Women in Chess
by Bill Wall

Hou Yifan
Women's World Champion
The first mention of a woman chess player was when Harun ar Rashid wrote to Nicephorus in 802 A.D. and mentioning that he purchased a slave girl noted for her skill in chess.

In medieval Spain, women played chess in bed while recovering from childbirth.

Around 1213, Joan (1194-1244), Countess of Flanders and the daughter of Baldwin IX (1172-1205), count of Flanders and first emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, beat her husband, Ferdinand (1188-1233), prince of Portugal, in a game of chess.  He got so mad that he hit her.  In revenge, she left her husband in French captivity from 1214 to 1226, refusing to ransom him.

In 1230, a knight had to win an emir's chess-master daughter in order to earn her hand.

In 1264, a man stabbed a woman to death over a game of chess after a quarrel over chess.

In 15th century Germany, girls were added to a class of boys when a bishop taught then chess as part of the curriculum.

In 1555, the Italian painter Sofonisba Anguissola finished her famous painting "The Chess Game." It shows two sisters playing chess while a third sister and their mother look on.

In 1566, Teresa (Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada) of Avila (March 28, 1515 — Oct 4, 1582), also called Saint Teresa (Theresia de Jesus) of Jesus, wrote The Way of Perfection, a special guidance for fellow sisters of the Carmelite Order, written in 1566. In chapter 16, she used an analogy to chess to describe the preparations for prayer, with apologies for mentioning so worldly a game alongside so heavenly a pursuit. Teresa advised her sister nuns to play chess in the monasteries, even against the rules, in order to "checkmate the Lord." Her point was that a person who wishes to play chess must do a great deal of study and then a great deal of practice to become a champion. The same was true of a person who wished to approach God through prayer in order to receive contemplation. In her Valladolid manuscript, she tore out these pages about chess because she thought they were too secular, but they were later added by modern editors. She is considered the patron saint of chess. She learned how to play chess and once saved a soldier's soul by teaching him chess.

In 1804, Madame de Remusat (1780-1824) played chess with Napoleon Bonaparte at the Malmaison Castle. The occasion was immortalized by several paintings.

In 1820, the earliest recorded, actually-played, chess game of a female was between "Miss Hook" and the Turk automaton (Mouret), played in London.

In January 1827, a Mrs. Fisher became one of the very few to beat Maelzel's The Turk (Schlumberger), which occurred in Philadelphia. The game score was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette.

Mrs. Fisher — The Turk, 1827, Philadelphia
1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qf3 Nf6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Bd6 6.exd5 exd5 7.Nxd5 Nxd5 8.Qxd5 O-O 9.Bb2 Nc6 10.a3 Be6 11.Qe4 g6 12.O-O-O Qd7 13.h3 Bf5 14.Qf3 Bxd3 15.Qxd3 Rae8 16.Nf3 a6 17.g4 b5 18.c4 bxc4 19.Qxc4 Rb8 20.Kb1 Qb7 21.Qc3 Nd4 22.Nxd4 Be5 23.Qxc5 Bxd4 24.Qxd4 f6 25.Qc4+ Kg7 26.Ka2 Rfc8 27.Qa4 Rc2 28.b4 Qd5+ 29.Qb3 Qe4 30.Rhe1 Qc6 31.Rc1 Rxc1 32.Rxc1 Qd6 33.Rd1 a5 34.b5 a4 35.Qxa4 Qd5+ 36.Qb3 Qc5 37.d4 Qg5 38.a4 Qf4 39.Qg3 Qe4 40.Qxb8 Qd5+ 41.Ka1 1-0

In 1844, the first "Ladies Chess Club" appeared in England.

In 1847, an all-women chess club was formed in Holland, but it only lasted for one year.

In 1847, a ladies' chess club, called 'The Penelope Club,' was formed in Kennington, West London, England.

In 1848, a chess column appeared in The Lady's Newspaper in London, the first chess column to appear in a women's magazine. It had a male chess editor and no women's chess news.

In 1857, Amalie Paulsen Lellmann (1831-1869) defeated Judge Alexander Meek in an unofficial game during the first American Chess Congress.  She was the sister of Wilfred and Louis Paulsen, chess masters.

In 1860, H. I. Cooke wrote a book called The ABC of Chess by "A Lady." It was the first chess book written by a woman and went into 10 editions.

In 1872, the Bristol Chess Club in England allowed its first woman member, Mary Rudge (1842-1919).

In 1879, Ellen E. Gilbert (née Strong) (1837-1900) of the USA won an international correspondence chess match. She played first board for the USA in an 1879 correspondence chess match against England, winning all 4 games against England's top board, George Gossip. She was known as "The Queen of Chess."

In 1879, a women's chess club, the Ladies' College Club, was formed in England. It was later disbanded after too many marriages.

In 1881, a Ladies' Chess Club was formed in Brighton, England. It merged with the St Ann's Club in 1894.

In the August-September 1881 issue of the British Chess Magazine, Miss Frideswide F. Beechey (1843-1919) was recognized for getting an honorable mention in a two-move problem competition. She later published Ireland's first chess periodical, The Four-Leaved Shamrock.

