5 Famous Worldwide Women Chess Players

Chess was mainly recognised as a man’s game but in fact, there’s a growing number of very talented and famous women players. I’m highlighting 5 great women chess players here.

Judit Polgar

Judit Polgar is considered the strongest woman to ever play chess, yet she has never won a World Women’s Chess Championship. Because she has never tried to Judit Polgarcompete in the women’s world championships, preferring instead to focus on the World Championships. However, she finished in 8th position in the world championship.

Susan Polgar, Judit’s sister is apparently the most famous worldwide player along with their other sister Sofia, who’s considered a prodigy. So that in fact makes 8 great women players. The Polgar sister’s story is amazing and you can read more of it here and also scroll down and watch a very interesting video of Judit telling much of her story.

Susan Polgar

The eldest of the renowned Polgar sisters, Susan was born April 19, 1969 in Hungary. During 2002-2019 she played for the United States. And she became the top ranked woman in the world in 1984 and the third ever female grandmaster in 1991, beating her younger sister Judit Polgar by only months.

Many of her family ancestors were holocaust victims or survivors. Susan, and her 2 sisters Sophia and Judit were home-schooled, and chess being the main subject of their education. By the age of 4 Susan was well versed in chess and could outshine girls three times her age. For instance, she won the under-11 Budapest championship and by the time she was 11, she won the girls’ division of the Under-16 World Youth Chess Championship in 1981.

Still in her teens, in 1985 Susan had already started playing in men’s and mixed events almost exclusively and was rated 2430, the highest-rated female player in the world. Fighting for the top spot until sister Judit eclipsed her, starting in 1989.

Maia Chiburdanidze

Maia is one of the top female chess players of all time who is best known for her record of nine Chess Olympiad wins. When she was only 15 she won her first girl’s championship in the USSR and again one year later in 1976. She held on to her title until 1991.

In May 1995 Maia announced that she was retiring from chess and entering a Georgian cloister at the age of 34. And it was a cause for nostalgia. Her entrance and exit from the world chess scene marked the beginning and end of an era.

After a 13-year reign, Chiburdanidze lost her title to Jun Xie in 1991. She then failed in a second attempt to regain it when she was demolished in a challenger’s match by Zsuzsa Polgar.

Perhaps her mind was on her intended new vocation. Possibly her morale has been affected by the upheavals that have plagued her country in recent years.

The legend is that Georgian women–who historically were military leaders, diplomats and heads of state–have always played chess. In fact, we are told that chess sets often were part of their dowries. Today, an increasing number of women players elsewhere are emulating their achievements at the chessboard.

And she is one of the very few women who has won a top-class grandmaster tournament.

Xie Jun

Xie Jun is a Chinese chess grandmaster. Having had two separate reigns as Women’s World Chess Champion, from 1991 to 1996 and again from 1999 to 2001. One of three women she has at least two separate reigns, besides Elisaveta Bykova and Hou Yifan. And she’s the current president of the Chinese Chess Association.

When Xie was six she began to play Chinese chess, and by age 10 she had become the girls’ champion of Beijing. Government authorities urged her to start playing Western chess. Despite indifferent training opportunities, Xie became the Chinese girls’ chess champion in 1984. In 1988 she tied for second–fourth places at the women’s world junior championship.

Then when she was only 20 Xie won the right to challenge for the women’s world title, and, in 1991 she defeated Maia Chiburdanidze of Georgia, who had been champion since 1978. Xie lost the title to Zsuzsa Polgar of Hungary in 1996 but regained the title in 1999 by defeating another championship finalist, Alisa Galliamova, after Polgar refused to accept match conditions and forfeited her title.

Xie Jun was the eighth women’s world champion. She was the sixth woman to achieve the grandmaster title, and China’s first to accomplish either feat. 

She’s a hero in China, and Xie became widely known for her optimism and vivid attacking style. Her success did much to popularize Western chess in her country and the rest of Asia.

Vera Menchick

Vera Menchick was the first women’s champion chess player in history, and was most certainly the best female player of her time. She held this title for 17 years from 1927 until her tragic, untimely death during the war in 1944.

Born into a prosperous family in 1906, her father bought her a chess set when she was 9 and taught her how to play. At the age of 15 she came second in a chess tournament organised by her school. It would be easy to imagine what else Vera would likely have accomplished had she not died at the young age of 38 and at the height of her success.

During the Russian Revolution, the family lost their livelihood. And because of their circumstances Vera, her mother and her younger sister went to live with her grandmother in England while her father was back in Bohemia. Vera was a regular throughout the 1920s and 30s in Hastings, where the annual chess tournament took place. Her teacher here was the Hungarian master Geza Maroczy.

Vera ultimately played in seven Women’s World Championship tournaments and another two matches against Germany’s Sonja Graf. Dominating other women players, she was also regularly invited to men’s events during this period.

Vera Menchick was born in Russia of a Czech father and English mother.

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