Menchik – Stevenson Vera Frantsevna (16.02.1906 – 27.06.1944)

menchik_stevensonA daughter of a Czech father and an English mother born in Moscow, and played for England. A citizen of Russia for her first World Championship, a citizen of Czechoslovakia until her marriage in 1937 with Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson, former Secretary of the British Chess Federation, and then listed as a representative of England.

Menchik learned chess when she was nine. In 1921, after her family moved to England, she became a student of Geza Maroczy. In 1923, began taking part in men’s international tournaments, where she recorded notable success against famous masters. It is good to say that at the time women’s chess was not developed as it is today, and no serious competitions were organised for women. In 1927 during the Olympiad, she won the first Women’s World Championship held in London having scored 10½ out of 11 points. Thereafter, she was crowned six times in all the subsequent pre-war championships: Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.

Other tournament achievements are: British Junior Championship 1926, 1927, 1st; Hastings 1926-27, 1st; Cheltnem 1928, 1st; London 1927, 1st; Ramsgate 1929, 2nd; Woster 1931, 1st; London 1932, 8th; Maribor 1934, 3rd; Montevideo 1939, 3rd.

She played many matches, winning two matches with E. Prise 3-2 and in 1942 she beat Jacques Mieses 6½-3½. She won two matches against Sonja Graf for the Women’s World Champion title; (+3 –1 =0) at Rotterdam 1934, and (+9 –2 =5) at Semmering 1937.

She played a couple of very strong games against male opponents. Among the strong players of that time she defeated Samuel Reshevsky, Friedrich Saemish, Sultan Khan, Frederick Yates, Edgard Colle, Henry Golombek, etc. As suggested by Albert Becker in Carlsbad, all losers were enrolled in the ‘Vera Menchik Club’. One of them was the Dutch Master Dr. Max Euwe four years before he became the world champion. Of course, this game was not her best play, but at this time, the victory against such a strong player was the best publicity for women’s chess.

Having become a very prominent chess player, she authored Social Chess Quarterly and Chess.

In 1944 at the end of WWII, she was killed with her family by a Nazi V1 rocket which demolished her home in South London. Vera Menchik’s younger sister Olga was also a tournament chess player.