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You would think from the adulation of the Polgar sisters that women chess- players were a recent discovery. Now I am second to no one in my admiration for the prowess of young Judit; but in all fairness I must point out that there was, 60 years ago, a woman player who could also push a pawn or two.

Her name was Vera Menchik. She became the first official Women's World Champion in 1927; she held the title until her death in 1944; and she did one thing that Judit Polgar has not yet achieved - she married an Englishman.

White: Vera Menchik

Black: Sonya Graf

World Championship Match 1937

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.e3

After starting with an English opening (how touchingly loyal!) Miss Menchik has quickly embraced the Queen's Gambit. Her latest move is a harmless alternative to the more combative 5.Bg5.


Why so unambitious? This pawn belongs on c5.

6.Bd3 Be7

And this bishop would be happier on d6. This is all sadly typical of the submissive style of 1930s women.

7.0-0 0-0 8.e4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 Nf6 11.Bc2 c5 12.dxc5 Qa5 13.Be3!

A thoughtful little manoeuvre. After 13.Bd2 Qxc5, White's c-pawn needs defending. White therefore tricks the black bishop into capturing on c5 before playing her own bishop to d2 and c3.

13...Bxc5 14.Bd2! Qc7 15.Bc3 Be7 16.Qe2 b6 17.Ng5!

White will not be tempted by 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.Qe4 g6 19.Qxa8 when her queen is trapped after 19...Bb7 20.Qxa7 Ra8.

17...g6 18.Qf3 Bb7 19.Qh3 h5

White now has a number of attractive sacrificial options. 20.Bxg6 fxg6 21.Nxe6 (or 21.Qxe6+) or 20.Nxe6 and 21.Qxe6+, but she needs to be able to bring a rook into the attack. So one more preparatory move is necessary.

20.Rad1 Ng4? (See diagram)

Hoping to lure White into 21.Qxh5, when 21...gxh5 22.Bh7 is mate, but Black escapes with 21...Qxh2+. However ...

21.Rd7!! resigns

21...Qxd7 22.Qxh5!! forces mate.