31 DECEMBER 1994, Page 36


Menchik Club

Raymond Keene

IN RECENT YEARS there has been a tremendous explosion in performances by female players. Fuelled by the fabulous Polgar sisters, the effect has been clearly noticeable in the UK, where 16-year-old Harriet Hunt not only performed well for the Women's Olympiad team in Moscow, but has also achieved the distinction of becoming the highest ranked player of her age of either sex. She is not alone. Fourteen-year-old Ruth Sheldon from Manchester has dominated the internation- al girls' championships in which she has competed. Her latest triumph was first prize at Euro-Disney, Paris, in the European Rapidplay Championship.

There has also been a move among many organisers this year to commemorate the first women's world champion, Vera Menchik. She won the title at London in 1927 and retained it in an unbroken series of seven competitions scoring 87 wins, 9 draws and just three losses in a 12-year period. Amazingly, she won the four world championship tournaments at Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935 and Stockholm 1937 with a 100 per cent score in each case. Her result at the international tournament in London 1932, where the field included Alekhine, Flohr, Maroczy and Tartakower, placed her well ahead of all the leading British masters of the day, Milner-Barry, Thomas, Burger and Winter.

The most recent tournament to mark her deeds is this year's Hastings, traditionally Britain's strongest all-play-all. The field includes Lalic, Maric, Aralchamia, Madl, Kachiani-Gersinska, Howell, McNab, Sher, Luther and Nunn and is balanced 50 per cent male, 50 per cent female players. Here are some games that demonstrate Vera Menchik's brilliance. This is the fiftieth anniversary of her death. She was tragically killed by a German VI. rocket in Clapham in 1944.

Menchik-Graf: Women's World Championship, 1937.

In this position White would like to play the flashy 1 Qxh5 gxh5 2 Bh7 mate. However, after 1 Qxh5 Black can spoil all this with 1 . . . Qxh2+ 2 Qxh2 Nxh2 3 Kxh2 Bxg5. Instead, Menchik precedes the sacrifice with an inspired deflec- tion. 1 Rd7 Qxd7, 2 Qxh5 Black resigns Now mate is inevitable.

The next example also reveals her powers of combination.

Menchik-Mora: Women's World Championship, 1939; Queen's Gambit Declined.

1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Ne3 Nf6 4 Nf3 Nbd7 5 e3 Be7 6 Bd3 dxc4 7 Bxc4 c5 8 0-0 a6 9 a4 cxd4 10 exd4 The opening play on both sides has been some- what unsophisticated, but after various sacrifices of tempi a fairly standard Queen's Gambit Accepted position has now been reached. 10 ... Nb6 11 Bb3 0-0 12 Qe2 Bd7 13 Ne5 Rc8 14 Bg5 Bc6 15 Rfel Bd5 Black lacks the courage of her

convictions. If she wanted to play solidly 15 . • - Nbd5 was the move. If 15 . . . Qxd4 then the immediate 16 Nxf7 Rxf7 17 Qxe6 wins. 16 NxdS Nbxd5 17 Radl h6 18 Bxf6 gxf6 Now Menchik strikes with a sacrifice that ultimately yields a huge material plus for her. 19 Nxf7 Rxf7 20 Qxe6 Black resigns.

Menchik-Thomas: London, 1932; King's Indian Defence.

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 f3 0-0 6 Be3 e5 7 Nge2 b6 This move does not fit in with Black's plans and is a complete waste of time. 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 d5 Ne7 10 g4 Nd7 Condemning him- self to permanent passivity. As Alekhine pointed out in the tournament book, come what may, Black must play 10 . Ne8 followed by 11 . • • f5 to avoid absolute suffocation. 11 Rg1 a5 12 0-0-0 Nc5 13 Ng3 Bd7 14 h4 a4 15 h5 Qb8 16 Bh6 Qa7 17 Bxg7 Kxg7 (Diagram) Once again Menchik now displays her talent for attack. Black must have believed that the f5 square Wes sacrosanct and that he was about to break through himself either with ... a3 or a sacrifice based on . . . Nb3+. 18 NfS+ NxfS If 18 • 26 gxf5 19 gicf5+ followed by 20 Qh6. 19 gxf5 a3 f6+ Kh8 If 20 . Kxf6 21 Qg5+ Kg7 22 h6+ with unavoidable mate. 21 Qh6 Rg8 22 hxg6 fx86 23 Qxh7+ Black resigns White concludes by sacrificing her queen. After 23 ... Kxh7 24 Rh1+ mates.