In 1882, Louisa Matilda Fagan (1850-1931) won a chess tournament at the Bombay Sports Club in which 12 men took part. She won all her games (12-0), but was disqualified because she was a woman playing in a club whose membership was confined to men. She appealed this decision in court and won. Her chess games had to be played off site and not at the sports club.

In December 1882, Miss Frideswide Beechey (Mrs. Thomas Rowland) became the first woman to write a chess column.

In 1883, a women's chess event was held in The Hague.

In 1883, Frideswide Beechey wrote Chess Blossoms: A Selection from Compositions.

In 1884, the Sussex Chess Association in England sponsored the first women's chess tournament. It was won by Miss Parvess on tiebreak over Mrs. Dunhill.

In 1886, the first German women's chess club was established in Stroebeck, Germany.

In 1886, the chess society of Turin, Italy started permitting the wives and daughters of members to visit the chess club and play in chess tournaments.

In 1887, Miss Eliza Mary Thorold won the Ladies Challenge Cup at Stamford, England, sponsored by the Counties Chess Association. She won a silver cup from Reverend Arthur Skipworth.

In 1889, Mary Rudge became the first woman in the world to give simultaneous chess exhibitions. In her first exhibition, she took on 6 opponents at once and won all her games.

In 1893, a Women's Chess Association of America was formed in New York.

In January 1894, the Women's Chess Club of New York was organized by Eliza Campbell Foot and incorporated on December 17, 1895. It was the only incorporated women's chess club in America. The club was located in the Hotel Martha Washington on East 29th Street. Members included Nellie Showalter (wife of American chess champion Jackson Showalter) and Harriet Worrall. They mention that the honorary members include English women's champion Mary Rudge (1845-1919) and Irish women's champion Mrs. Thomas Rowland (Frideswide Beechey). The club lasted until 1949.

In the September 1, 1894 New York Times issue, an article appeared that a Women's Chess Association of America was formed. The article states that in the spring of 1893, a few women met informally and organized the Women's Chess Association of America. In January, 1894 they elected their officers and had 75 members. They mention that the honorary members include English women's champion Mary Rudge (1845-1919) and Irish women's champion Mrs. Thomas Rowland (Frideswide Beechey) (1843-1919).   The club, renamed the Women's Chess Club, was incorporated in 1896.  The president was Mrs. Eliza Campbell Foot and the vice president was Mrs. Winthrop Parker.  (source: New York Times, Mar 2, 1896, p. 6)

In the December 6, 1894 issue of the Fort Wayne newspaper, an article appeared called 'Two Queens of Chess.' It states that "Mrs. Jackson W. Showalter has long been considered the lady chess champion of America. On November 5, 1894 she began a 7 game match with Mrs. Harriett Worrall of Brooklyn."

On January 14, 1895, the London Ladies' Chess Club was established in London at the Ideal Café. It had over 100 members. It ceased to exist after World War I.

In August 1895, the Hastings International Chess Congress had a women's section, organized by Rhoda Bowles. The winner was Lady Edith Margaret Thomas, mother of future British chess champion Sir George Thomas. Her prize was an ivory chess set and board.

In the December 26, 1896 issue of the Newark Daily Advocate, there is an article called A Ladies Chess Congress. It mentioned Harriet Worrall (1836-1928) as Brooklyn's best woman chess player. It announces a chess congress arranged by the British Ladies' Chess Club during the spring of 1897.

In 1897, an article in American Chess Magazine noted that women's chess games were subject to 'illogical aberrations.' The article was entitled 'A Scientific Hint for Women Players.'

In the March 22, 1897 issue of the Arizona Republican, there is an article on the international chess congress for women players. It began in London with 20 women representing 9 different countries.

In June-July 1897, the first International Ladies' Chess Congress was organized by the Ladies' Chess Club of London in conjunction with the Women's Chess Club of New York. It held during Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The competition was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne. The tournament was held in the Masonic Temple at the Hotel Cecil. It was won by Mary Rudge (1842-1919) who collected the 60 British pound first place prize. She scored 18 wins and one draw. There were 20 players from nine different countries.

In 1898, a Ladies' Chess Club was established in Chicago.

In 1898, the Gambit Chess Club in London was founded by Edith Charlotte Price (1872-1956). It was a chess club that only men could join, even though it was run by a woman. She won the British Women's Chess Championship in 1922, 1923, 1924, 1928, and 1948.

In November 1898, Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) gave a simultaneous exhibition at the Ladies' Chess Club in London. He played 20 women simultaneously and won all 20 games.

In April 1899, the Chess Player's Chronicle published an article entitled 'Ladies in Chess.'

In 1902, Rhoda Bowles and Mrs. Frank W. Lynn defeated world champion Emanuel Lasker in a simul event.

In 1903, Rosa Jefferson defeated Harry Pillsbury during a 16-board blindfold simul.

