Lasker loses odds-match to a young lady!
Loses 5 to 2
I recently came across this game below between 24-year old Emanuel Lasker and 22-year old Nellie Showalter. It was played in New York in 1893 – a year before Lasker would become World Champion – and was part of a 7 game odds-match.
I think the match result speaks for itself and answers the question as to whether there were any master-level women in those distant times.
Lasker, Emanuel – Showalter, Nellie
New York 1893
Twenty-two year old Nellie Showalter (wife of the great American champion Jackson Showalter) was no doubt a master level player when this match with the future World Champion was played. Nellie learned to play chess only after marrying (she was a happy 16 year-old from a prominent family).
You should read the article below written by Nellie as it will give you insight into her views on chess and women. It is clear that Nellie’s thinking is very open minded. She was a free thinker.
In those days there was an absence of overt sexism in chess, contrary to today’s FIDE-driven, gender-segregated chess world.
Both Steinitz and Lasker actively encouraged women to play in (men’s) tournaments, seeing no reason why women could not play as well as men.
But women rarely participated in official (men’s) tournaments for a variety of social reasons and pressures (the woman’s place was at home), but the central reason – and most often overlooked reason – is that women did NOT smoke in those days while virtually all men did!
Smoking was considered an exclusively male ritual. Tournaments were cesspools of odorous smoke. Women could not stand this kind of environment for very long periods of time.
Women were not considered mentally inferior to men, and it is clear that Nellie felt that women players could become professional if they chose to.
Interested in learning more?
The Ladies Made an International Move http://www.chessarch.com/archive/0041_Ladies/index.shtml
Eminent Victorian Chess Players LINK
19th Century Gender Studies (Walls of Smoke) LINK
History of Women’s Clubs LINK