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Vera Menchik vs Sonja Graf-Stevenson
WWCC Match (1934), Amsterdam NED, rd 1, Mar-21
Tarrasch Defense: Symmetrical Variation (D32)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-22-10  Dr. Siggy: As far as I know, this was <the very first game of the very first match between Miss Vera Menchik and Fraulein Sonja Graf.> The match is supposed to have been organised by <Dr. Max Euwe>: whether it took place in Amsterdam or in Rotterdam, whether it was an official match or an unofficial match for <the Ladies World Chess Title>, I have been unable to confirm thus far. It lasted four games only: so, I find it plausible that it was not an official match for the title.

Sonja Graf is said to have been a pupil, first, of Dr. Tarrasch's admirer and friend, the great correspondence Chess player <Dr. Eduard Dyckhoff>; and, afterwards, of <Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch> himself. Although it presents to us at least six combinations played by her, the magazine "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung" (which the 'Magister Germaniae seu Mundi' ran for the last eighteen months of his life) contains no references to this match of hers with Vera Menchik: so, I assume no one thought of it before April 1934.

Judging solely for this game, the match started very well for Graf, who played her teachers' favourite defence against the Queen's Gambit in fine style. Whatever Menchik had in mind with <13. Ba6?> was brilliantly refuted by her opponent with a beautiful combination based on a double attack: <13... Nxf3+ 14. gxf3 Bxh2+! 15. Kxh2 Qd6+>, winning a pawn - and the game.

Despite this favourable start, Graf lost the following three games - and the match. Allegedly, she played them with high fevers and strong headaches due to a cold she had caught in the meanwhile. The cold seems to have been a rather severe one, for (according to Sonja herself) she was bedridden for fourteen days after the match!

Had she kept in good health, would Sonja Graf have won this match against Vera Menchik? Having the records of both players in mind, the logical answer is: most probably not. But, after such a great start, who knows she wouldn’t have done any better than she went on to do in 1937...

Aug-23-10  sneaky pete: Miss Menchik visited the Netherlands in 1934 from March 17 to April 18. On March 19 she played a game (not in this database) against Euwe in a radio studio in Hilversum. Euwe won, and Menchik remarked after the game that now the score between her and Dr. Euwe was equal (+2 -2). On March 20 she gave a 33 board simul in Zandvoort.

Between March 21 and 25 the 4 game match against Sonja Graf was played at the home of Dr. Euwe in Amsterdam. Apparently very unofficial, possibly even without any prize money involved. In the report (in the magazine of the Dutch Chess Association) from which I gather this information a scheduled 10 or 12 game match to be played in London in November is mentioned, which never materialised.

That report only gives the 2 games against Graf that we have here, and two games from simultaneous exhibitions, and blames Graf's health problems for her weak play in games 3 and 4. From March 26 until April 17 Menchik gave 14 more simuls and played in a few small local events, but she never visited Rotterdam.

Aug-23-10  Dr. Siggy: <sneaky pete>: Thank you, very, very much, for sharing that information with me!

I must say, I am very much puzzled with the dates you quote from the Dutch Chess Association magazine. The last two numbers of "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung", edited by Dr. Dyckhoff, were dated 'February 1934' and 'March 1934': neither mentions a possible match between Vera Menchik and Sonja Graf, much less for the Ladies World Chess Title. And how come the match started exactly the day after that large simultaneous exhibition given by Menchik in Zandvoort?

I gather a thorough historical investigation into the first Menchik vs Graf match is still wanting...

Aug-23-10  Dr. Siggy: <Six combinations played by Sonja Graf.>

As presented to us by the magazine which the 'Magister Germaniae seu Mundi' ran for the last eighteen months of his life.

(N.B.: In this post, the positions. In the next post, the solutions.)



I. "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung", volume one, Munich 1932-33, page 173:

N.N. vs Sonja Graf, Munich 1933.

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Black to play and wins.

II. "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung", volume one, Munich 1932-33, page 254:

Sonja Graf vs N.N., Munich 1933.