In 1904, the first British Women's Chess Championship was held at Hastings, organized by the Ladies' Chess Club in London and the newly formed British Chess Federation. It was won by Kate Belinda Finn (1864-1932). She won 10 and drew one game. She won it again in 1905.

In 1904, there were 17 women competing out of 183 participants in the British Chess Federation Congress.

In June 1904, the Ladies' Victorian Chess Club was formed in Edinburgh, Scotland. There were 9 members at the beginning.

In 1905, Scotland held its first ladies' chess championship.

In 1905, the Scottish Ladies' Chess Association was formed.

In 1906, Lasker's Chess Magazine explained the lack of female chess masters as a natural outcome given women's general lack of 'qualities of concentration, comprehensiveness, impartiality and spark of originality.'

In May 1906, the first American Women's Chess Congress was held at the Hotel Martha Washington in New York. It was won by Mrs. Charles P. Frey (Mary Grace Rogers) of Newark, New Jersey.

In 1906, Ostend hosted an international women's chess tournament.

In 1906, the Ladies' Victorian Chess Club became the Edinburgh Ladies' Chess Club. By 1929, it had 100 members.

In January 1908, the American Chess Bulletin published an article entitled 'Women's Sphere in the World of Chess.'

In 1909, Eliza Foot wrote a book on chess puzzles, becoming the first American woman chess author.

In 1912, the New York Women's Chess Club held is 25th annual meeting. The officers of the club were: Miss E. Somers Haines, president; Miss Mary Drake, vice president; Mrs. C. E. Nixdorff, secretary; and Mrs. Gordon Verplanck, treasurer.

In 1913, chess sets were made which had women suffragettes pitted against policemen.

In 1916, Mrs. Charles Edward (Natalie) Nixdorff won the championship of the Women's Chess Club of New York.

In January 1917, the American Chess Bulletin quoted a newspaper article that 'Lady chessplayers are not so numerous as those of the opposite sex, probably chiefly due to the bump of reason not being as fully developed.'

In 1919, Edith Holloway (1868-1956) was the winner of the first post-World War I Women's British championship.

In 1921, there was a three-way tie in the British Ladies' Championship. After some playoff games, it was won by Mrs. Anderson over Mrs. Michell and Edith Price.

In 1922, Jose Capablanca wrote about who he thought would win the Women's Open Tournament at the London 1922 International tournament. He wrote, 'The Women's Open Tournament is a most delicate subject; no precautions should be omitted. The ladies are generally very temperamental, and it would not do to upset one of them just before the tournament. I would never be forgiven! I have my candidate picked out, but I withhold the name. I will, however, give a hint. I believe the lady in question has some grey hair.'

In March 1923, Vera Menchik joined the Hastings Chess Club.

In 1924, a tournament was held in Meran in 1924 and was advertised as the unofficial European women's championship. Miss Charlotte Cotton and Miss Holloway, both from England, tied for first place.

In 1924, the women's chess championship of Leningrad was the first women's chess tournament sponsored by any government.

In 1924, Edith Holloway played for England in the first unofficial Chess Olympiad, held in Paris. She was the first woman to play in a Chess Olympiad.

In 1924, Marie Jeanne Frigard won the first Women's French Chess Championship, held in Paris.

In January 1926, Vera Menchik won the first British Girls Open Chess Championship.

In July 1927, the Women's World Chess Championship was established by FIDE. The winner of the first championship was Vera Menchik of Hastings, England. She also won it in 1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937, and 1939. The 1927 event took place alongside the International Team Tournament (Chess Olympiad) and was only called a 'women's tournament limited to 12 players.' It was not billed in advance as being for the women's world chess championship until after the event. From 1927 to 1944, she played 83 world championship games. She won 78 games, drew 4 games, and only lost one game, for a winning percentage of 96%. She has the highest winning percentage of any world chess champion. She was world women's champion of 17 years, the longest of any woman.

In October 1927, Olga Rubtsova, age 18, won the first Soviet Women's Chess Championship, held in Moscow.

In 1929, the Vera Menchik Club was formed as a joke. The first member was Viennese master Albert Becker. He proposed that all the men that got beaten by Vera Menchik should be members of the Vera Menchik Club. When he lost to her in an international tournament that year, he became the first member. Other members included Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander, Abraham Baratz, Eero Book, Edgar Colle, Max Euwe, Harry Golombek, Mir Sultan Khan, Frederic Lazard, Jacques Mieses, Stuart Milner-Barry, Karel Opocensky, Brian Reilly, Samuel Reshevsky, Friedrich Saemisch, Lajor Steiner, George Alan Thomas, William Winter, and Frederich Yates.

In 1930, Vera Menchik won the 2nd Women's World Chess Championship, which took place during the 3rd Chess Olympiad in Hamburg. She won 6, drew 1, and lost 1 game.

In 1931, Vera Menchik won the 3rd Women's World Chess Championship, which took place during the 4th Chess Olympiad in Prague. She scored a perfect 8-0.

In 1932, Lavieve Mae Hines (1896-1997) won the Pasadena Congress Women's Chess tournament, which was held concurrently with the Pasadena 1932 International Chess Tournament.

