10 facts about Vera Menchik

compiled by WGM/FT Aleksandra Dimitrijevic and Michalis Kaloumenos

photo source: Edward Winter


1. Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on February 16th 1906 and was killed in a V1 flying bomb attack which destroyd her house in South London on June 27th 1944, aged only 38 years.
          - wikipedia

2. She won the first Women's World Championship in 1927 and successfully defended her title six times in every other championship held during her lifetime, losing only one game, while winning 78 and drawing four games.
          - wikipedia

3. Playing for the World Championship and later defending her title, she represented Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and England.
          - wikipedia

4. The Women's World Championship was established by FIDE in 1927 as a single tournament held alongside the Chess Olympiad. The winner of that tournament, Vera Menchik, did not have any special rights as the men's champion did—instead she had to defend her title by playing as many games as all the challengers. She did this successfully in every other championship in her lifetime (1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1939).
           - wikipedia

5. When in 1929, Menchik entered the Carlsbad chess tournament, Viennese master Albert Becker ridiculed her entry by proposing that any player whom Menchik defeated in tournament play should be granted membership into the Vera Menchik Club. In the same tournament, Becker himself became the first member of the "club". In addition to Becker, the "club" eventually included Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander, Abraham Baratz, Eero Böök, Edgard Colle, Max Euwe, Harry Golombek, Mir Sultan Khan, Frederic Lazard, Jacques Mieses, Stuart Milner-Barry, Karel Opočenský, Brian Reilly, Samuel Reshevsky, Friedrich Sämisch, Lajos Steiner, George Alan Thomas, William Winter, and Frederick Yates. 
          - wikipedia

6. By the early 1930s the Club was becoming a familiar piece of whimsy. For example, the following appeared in a report about Hastings: ‘Sir George Thomas once again lost to Miss Menchik and is now acclaimed as president of the “Menchik Club” – the membership of which is strictly limited to victims of the woman champion.’
          - Edward Winter

7. One of the most beautiful combinations from Menchik chess carrier comes from the Women World Championship in 1937:

Vera Menchik - Sonja Graf
WWCH, Semmering, 13.Jul.1937

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.e3 c6 6.Bd3 Be7 7.0–0 0–0 8.e4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 Nf6 11.Bc2 c5 12.dxc5 Qa5 13.Be3 Bxc5 14.Bd2 Qc7 15.Bc3 Be7 16.Qe2 b6 17.Ng5 g6 18.Qf3 Bb7 19.Qh3 h5 20.Rad1
Interesting would be a  a sacrifice 20.Bxg6 fxg6 21.Qxe6+ Kg7 22.Qxf6+ Bxf6 23.Ne6+ and White will be with pawns up in the endgame. Maybe, the best continuation is simple 20.Rae1 with an idea 20...Qxc4 21.Bb3 Qg4 22.Qxg4 hxg4 23.Nxe6 fxe6 24.Rxe6 with an advantage.
20...Ng4 Is a last mistake. Chance to unclear fight gives 20...Qxc4 21.Rd4.


21.Rd7 And the Black’s resigned, because if Qxd7 22.Qxh5 and there is not chance to escape from mate (23.Qh8# or 23.Qh7#, and on 22...gxh5 23.Bh7#). 1–0


8. The longest game of Menchik, available in database is against Ernst Grünfeld (mostly know as the author of the famous chess opening Grünfeld Defence)

Vera Menchik - Ernst Gruenfeld
Karlsbad, 10.Aug.1929

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 b6 4.e3 Bb7 5.Bd3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2
Modern main line in theory is 6.Nc3.
6...Bxd2+ 7.Nbxd2 d6 8.0–0 Nbd7 9.Qc2 c5 10.Ne4 Qc7 11.Rfd1 0–0 12.dxc5 dxc5 13.Rd2 h6 14.Rad1 Rfd8 15.h3
Better was 15.Nd6!? - idea is after 15...Bxf3 16.gxf3 that White has an edge – on first view, White’s castle weakness is actual White edge by using a open g-file (Kh1, Rg1).
15...Bc6 16.Nh2 Kf8 17.Nf1 Ne8 18.Nfg3 Ndf6 19.Nxf6 Nxf6 20.Bf1 Ke7 21.Qc3 Rxd2 22.Qxd2 h5 23.Ne2 Ba4 24.b3 Bc6 25.Nc3 a6 26.Be2 Rh8 27.f3 g5 28.e4 Qf4 29.Qxf4 gxf4 30.Kf2 h4 31.Bd3 Rd8 32.Bc2 Rxd1 33.Bxd1
And now we can see how Black is trying to make an advantage from better Bishop, but current pawn structure is too blocked for success.
33...Kd6 34.Bc2 Ke5 35.Ne2 Nh5 36.Bd3 Be8 37.Ke1 Ng3 38.Nc3 Kd4 39.Kd2 f6 40.Nb1 Bg6 41.Na3 Ke5 42.Nc2 Be8 43.Ne1 Kd6 44.Nc2 Bd7 45.Na3 Nh5 46.Nb1 Bc6 47.Nc3 Ng7 48.Bc2 Nh5 49.Bd3 Kc7 50.Ke1 Kd7 51.Kd1 Ke7 52.Ke1 Kf7 53.Kd2 Bd7 54.Ke1 Ke7 55.Kd1 Kd6 56.Kd2 Bc6 57.Ne2 Ke5 58.Nc3 Ng7 59.Ne2 Ne8 60.Nc3 Nd6 61.a3 Nc8 62.Ne2 Ne7 63.Kc3 Be8 64.Bc2 Bg6 65.Nc1 Kd6 66.Ne2 e5 67.Kd2 Nc6 68.Bd3 Bf7 69.Kc3 Be6 70.Kd2 Na5 71.Kc3 Kc6 72.Nc1 Nb7 73.Ne2 Nd6 74.Kd2 b5 75.Kc3 Kb6 76.Nc1 Nf7 77.Bf1 Nd8 78.b4 Nb7 79.Nb3 Bf7 80.Be2 Be8 81.cxb5 axb5 82.Nxc5 Nxc5 83.bxc5+ Kxc5 84.Bf1 Bd7 85.Bd3 Be6 86.Be2 f5 87.exf5 Bxf5 88.Bd1 Be6 89.Be2 Bd5 90.Bd3 Ba2 91.Be2 Bb1 92.Bd1 e4 93.fxe4 Bxe4 94.Bf3 Kd5 95.Kb4 Bxf3 96.gxf3 Kd4 97.Kxb5 Ke3 98.a4 Kxf3 99.a5 Kg3 100.a6 f3 101.a7 f2 102.a8Q f1Q+ 103.Kc5 Qc1+ 104.Kd6 Qd1+ 105.Ke5 Qe2+ 106.Qe4 Qh5+ 107.Kd4 Qd1+ 108.Ke3 Qg1+ 109.Kd3 Kxh3 110.Qf3+ Qg3 111.Ke3 ½–½

