK

VERA MENCHIK

Her father was from the Czech Republic and mother from England. However, Vera was born and raised in Moscow, where she learned to speak Russian well and she considered Russia her homeland. In 1921, the family moved to England an settled in the chess capital of Hastings, where Vera attended lectures by Geza Maroczy. In 1926, he was the winner of the female British championship. One year later, in 1927, Menchik became the world championship. She won tournament that determined the chess queen with a spectacular performance- 10,5 points out of 11. Between 1930 and 1939, Menchik won six more world championships consecutively and in 1937 in Stockholm, she won maximum points. At that time, she had no equals in women’s chess.

She entered history not only as the first female world champion, but also as the first woman who won male tournaments. In Ramsgate in 1939, she split 2nd-3rd places with Rubinstein, finishing only half a point behind Capablanca. At tournaments in Maribor (1924), Great Yarmouth (1935) and Montevideo (1935), she came third. Menchik has a positive head-to-head record with exceptional chess players like Euwe (she won two matches, lost one and drew two more) and Reshevsky. She played against the American three times, winning two matches and drawing one.  In 1942, Menchik defeated Jacquest Mieses with a score of 6,5:3,5.

At first, male chess players jokingly organised the “Vera Menchik Club”, in which all those who lost to her were included. Soon, everyone realised that the female world champion is a formidable opponent. During her career, she played against Capablanca nine times, Alekhine eight times, five times against Tartakower and twice against Botvinnik and Keres. In 1935, Menchik competed in the Moscow International Tournament. Like many foreign participants, she was amazed by the chess life in the USSR.

Vera Menchik had a trained eye for combinations and an excellent endgame technique, which was rare for chess players at that time and in subsequent years. The first female world champion helped to popularise chess: she read lectures, led sessions of simultaneous chess and wrote articles.

Alas, the life of this remarkable woman proved to be short. Vera Menchik was killed in the bombing of London in 1944. He was thirty-eight. In our time, the cup that is awarded at female Olympiads carries her name.