In 1933, Mary Bain (1904-1972) defeated Jose Capablanca in a simultaneous game. She was Women's World Championship Challenger in 1937 and 1952 and was awarded the WIM title in 1952. She was the first American woman to represent the U.S. in an organized chess competition. She was also US Women's Champion from 1951-53, losing the to Mona Karff.

In 1934, Caroline Marshall, husband of Frank Marshall, organized women's events at the Marshall Chess Club.

In 1934, the first U.S. Women's Open Chess Championship was held in Chicago. It was won by Virginia Sheffield.

In August 1935, Mrs. R.H. (Agnes) Stevenson, age 52, one of the top women chess players in the world, was killed after she walked into the propeller of the plane she had been flying on. She was on her way to Warsaw to take part in the Women's World Chess Championship when the plane made a refueling stop at Poznan. She left the plane to have her passport inspected. On returning to the plane, she forgot the propeller was rotating, stepped in front of the plane, instead of approaching the aircraft from the rear, and the rotating propeller hit her and killed her instantly, cutting her head in two. She was 4-time British Ladies' Champion and married to Rufus Stevenson, editor of the British Chess Magazine.

In 1936, nearly 5,000 women took part in the preliminary sections of the Soviet women's chess championship.

In April 1936, the British Chess Magazine published an article entitled 'The Advance in Women's Chess.' It was an article on how to develop women's chess.

In 1937, the first U.S. Women's Chess Championship was held at the Marshall Chess Club in New York. It was won by Belgian-born Adele Rivero (1908-1992), scoring 8 wins and 1 draw. She won it again in 1940.

In August 1937, Chess Review had an article on women in chess.

In 1938, the Commonwealth Club in Boston was the first chess club in Boston (and perhaps all of Massachusetts) to allow women to join when U.S. Women's Champion Mona May Karff (nee Ratner) (1908-1998) finally persuaded the club to admit women.

In 1938, women were finally allowed to join the Manhattan Chess Club.

In 1938, three top American women chess players, Mary Bain, Mrs. Raphael McCready and Miss Edith Weart, returning from the US Open chess tournament in Boston were in a car wreck after their car skidded on slippery pavement and crashed into a telegraph pole.  Miss McCready suffered minor injuries; Miss Weart was pinned under the car and sustained a fracture to her shoulder; Mary Bain suffered a fractured vertebra which required her to be in a cast for eight months, bedridden for much of that time.

In 1939, Vera Menchik became manager of the British National Chess Centre.

In 1940, Adele Rivero won the U.S. women's championship.

In the January-February 1941 issue of the American Chess Bulletin, an article appeared that provided an overview of women chess players in the United States.

In 1942, Mona Karff won the U.S. women's chess championship for the third time.

On June 26, 1944, world woman chess champion Vera Menchik-Stevenson (1906-1944) died in a German bombing of Kent. She died along with her sister, her sister's husband, and her mother. She died in Kent after a German V-1 rocket hit her home (the bomb shelter in the garden remained intact). Her sister, Olga Menchik-Rubery, was world woman chess challenger in 1935 and 1937. At the time of her death, Vera was serving on the editorial staff of Chess magazine as games editor.

In 1948 Edith Price (1872-1956) won the British Ladies Championship at the age of 76, the oldest woman ever to win a national championship. She won the British Women's Championship 5 times.

In 1949, when Zsa Zsa Gabor (born in 1917) married the actor George Sanders (1906-1972), her third husband, they played chess "incessantly" on their honeymoon. George wrote in his autobiography that the two played chess nearly every night on their honeymoon.

In 1949, Eileen Trammer (1910-1983) won the British Ladies' Championship with a perfect 11-0. She won the British Ladies' Championship four times. She was Women's World Championship Challenger in 1949-50. She was awarded the WIM title in 1950.  She was a musician, but then became deaf and then took up chess.

In January 1950, Ludmila Rudenko won the women's world chess championship, held in Moscow. She became the second women's world champion, after Vera Menchik. Rudenko was the first woman awarded the International Master title, in 1950.

In 1950, FIDE published the first chess master list, which include 17 International Women Masters.

In 1950, Chantel Chaude de Silans (1919-2004) was the first woman to play in an official men's Chess Olympiad, Dubrovnik 1950. She participated in the Women's World Championship in 1949-50, 1952, 1955 and 1961. She was awarded the Women's International Master (WIM) title in 1950, and an honorary WGM title in 1990.  She was involved with the French resistance during WW2.  She was the manager of Caissa Chess Club in Paris for over 30 years.

In 1951, Mary Bain won the U.S. Women's Chess Championship.

In 1952, the first Women's Candidates tournament was held in Moscow. It was won by Elisaveta Bykova. She became world champion from 1953 to 1956, and from 1958 to 1962.

In 1953, Clare Benedict (1870-1961) became the first woman chess patron when she sponsored an annual team chess tournament of European countries. She was the granddaughter of James Fenimore Cooper.