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Black played 1... g6 and White won.

III. "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung", volume one, Munich 1932-33, page 285:

N.N. vs Sonja Graf, Munich 1933.

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Black to play and wins.

IV. "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung", volume two, Munich 1933-34, page 13:

Sonja Graf vs N.N., Hamburg 1933.

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White to play and wins.

V. "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung", volume one, Munich 1933-34, page 26:

N.N. vs Sonja Graf, Hamburg 1933.

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After 1... Kh5! White played 2. Ra2 and Black won.

VI. "Tarrasch's Schachzeitung", volume two, Munich 1933-34, page 45:

Sonja Graf vs N.N., Hamburg 1933.

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Black played 1... Qf8 and White won.

Aug-23-10  Dr. Siggy: <Six combinations played by Sonja Graf.>

As presented to us by the magazine which the 'Magister Germaniae seu Mundi' ran for the last eighteen months of his life.



I. 1... f2+! 2. Qxf2 (2. Bxf2 Qxg2#; 2. Kxf2 Qxg2+) 2... Qxd1 3. Nd6+! Rxd6! 4. cxd6 Qxd6. 0-1.

II. 2. Re1 Qd7 (2... Qxf5? 3. Nh6+; 2... Qxe1+ 3. Qxe1 gxf5 is the lesser evil) 3. hxg6 hxg6 4. Nh6+ Kg7 5. Rxd5! Qxd5 6. Rxe7+ Kxh6 7. Bc1+ g5 (7... Qg5? 8. Qh4#; 7... Kh5 8. Rh7+ Kg4 9. Rh4#) 8. Qh4+ Kg6 9. Qh7#. 1-0

III. 1... Bxg3! 2. fxg3 (2. hxg3 Qh1#; 2. Nxg2 Qxh2+ 3. Kf1 Qh1#) 2... f2+ 3. Kxg2 f1Q#. 0-1

IV. 1. Qf8+! Rxf8! (1... Nxf8? 2. Rd8+) 2. Rxf8+! Nxf8 3. Rd8+ Rxd8 4. exd8Q+ Kf7 5. Qe7+ Kg8 6. Bf6. 1-0.

V. 2... Rxh3+ 3. gxh3 (or Kxh3) Rh1#. 0-1.

VI. 2. Ng6+! fxg6 3. fxg6 Qe8 4. Qxh7+ Rxh7 5. Rxh7#. 1-0.

Oct-24-10  Dr. Siggy: Translated by me from <Fate of a "miracle girl" - The life of Sonja Graf-Stevenson> by Michael Negele (2007).

"Max Euwe commented this game [...] in the 'Tidschrift van den Koninklijken Nederlandschen Schaakbond', April 1934: <1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. e3 Nf6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. a3 Bd6 7. Bd3 0-0 8. 0-0 b6 9. Qe2 Bb7 10. cxd5 exd5 11. dxc5 bxc5 12. Rfd1> Better 12. Ba6 right away. <12. ... Ne5 13. Ba6?> Positionally, White is already worse; after the text move a pawn is lost without compensation. <13. ... Nxf3+ 14. gxf3 Bxh2+! 15. Kxh2 Qd6+ 16. f4 Bxa6 17. Qf3 Bb7 18. Bd2 Qd7 19. Qh3 Qxh3+ 20. Kxh3 d4 21. exd4 cxd4 22. Nb5 d3 23. Be3 Rd8 24. Nd4 Ba6 25. b4 Nd5!> Interesting and pointedly played. <26. b5> White can be wrong with Black’s combinations. <26. ... Nxf4+!> If now 27. Bxf4 Rxf4 28. Be3, the 'pointe' of Black’s game is 28. Bc8+. <27. Kg4 Ne2!> And White wins no figure: 28. Nxe2 dxe2 29. Rxd8 Rxd8 30. bxa6 Rd1! <28. Rxd3 Bxb5 29. Nxb5 Rxd3 30. Kf3 Nc3> and White resigned."

(For Mr. Negele's original text, in German, go to

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