Vladas Jonovich Mikėnas was born in Revel (Tallinn), Estonia. His childhood life was difficult. His father, Jonas Mikenas, passed away when he was 10 years old. Vladas worked after school to earn money for a living. Despite this, he found time for chess. Late at night, he would hide from his disapproving mother and sisters, and sit quietly by the oil lamp to study chess games. In 1925, the 15-year old Mikenas participated in the Jubilee tournament of the Tallinn chess club. After losing his first three games, he won the remainder and took first place, half a point ahead of Friedrich Amelung. (1)
In 1929, Mikenas took first place in the Tallinn championship. In the same year, he graduated from the Tallinn Russian gymnasium, and entered the Tallinn University of Technology.
In September 1930, Mikenas defeated Johannes Turn (+5 -2 =1) and became the Estonian chess champion. In December 1930, Tallinn hosted a tournament with the participation of seven local players and guest Efim Bogoljubov. Mikenas defeated Bogoljubov in the decisive game and took first place.
In addition to his university studies, Mikenas started working as a chess columnist for the weekly Estonian newspaper Esmaspaew ("Monday").
In 1931, Mikenas took first place in a tournament of the Helsinki Chess Club, Finland, with a result of 9.5/10. (2)
Also in 1931, Mikenas was invited to participate in the first Baltic countries championship, in Memel (Klaipeda). It was his first visit to Lithuania. Mikenas was the son of a Lithuanian father and a Polish mother. He did not speak Lithuanian, as they spoke Polish and Russian at home, but he had a Lithuanian passport. (1)
The tournament was held from May 22 to May 27, 1931. Isakas Vistaneckis (Kaunas) won the Baltic Champion title with 4.5/7, while Mikenas (Tallinn), Vladimir Petrov (Riga), Paul Saladin Leonhardt (Konigsberg), and Simon Gordon (Memel) shared places 2-5, with 4/7. (3)
In June 1931, Mikenas settled in Lithuania. In April 1933, he defeated seven-time Lithuanian champion Aleksander Macht in a match and became the Lithuanian champion.
In 1934, he won a match for the Lithuanian Champion title against Paul Vaitonis, at 6-2. In 1935, Vladas Mikenas drew a match with Isakas Vistaneckis (8-8), and defended his title. In 1937 and 1938, he won two matches for the Lithuanian championship title, against Povilas (Paul) Vaitonis (5.5-4.5 in 1937, and 9-3 in 1938).
Mikenas played several times in the Lithuanian SSR championships in Vilnius. He won the 14th LTU-ch in 1947, won in 1948, took 3rd in 1949, took 6th in 1951, tied for 2nd–4th in 1952, took 6th in 1953, took 2nd in 1954, took 3rd in 1955, took 2nd in 1957, tied for 2nd-4th in 1958, took 3rd in 1959, tied for 3rd–4th in 1960, won in 1961, took 2nd in 1963, won in 1964, shared 1st in 1965, tied for 2nd–3rd in 1967, and tied for 1st–2nd in 1968.
In May-June 1937, Mikenas participated in the 1st International tournament in Kemeri (Kemeri (1937)), and defeated world champion Alexander Alekhine. In September-October 1940, he participated for the first time in the XII USSR championship finals. In this tournament he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik. (4)
From 1931 to 1939, he participated in five official, and one unofficial, Chess Olympiads as the captain and 1st board of the Lithuanian team. In July 1931, he played at the 4th Chess Olympiad in Prague (+7 –5 =6), and drew his game against world champion Alekhine. In July 1933, he played in the 5th Chess Olympiad in Folkestone (+5 –3 =6). In August 1935, he played in the 6th Chess Olympiad in Warsaw (+2 –6 =10). In August/September 1936, he played in the unofficial Olympiad in Munich (+5 –7 =8). In July/August 1937, he played in the 7th Chess Olympiad in Stockholm (+7 –3 =8). In August/September 1939, he played in the 8th Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires (+10 –5 =4). (5)
In May/June 1944, he tied for 5–6th with Vladimir Andreevich Makogonov in Moscow (13th USSR-ch) with 9/16. The winner was Mikhail Botvinnik with 12.5/16, and places 2-3 were taken by Vasily Smyslov and Isaac Boleslavsky with 10.5/16.
In October/November 1945, he won the Baltic Chess Championship in Riga. (7)
In June/July 1946, he took 3rd, behind Yuri Averbakh and Vistaneckis, in Vilnius (Baltic Rep.-ch). (8)
Mikenas was awarded the International Master title in 1950. In 1968, he was awarded the International Arbiter title. (4)
In December 1959, Mikenas participated in the international tournament 'Baltic Sea – sea of peace' in Riga. He defeated Mikhail Tal, and took second place with 11/13, only 0.5 point behind Boris Spassky and ahead of Alexander Kazimirovich Tolush (8.5/13) and Mikhail Tal (8/13). (9)
Mikenas played on first board of the Lithuanian team that won the 'Europe Cup' 1963-1972 correspondence chess tournament, and in 1971 was awarded the International Master title in Correspondence Chess.
In 1977, at the age of 67, Mikenas won the Lithuanian Championship again.
In 1987, FIDE awarded him the Honorary Grandmaster title. (4)
Vladas Mikenas participated in the USSR championship finals 10 times.
Mikenas was a coach of Paul Keres during the period of 1955-1962.
From 1983 to 1985, he was the chief arbiter of Candidates and Challengers Matches Garry Kasparov – Alexander Beliavsky, Kasparov – Smyslov, and Kasparov – Anatoly Karpov.
The contributions of Vladas Mikenas to chess openings theory: the
Mikenas Variation of the Modern Benoni, a sharp attacking line (1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.♘c3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 ♗g7 8.e5), the
Salomon Flohr Variation in the English Opening, and the Bogoljubov - Mikenas defense in the Queen's Pawn opening.
List of books published by Mikenas (10)
Šachmatų vadovėlis, ("Chess textbook"), 1932.
Šachmatu žaidimo pagrindai, ("Chess Game Basics"), 1950, second edition 1952.
Šachmatų pirmenybės, ("Chess competitions"), 1958.
35 metai prie šachmatų lentos, ("35 years at the chessboard"), 1961.
Šachmatai: teorija ir praktika ("Chess: Theory and Practice"), 1968.
(1) "35 metai prie šachmatų lentos" ("35 years at the chessboard"), by Mikenas. Valstybinė politinės ir mokslinės literatūros leidykla (State political and scientific literature publishing house), Vilnius 1961, pages 5-6, page 20.
(2) "Владас Микенас" ("Vladas Mikenas"), В.Я.Дворкович (V. Y. Dvorkovich), Физкультура и спорт (Physical Education and Sport), 1987, pages 4-6.
(3) "Esmaspaew" ("Monday"), number 23, 8 June 1931, page 8, Mikenas' article "keeruline tulemus Balti meistriturniir" ("complicated result of the Baltic masters tournament").