In April, 1954, the Hollywood Chess Group held the first official California Women's Championship, organized by Herman Steiner. The winner was Mrs. Sonja Graf-Stevenson, scoring 8-0. 2nd-3rd place went to Mrs. Gregor Piatigorsky and Lena Grumette.

In July 1955, Nancy Roos (1905-1957) was in a car accident just before the U.S. women's championship and had spinal injuries.  She recovered to win the women's championship a few months later.

In 1956, Olga Rubtsova (1909-1994) became women's world chess champion. She became the first Women's Correspondence Chess Champion in 1972. She is the only chess player to become world champion at over-the-board and correspondence chess.

In 1957, the Women's Chess Olympiad was created. It was held in Emmem, The Netherlands and won by the USSR. The Women's Olympiad was a separate event from 1957 to 1974.

In 1957, the Vera Menchik Cup was created for the winning team of the Women's Olympiads.

In 1958, Elisabeth Bykova defeated Olga Rubtsova to with the Women's World Chess Championship.

In 1959, Elisabeth Bykova successfully defended her title and won the Women's World Chess Championship after defeating challenger Kira Zvorykina.

In 1961, the Women's Chess Olympiad, due to be held in Emmem, The Netherlands, was cancelled due to an Eastern Bloc boycott after East Germany was unable to obtain an entry visa to The Netherlands. It was during the Berlin wall crises. In July 1961, Chess Life published an article called 'Women and Chess' by Elizabeth Westrup.

On August 7, 1961, Lisa Lane (1938- ), US women's chess champion, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was known as the fist chess beauty queen.

In 1962, Bobby Fischer said, "They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners. They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman player in the world I can't give knight-odds to and still beat." Later, he attributed his words to just locker-room talk.

In 1962, Nona Gaprindashvili became women's world champion.

In 1961-62, Lisa Lane (1938- ) played four games in the Hastings Reserve tournament, then withdrew after one draw, two losses, and an adjourned game.  She said she could not concentrate on her chess because she was "homesick and in love."  In 1960 she appeared on "What's My Line" and was on the cover of the August 7, 1961 issue of Sports Illustrated.  Only she and Bobby Fischer as chess players has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was the U.S. Women's chess champion from 1959 to 1962, and 1966. She married Neil Hickey and runs a metaphysical store.

In 1963 Mrs. Edvige Rubinstein of Milan, Italy, was the first woman to divorce her husband because he played chess. The court ruled that she was entitled to the divorce and custody of the children because her husband was so obsessed with chess that he refused to work and support their two children.

In 1964, Chessworld magazine featured an article entitled 'The Natural Inferiority of Women Chessplayers,' written by Norman Reider.

In 1965, Nona Gaprindashvili won the Women's World Chess Championship, who successfully defended her title against challenger Alla Kushnir.

In 1968, Barbara Liskov became one of the first women in the United States to be awarded a Ph.D. from a computer science department when she was awarded her degree from Stanford University. The topic of her dissertation was a computer program to play chess endgames.

In 1969, Gisela Kahn Gresser (1906-2000) won her 9th U.S. women's championship at the age of 63. She was the first woman in the United States to achieve a master rating (2200).

In 1971, the first Women's Interzonal Tournament was held at Ohrid. It was won by Nana Alexandria.

In 1972, Rachel Crotto (1958- ) played in the US women's chess championship at the age of 12. She won the US women's championship in 1977, 1978, and 1979.

In 1972, Olga Rubtsoav won the first Ladies World Correspondence Chess Championship, which started in 1968.

In 1973, Susan Caldwell and Sheila Jackson, two of the strongest girl chess players in England, asked for permission to play in the British Boys Championship in the same age group. They felt there was not enough competition among their peers. It was refused. By the following year the regulations had been changed and it became the British Under 18 Championship.

In 1974, Mona May Karff won the U.S. women's championship for the 7th time at the age of 66.

In 1975, the first Canadian Women's Championship was organized.

In 1976, the Women's Chess Olympiad was merged and incorporated within the main Chess Olympiad events played at the same time.

In 1977, the new title of Woman Grandmaster (WGM) was established by FIDE.

In 1977, Nona Gaprindashvili of Soviet Georgia became the first woman to take first place in a men's chess tournament when she tied for first place at Lone Pine, California (she beat 4 male grandmasters). In 1978 Nona Gaprindashvili became the first woman to be given the men's International Grandmaster title. She had a perfume named after her. She was 5-time Women's World Chess Champion from 1962 to 1978.

In 1978, Maia Chiburdanidze became women's world chess champion at the age of 17.

In 1979, Irina Levitina (1954- ) was the 4-time USSR Women's Champion who was not allowed to play in the 1979 Women's Interzonal and for the World Women's Championship because her brother immigrated (legally) to Israel.  She has won the US Women's chess championship 3 times.  In contract bridge, she has won the world bridge championship 5 times.

In 1980, the USCF had over 12,000 postal chess players, but only 226 were women.

In 1981 Susan (Zsuzsa) Polgar was the winner of the first Women's Cadet (under 16) chess championship.

