February 16 - Happy Birthday, Vera Menchik

Posted on February 16, 2018

Of course women can be chess champions!

For whatever reason, all the "world champions" have been men; but women chess champions have their own list of "Women's World Champions."
And of all the women on that list, today's famous birthday, Vera Menchik, had the longest reign. Menchik was women's world chess champion for 17 years, from the first Women's World Championship in 1927 to 1944.
Menchik was so far ahead of other women chess players of her time, she rarely lost or even had a draw with another female player. She also won many matches against men, including world champion Max Euwe - when he was NOT yet a world champion! She was routinely trounced by the top male chess players, losing every game to the champions when they were in their prime.

I wondered why Menchik was listed as a British-Chechoslovak-Russian chess player! It turns out that Menchik's dad was born in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic, which is trying not-very-successfully to rebrand itself as Czechia), Menchik's mom was born in England, and Menchik herself was born in Russia!

When Menchik was still a child, the Russian Revolution caused her family to lose their business and their house; soon the marriage failed, and Menchik and her sister moved with their mom to England. 
As a chess champion, she represented Russia, Czechoslovakia, and England!
This is Shannon-Ogbani Abeda, whose
parents were refugees from Eritrea who
settled in Canada. Abeda was born in
Canada but is skiing for Eritrea.
I keep noticing that more and more Olympic athletes compete for the nation of their heritage, rather than the nation in which they were born and raised. A lot of them move from their homeland to get the best coaching. Some of them move around a lot in order to get good conditions for their sport (like skiers needing snow, etc.). Since the world is more mobile, it makes more and more sense that athletes would move often, live in a variety of places, and so forth - and it is perhaps getting to be a bit out of date that they represent nations at all?
But I have to say that Menchik, who was born on this date in 1906, was early in the trend of representing a series of different nations!
By the way, Menchik didn't lose the title of world champ by losing a chess tournament. Instead, tragically, she lost her life in World War II when a Nazi bomb destroyed her London home in 1944. She was 38 years old.
Girls and women are starting to have more
opportunities to enjoy - and compete in - chess.

Also on this date:

Chinese New Year -- Year of the Dog:
here and here and here and
here and here 

(Third Friday in February)

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest boards for:
And here are my Pinterest boards for:

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