Today’s Vintage Chess Humor
From the November 1968 ChessReview magazine, which I suppose correctly sums up the then prevailing attitude of 50-ish year old chess playing males towards women in chess.
In the ‘good old days’ (pre-WWII era ) organized women’s chess existed in very few places, and more often than not as a mere curiosity and certainly not a reflection of anything real or substantial.
In England and America, for example, women were generally excluded from any type of ‘men’s clubs’ and so this lead to the creation of women only clubs – a women’s only Chess Club being one such entity.
Women played against women; men played against other men. It was just the gender divide that existed in the social structure of the era, NOT for any other reason.
But the Russian born Vera Menchik proved in the 1930’s that women could indeed compete with the very best men players, often with success. She very quickly was recognized as the top women player in the world.
It would a mistake, however, to call her the first Women’s World Champion, just as it would be wrong to posthumously award such a title to Judit Polgar when she passes on (hopefully not for a very long time from now!)
The legitimate title of Women’s World Champion simply did not officially exist in Menchik’s lifetime, and in Judit’s case she simply refused to participate in women-only events as a matter of principle.
Some sources attribute FIDE in 1927 to have recognized her as the first Women’s World Champion by virture of winning (read ‘Championship Confusion’) some random ‘women’s tournament’ in London during a FIDE congress and ‘Olympiad‘ (even this name did not officially exist at the time).
But in 1927 FIDE did not ‘own’ any World Championship title, let alone legally award one. One can not– after the fact-– patronizingly declare a random tournament that had just finished a ‘World Championship’, as was the case in London with regards to Vera Menchik.
In London FIDE very much wanted to announce to the world that they ‘controlled’ a world championship, but Capablanca (and later Alekhine) refused to give his title to FIDE or allow them to administer official challengers in any way, shape or form.
So, to save face, FIDE ‘invented’ a ‘false-story’ about a random women’s tournament in London. In the minds of the little people running FIDE at the time, it was probably the expedient thing to do.
FIDE never corrected, apologized for or recognized their responsibility for the false-story and it was only in 1949/1950 that a truly LEGITIMATE world championship for women was realized.
The 1927 match in Buenos Aires between the official World Champion, Capablanca, and his challenger, Alekhine, created an enormous interest in the media for chess and brought unprecedented prestige to the world title. By comparison, the 1927 FIDE events in London were barely mentioned, if at all. Even in London. And no FIDE official attended the Buenos Aires event. Essentially, in 1927 FIDE did not exist as a influential force in world chess, let alone create world titles. Most of what we read today about FIDE did in those distant times is pure myth and fantasy. Not to mention outright lie or distortion of the facts. In these respects, FIDE’s behaviour has not changed much since!
Only following the death of Alekhine in 1946 did FIDE officially get control of the World Championship title, and even today they only own the ‘FIDE World Championship‘ title, not the ‘World Championship’ title. (So Magnus Carlsen is the official ‘FIDE World Champion’, NOT the official ‘World Champion’)
When the USSR decided to join FIDE after the war (before then they refused to join because FIDE was ‘not revolutionary’ enough…) they ‘added’ the Women’s World Championship to their shopping list. Before then it simply did not exist. The very first Women’s World Championship took place in the winter of 1949/1950 in Moscow, in the form of a tournament with 12 participants.
So it is important to note that the Women’s World Championship is a Russian political creation. In as much the same way as FIDE has created an artificial gender barrier that allows for boys to play boys and girls to play girls, separate women’s Grandmaster titles, etc. Politics and Money…