In 1982, Tatiana Mefodievna Lemachko, a woman grandmaster, defected from the Bulgarian team on the eve of the last round of the 1982 Lucerne Chess Olympiad.  She had played board one for the Bulgarian women's team since 1978.  She settled in Switzerland.

In 1983, Anna Akhsharumova was playing the final round of the Soviet Women's Chess championship against her main competitor, Nana Ioseliani.  Anna won the game on time forfeit and should have won the title.  But the next day, Ioseliani filed a protest alleging a malfunction in the chess clock.  Ioseliani demanded a new game be played.  Anna refused to play, so the result of her game with Ioseliani was reversed by the All-Union Board of Referees in Moscow (the tournament itself was being played in Tallinn), thereby forfeiting her title.  Anna went from 1st place to 3rd place over this decision.

In 1984, Sohia Gorman (Rohde) (1964- ) became the youngest international arbiter at the age of 19 when she was an arbiter at the 1984 FIDE World Candidates tournament.

In the April 8, 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated, there is an article entitled 'In the World of Chess, Man Thinks Himself as King, Woman as Pawn,' written by Jim Kaplan. The author states that he has never met a woman who plays decent social chess.

In 1986, Heidi Cueller became the youngest Chess Olympiad player when, at the age of 10, she played for the women's Guatemala chess team at the Chess Olympiad in Dubai.

In 1986, the Men's World Chess Championship was finally changes to the World Chess Championship, open to men and women.

In 1986, FIDE gave every active female player in the world (except for Susan Polgar, the top-rated female) 100 bonus Elo points.  At the time, there were 600 women and 5,000 men with FIDE ratings.

In 1986, Susan Polgar became the first woman in history to qualify for the "men's" World Chess Championship.

In 1987, Anna Akhsharumova won the U.S. Women's Chess Championship with a perfect score. She won the Women's Soviet Chess Championship in 1976 and 1984. She is the only woman to win both the Soviet and the U.S. women's title.

In 1988, Judit Polgar, at age 11, won a gold medal in the 1988 Saloniki Chess Olympiad. She is the youngest Chess Olympiad gold medallist.

In 1989 Carol Jarecki became the first woman to serve as chief arbiter for any world chess championship cycle match (Karpov-Hjartarson world championship quarterfinals in Seattle). She is a former anesthesiologist and avid aircraft pilot.

In 1989 Sofia (Zsofia) Polgar achieved the highest performance rating ever recorded by a female when she scored 8.5 out of 9 at an international tournament in Rome. Her performance rating was over 2900.

In 1990, Elena Donaldson-Akhmilovskaya (1957-2012) won the U.S. Women's Chess Championship. She tied for the championship in 1993 and won it again in 1994.

In 1991, Susan Polgar became the first woman in chess history to earn the Grandmaster title through the conventional means by earning the required Elo rating of 2500 or above and playing well against other GMs.

In 1991, Judit Polgar was awarded the Grandmaster title at the age of 15 years and 4 months.

In 1991, Xie Jun became women's world chess champion. She was world champion from 1991 to 1996 and from 1999 to 2001.

In 1991, Eva Ladanyine-Karakas of Hungary won the first World Senior (over 50) Chess Championship for women.

In 1991, Anke Koglin won the first German Women's Chess Championship.

In 1992, Susan Polgar won the women's world blitz championship and the women's rapid championship. She also won the Women's Interzonal in Shanghai.

In 1993, Irina Krush, at the age of 9 (born Dec 24, 1983), beat a chess master, the youngest girl ever to beat a chess master in a rated game.

In 1994, Zhu chen won the World Junior Girls Chess Championship and the World Women Under-20 Championship title.

In 1995 Irina Krush played in the U.S. Women's chess championship at the age of 11.

In 1995, a team of five senior male grandmasters, including Boris Spassky and Vasily Smyslov, lost a match against five leading women.

In 1996, Yoko Ono (1933- ) donated $2,500 to enable the Edward R. Murrow High School chess team in Brooklyn, New York, to attend the state and national championships.  The school had been national champions in 1992, 1993, and 1994, but had no funds in 1995 and 1996.  The school won the national championship in 2013, their 8th time winning it (1992, 1993, 1994, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2013).  They have also won 15 state titles and 16 city championships.  Yoko says she plays chess almost every day.

In 1996, Susan Polgar became women's world champion.

In February 1997, Judit Polgar won the 1997 Chess Oscar.

In 1998, Irina Krush won the U.S. women's championship at the age of 14, the youngest-ever holder of that title.

In 1998, Judit Polgar won the US Open, the only female to win this event.

In 1998, Jennifer Shahade became the first and only female to win the U.S. Junior Open.

In 1998, Anna Aksharumova scored a perfect 9-0 in the US women's championship, the only time there had been a perfect score in the US women's championship.  Bobby Fischer score 11-0 in the 1963-64 US championship.

In 1999 Judit Polgar was the first and only woman to be a FIDE World Champion quarterfinalist.

In 2000, Humpy Koneru won the British Ladies' Championship at the age of 13 years and 4 months, the youngest British chess champion ever.

In 2000, Natalia Zhukova of Ukraine won the first European Individual Chess Championship for women.

