The Kurt Richter book is not the only biography I’ve been reading. I also invested in a copy of Robert B Tanner’s biography of Vera Menchik (McFarland & Co 2016), a very different book about a very different player. (They played once, with Richter winning.)
As you’d expect from this source, it’s a beautifully produced hardback, which makes the large number of typos, incorrect names and other errors all the more surprising. The book really needed a competent proof reader: my rates are very reasonable.
Why should you want to read about Vera Menchik? Stylistically, she was the polar opposite of Richter in that her play tended to be solid and cautious, but, like many players of her era below the very top, she was prone to tactical oversights, sometimes, in her case, caused by time trouble. It’s suggested that, in today’s money, she’d be about 2100 strength. In the two strongest tournaments she played in, Carlsbad 1929 and Moscow 1935, she finished in last place. However, she was good enough to beat the likes of Euwe (twice), Reshevsky and Sultan Khan.
Her games are not especially interesting, but Vera’s importance was historical and social, as the first woman able to compete successfully against men in top level events. If you’re interested in chess history, or in women’s chess, you’ll want to read this book.
We have 354 games, which is fine, some with contemporary annotations, along with brief comments from the author (he’s about 2100 strength but using an engine). The biography, though, beyond descriptions of her games and tournaments, is disappointingly perfunctory. I’d have liked to have read much more about her life outside chess, much more about what was happening in women’s and girls’ chess at the time, much more about how both chess players and the general public reacted to a woman competing with some success against the world’s leading players.
A missed opportunity then: a valuable book, but one that could have been better with a bit more care and more interesting with more wide-ranging research.
I think there’s a gap in the market: we need a book about the social history of women’s chess, and, come to that, a book about the social history of children’s chess.
This is probably her best known game. At that point English masters such as Thomas and Yates were experimenting with what would become the King’s Indian Defence, but here the baronet treats the opening much too passively and allows our heroine a thematic sacrifice.
Here the future world champion plays carelessly and contrives to lose a favourable ending.
Finally, Vera outplays the Indian maestro in fine style.