9. She won very nice against future World Chess Champion and FIDE President PhD Max Euwe.

Vera Menchik - Max Euwe
Hastings, 1931

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 Na6
The most popular continuation in the current opening theory is 6...e6.
7.Bxc4 Nb4 Still is the best choice 7...e6. 8.0–0
8.Ne5 is nowadays main line (mistake is now 8...Nc2+ because of 9.Qxc2), 8…e6 9.0-0 with normal play.  
8...e6 9.Ne5 Bd6 10.Qe2 c5 Only move for the Black here is 10...h6.
11.Bb5+ Ke7 12.e4 Bg6 13.Nxg6+ hxg6 14.e5 cxd4 15.Rd1 Bc7 16.exf6+
White is a piece up, and it is just a question of the technique of realisation of the material advantage.
16...gxf6 17.g3 a6 18.Be3 Bb6 19.Bc4 Kf8 20.Ne4 Kg7 21.Rac1 Rh5 22.Bf4 e5 23.g4 Rh8 24.Bg3 Qe7 25.Nd2 Rhe8 26.Qe4 Qd7 27.Nf3 Qc6 28.Qxc6 Nxc6 29.Bd5 Rac8 30.Be4 Rc7 31.Ne1 Rec8 32.Nd3 Ne7 33.Rxc7 Rxc7 34.Kf1 Rc4 35.Bxb7 Rxa4 36.Rc1 g5 37.f3 Ra2 38.Be1 a5 39.Bd2 f5 40.gxf5 a4 41.Ke1 a3 42.b4 Kf6 43.Ba6 g4 44.Bc4 Rxd2 45.Kxd2 gxf3 46.Nc5 Kxf5 47.Bxf7 Bd8 48.Be6+ Kf6 49.Bg4 Nd5 50.Bxf3 Nxb4 51.Be4 Be7 52.Nd3 Na2 53.Rc6+ Kg5 54.Rg6+ Kh4 55.Nxe5 Nc3 56.Kd3 1–0

10. The last games from Menchik come from her match with Jaques Mieses – she won with 4 win, 5 draws and just one lost game. Here is a one game from the match:

Jacques Mieses - Vera Menchik
London, 29.May.1942 

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Bd6 6.Qc2
Main theoretical line is 6.Qf3.
6...Nge7 7.Ne2 The most played is 7.Nf3.
7...Bg4 8.Be3 Qd7 9.Nd2 Bf5 10.Ng3 Better was 10.0–0.
10...Bxd3 11.Qxd3 0–0–0 12.b4
Now is not so good 12.0–0 because of a pawn attack which starts with the 12…h5; The best for the White was to follow with the same castle 12.0–0–0.
12...h5 13.Nb3 h4 14.Ne2 Rde8 15.Nc5 Is a mistake. The best move is 15.h3, to take an important g4 square from the Black’s Queen.
15...Qg4 16.Qb5 Bxc5 17.dxc5 Nf5 18.Qd3 d4
Classical human move. Better is 18...Ne5 19.Qxd5 h3 20.gxh3 Nf3+ 21.Kd1 (If 21.Kf1 Qxh3#) 21...Nxe3+ 22.fxe3 Qg2 23.Rg1 Qf2 and the White is lost.
19.h3 If 19.Nxd4 Nfxd4 20.cxd4 h3 21.gxh3 Rxh3 and all the White pieces are tied up, for example 22.Kd2 Rd8 23.Rag1 Qf3 24.Kc1 Rxd4. 
19...Qg6 20.cxd4 Nxb4 21.Qb1 Nxe3 22.Qxg6 fxg6 23.Rb1 Ned5 0–1