In 2001, Zhu Chen became women's world champion.

In 2001, Sulennis Pina Vega of Cuba won the first American Continental Women's Chess Championship, held in Merida, Venezuela.

In 2002, Garry Kasparov told the Times of London that "chess is a mixture of sport, psychological warfare, science, and art. When you look at all these components, man dominates. Every single component of chess belongs to the areas of male domination."

In 2002, Judit Polgar defeated world champion Gary Kasparov.

Judit Polgar — Garry Kasparov, Russia vs. Rest of the World, Moscow 2002
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 h6 10.Rd1+ Ke8 11.h3 Be7 12.Ne2 Nh4 13.Nxh4 Bxh4 14.Be3 Bf5 15.Nd4 Bh7 16.g4 Be7 17.Kg2 h5 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.Kf3 Bg6 20.Rd2 hxg4+ 21.hxg4 Rh3+ 22.Kg2 Rh7 23.Kg3 f6 24.Bf4 Bxf5 25.gxf5 fxe5 26.Re1 Bd6 27.Bxe5 Kd7 28. c4 c5 29.Bxd6 cxd6 30.Re6 Rah8 31.Rexd6+ Kc8 32.R2d5 Rh3+ 33.Kg2 Rh2+ 34.Kf3 R2h3+ 35.Ke4 b6 36.Rc6+ Kb8 37.Rd7 Rh2 38.Ke3 Rf8 39.Rcc7 Rxf5 40.Rb7+ Kc8 41.Rdc7+ Kd8 42.Rxg7 Kc8 1-0.

In 2003, Beatriz Marinello was the first and only female president of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). She was the Women's Champion of Chile when she was 16.

In 2004, Antoaneta Stefanova became women's world champion.

In 2004, supermodel Carmen Kass was elected president of the Estonian Chess Federation. She was president from 2004 to 2011.

In 2005, Jennifer Shahade, 2004 U.S. Women's Chess Champion, wrote Chess Bitch.

In July 2005, Judit Polgar was ranked 8th in the world in chess, with a peak rating of 2735. It is the highest rating of any female.

On July 26, 2006, Jessie Gilbert, a rising female chess star, fell from the 8th floor of her hotel while playing in the Czech Open in the Czech Republic.  It was a possible suicide.  A few days later, it was revealed that her father, Ian Gilbert, a director at the Royal Bank of Scotland, had been previously charged with rape, with Jessica Gilbert as one of the victims, but he was found not guilty.  Hours after the acquittal, Angela Gilbert, the mother of Jessie, was arrested on suspicion of threatening to kill her ex-husband over claims she hired a hitman to murder her ex-husband.   She was later released and lawyers decided not to proceed with the case.

In 2006, Xu Yuhua became women's world champion.

In 2006, Alexandra Kosteniuk became the first Chess960 (Fischer random) women's world champion.  She defended her title and won it again in 2008.

In 2007, there was only one woman ranked in the top 100 chess players in the world. Judit Polgar, the only woman in that list, was ranked 13th in the world at that time.

In 2008, Alexandra Kosteniuk became women's world champion.

In 2008, Hou Yifan (1994- ) was awarded the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 6 months, the youngest ever female to qualify for the GM title.

In 2008, a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, concluded that: "96% of the observed difference [between male and female chess performance] would be expected given the much greater number of men who play chess.  There is little left for biological or cultural explanations to account for.  In science, where there are many more male than female participants, the statistical sampling explanation, rather than difference in intellectual ability, may also be the main reason why women are under-represented at the top end."

In December 2008, Scientific American published an article called 'Men's Chess Superiority Explained.'

In 2009, Anna Zatonskih won the U.S. Women's Championship with a dominating 8.5 out of 9 score.

In 2010, Hou Yifan (1994- ), at age 16, became women's world champion at the youngest age of any world chess champion. She was women's world champion from 2010 to 2012, from 2013 to 2015, and is the current women's world champion.

In 2011, Jennifer Shahade,former U.S. Women's Chess Champion, wrote Play Like a Girl.

In 2012, only 8% of FIDE-rated chess players were female. In Germany, only 5% were female. In the United States, only 3% of rated players were female.

In 2012, Anna Ushenina became women's world champion.

In 2013, Hou Yifan defeated Anna Ushenina in China to become world women's chess champion again. She score 5.5 to 1.5 to retake the title.

In 2014, top woman chess player Judit Polgar retired from professional chess. She wrote, "We are capable of the same fight as any other man.  It's not a matter of gender, it's a matter of being smart.  I believe that as I have proved it with my career that with the right amount of work, dedication, talent and love for the game, it is possible to compete the best male players in the world of chess even though many of my colleagues were skeptical about my potential."

In 2014, Carissa Yip, age 11, became the youngest female ever to defeat a grandmaster when she defeated GM Alexander Ivanov at the New England Open.

In 2015, Judit Polgar was ranked number 1 in the world for women for 26 years, 28 days. She was ranked #1 in women's chess from February 1, 1989 to March 1, 2015. She holds the record for the longest time ranked Number One in chess in the world.

In 2015, Carissa Yip, age 11, became the youngest female in the United States to earn the title of chess master. Her rating is 2305. At age 12, she played in the 2016 US women's chess championship.

In 2015, Mariya Muzychuk became women's world champion.

In April 2015, British Grandmaster Nigel Short, age 49, was interviewed by New in Chess magazine and said that men were naturally better players than women.  He claimed the lack of women in the game was due to the fact that they are "hardwired" differently and are not suited to competing at a high level.  Short has lost to Judit Polgar eight times in the past.  She also defeated Garry Kasparov in 2002.  Short responded, "The fact that I have one bad score against an individual doesn't prove anything.  I'm talking about averages here—statistically women don't compete in the same numbers.  The average gap is pretty large and that is down to sex differences—Those differences exist."

In 2016, Janelle Mae Frayna, age 20, became the Philippines' first Woman Grandmaster after her performance in the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku.

In September 2016, US women's champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, age 22, said she would boycott the 2017 Women's World Championship, held in Tehran, Iran, because she refuses to wear the mandatory hijab. Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran has required women to wear the Islamic headscarf in public places. Gary Walters, USCF President, said that the USCF board also strongly opposes Iran's strict Islamic dress code. A letter opposing the requirement of wearing a headscarf has 15,000 signatures, including former world chess champion Gary Kasparov.

On September 30, 2016, the Disney movie "Queen of Katwe" was released in the U.S. It describes Phiona Mutesi's rise from the slums of Kampala, Uganda to an international figure of chess prominence. In 2012, she was awarded the Women's Candidate Master (WCM) title, following her performance in the 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. She won the Uganda women's junior championship in 2009 and was the first Ugandan woman to earn the WCM title.

In 2017, the Women's World Championship will be held in Tehran, Iran.

Famous women that play(ed) chess include Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth I, Jane Addams, June Allyson, Ann-Margret, Cory Aquino, Lauren Bacall, Joan Bennett, Polly Bergen, Sarah Bernhardt, Anne Boleyn, Shirley Booth, Jennifer Capriati, Amy Carter, Rosalyn Carter, Catherine II, Catherine de' Medeci, Cher, Rosemary Clooney, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Sandra Dee, Catherine Deneuve, Princess Diana, Marlene Dietrich, Queen Elizabeth II, Morgan Fairchild, Mia Farrow, Heidi Fleiss, Jane Fonda, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Barbara Hale, Sonja Henie, Katharine Hepburn, Queen Isabella, Kate Jackson, Carmen Kass, Helen Keller, Grace Kelly, Heidi Klum, Lady Gaga, Angela Lansbury, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren, Myrna Loy, Madonna, Sylvia Miles, Carmen Miranda, Joni Mitchell, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Michelle Obama, Yoko Ono, Maureen O'Sullivan, Jacqueline Piatigorsky, Helen Reddy, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields, Maria Shriver, Simone Simon, Grace Slick, Barbara Stanwyck, Shirley Temple, Liv Tyler, Liv Ullman, Queen Victoria, Mae West, and Shelley Winters.

See my article on actresses and chess.

Mother-Daughter Chess Players

Woman Grandmaster Naira Agababean (1951- ) of Moldavia is the mother of Woman Grandmaster and International Master Almira Skripchenko (1976- ), who now lives in France.
 Former Women's World Champion Olga Rubtsova of Russia is the mother of Woman Grandmaster Elena Fatalibekova.
Woman Grandmaster and International Master Cristina-Adela Foisor is the mother of Woman Grandmaster Sabina Francesca Foisor and Woman FIDE Master Mihaela-Veronica Foisor.
Woman International Master Svetlana Agrest (1966- ) is the mother of Woman International Master Inna Agrest.
Nonna Karakashyan (1940- ), 3-time winner of the Azerbaijan women's championship, is the mother of Woman International Master Narine Karakashian.
Elana Donaldson-Akmilovskaya (1957-2012) was a woman grandmaster. Her mother, a Soviet chess master, qualified several times for the USSR Women's Championship.
In 2012, Ghazala Shabbir and her daughter Fatima Shabbit, both of Pakistan, played in the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. This is the first time a mother/daughter pair played in the same Olympiad.
Barbara Hund, born in 1959, is a woman grandmaster. She was born 13 days after her mother, Juliane, played in the German Women's Chess Championship. Her sister, Isabel Hund (1962- ), is also a strong chess master.


Sergey Belavenets (1910-1942) was a strong Russian master. His daughter, Ludmilla, born in 1940, won the 4th Women's World Correspondence Chess Championship in 1992
Isaac Boleslavsky (1919-1977) was a Soviet GM. His daughter, Tatiana (1946- ), was a chess player who married GM David Bronstein (1924-2006).
Thomas Paehtz was a German GM. His daughter, Elisabeth Paehtz (1985- ), is a WGM and IM.
International Master Gorn Vojinovic is the father of Jovana Vojinovic, a Woman Grandmaster.

See my article on marriage and chess.

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