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Sonja Graf-Stevenson
Number of games in database: 140
Years covered: 1932 to 1957

Overall record: +33 -84 =19 (31.2%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 4 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Queen's Pawn Game (23) 
    D02 E00 D00 A46 A40
 Queen's Gambit Declined (5) 
    D30 D37 D39
 Sicilian (4) 
    B70 B29 B83
 Nimzo Indian (4) 
    E21 E32 E34 E33
With the Black pieces:
 Queen's Gambit Declined (10) 
    D30 D37 D38
 Orthodox Defense (7) 
    D51 D50 D55 D63
 Queen's Pawn Game (7) 
    D00 D02 D01 D04
 Ruy Lopez (6) 
    C86 C90 C84 C78 C83
 Giuoco Piano (4) 
    C53 C50
 Tarrasch Defense (4) 
    D34 D32
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Graf-Stevenson vs Semmler, 1932 1-0
   Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson, 1934 0-1
   Graf-Stevenson vs R Grau, 1939 1/2-1/2
   I Larsen vs Graf-Stevenson, 1939 0-1

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   1939 World (women) chess championship by gauer

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Sonja Graf-Stevenson
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(born Dec-16-1908, died Mar-06-1965, 56 years old) Germany (federation/nationality United States of America)

[what is this?]

Sonja Graf was born and grew up in Munich, Germany. From an early age she spent as much time as possible in the chess cafes of the city, which Graf would later recount served as a refuge from her abusive father. There she became a protege of Siegbert Tarrasch. By the middle 1930s she was regarded as one of the strongest female players in the world.

Graf lost to Vera Menchik in matches in 1934 (+1 -3 =0) and 1937 (+2 -9 =5); the first of these was generally regarded as an exhibition match, while the second was reportedly a women's world championship title match. She also lost a match to the problemist Heuaeker (+0, =0, -6). Vera Menchik was absent from the Semmering 1936 women's tournament and Graf took 1st place. Graf also played in the Women's World Championship tournament in 1937 and 1939, tying for third in 1937 and finishing second to Menchik in 1939. She was awarded the WIM title in 1950.

During the 1939 women's world championship, played concurrently with the olympiad, Graf was refused permission to play under the German flag because of her outspoken opposition to the Nazi regime; she played in the tournament under a flag bearing the Spanish word "libre" ("free"). World War II broke out during the tournament, and Graf chose to remain in Argentina after the tournament's conclusion. During her time in that country, she published two books in Spanish, "Asi Juega una Mujer" ("This is How a Woman Plays", about her chess career), and "Yo Soy Susann" ("I am Susan", about her abusive childhood).

In 1947 she married an American, Vernon Stevenson, moved to Hollywood, California, and began playing under the name Sonja Graf-Stevenson. During her early years in the United States Graf-Stevenson played relatively little, giving birth to a son in 1951. However, she eventually resumed active play, winning the California Women's Championship in 1956, sharing the US Women's title with Gisela Kahn Gresser in 1958-59 and winning that title outright in 1964. By 1964 she had moved to New York and was giving lessons in the Greenwich Village chess studio run by Lisa Lane. She passed away in New York in 1965.

Wikipedia article: Sonja Graf

Last updated: 2018-01-01 04:49:04

 page 1 of 6; games 1-25 of 140  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Graf-Stevenson vs Semmler 1-0331932MnichovD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
2. Graf-Stevenson vs Spielmann  1-0381932SimulE00 Queen's Pawn Game
3. Graf-Stevenson vs Spielmann  1-0281932SimulD18 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Dutch
4. G Harum vs Graf-Stevenson  0-1271932ViennaD40 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
5. Graf-Stevenson vs E Mulder  ½-½351933UtrechtD02 Queen's Pawn Game
6. D P Bergema vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0311933Leeuwarden simulC30 King's Gambit Declined
7. E Rinsma vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0281933Leeuwarden simulC59 Two Knights
8. P F van Hoorn vs Graf-Stevenson  ½-½281934VAS EasterD34 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
9. Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson 0-1301934WWCC MatchD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
10. Graf-Stevenson vs Menchik 0-1491934WWCC MatchD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
11. Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0561934MatchD00 Queen's Pawn Game
12. Graf-Stevenson vs Menchik  0-1401934MatchC14 French, Classical
13. J Mieses vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0221935HastingsC26 Vienna
14. Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson 1-0371935Yarmouth ITA09 Reti Opening
15. Graf-Stevenson vs Reshevsky  0-1301935BCF Major OpenE60 King's Indian Defense
16. C Roodzant vs Graf-Stevenson 0-1311936Semmering AUTD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
17. Graf-Stevenson vs E Klein 1-0611936Major OpenD39 Queen's Gambit Declined, Ragozin, Vienna Variation
18. Graf-Stevenson vs C Benini  1-0521936Semmering AUTD02 Queen's Pawn Game
19. R Gerlecka vs Graf-Stevenson  ½-½511936Semmering AUTC46 Three Knights
20. Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0281937wch mA13 English
21. Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson 1-0211937SemmeringD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
22. Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0271937wch mD00 Queen's Pawn Game
23. Graf-Stevenson vs Menchik  1-0241937wch mD00 Queen's Pawn Game
24. Menchik vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0381937wch mD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
25. Pelikan vs Graf-Stevenson  1-0431937PragueA02 Bird's Opening
 page 1 of 6; games 1-25 of 140  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Graf-Stevenson wins | Graf-Stevenson loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 1 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Oct-02-04  tacticsjokerxxx: here's a nice picture of sonja graf for her profile (on the left...)
Oct-02-04  tacticsjokerxxx: Apparently Goebbels didn't allow this girl to play for Germany so she played for Argentina instead.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <tacticsjokerxxx> I wonder why she is dressed like a man? Was she an aristocrat?
Premium Chessgames Member
  paulalbert: <offramp> I suspect it had something to do with the influence of Marlene Dietrich on German women's fashion in the 1930s. Go on google and search Marlene Dietrich - Images and you'll see numerous pictures of Marlene dressed as a man, but still emanating a sexy and exotic feminine aura as only Marlene Dietrich could. <Paul Albert>
Oct-02-04  tacticsjokerxxx: well you know in the 1930's the dresscode was something like this >
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: Sonja Graf
Born 16th December 1914
Died 6th March 1965 in New York
A WIM in 1950 she was Women's World Championship Challenger in 1937 and 1939.
Jan-01-05  SBC: Sonja Graf also shared the US Women's title with Gisela Kahn Gresser 1958-59 and was sole champion in 1964. She would die the next year while still the US women's champion.

"I was born in Munich but when I was in Argentina in 1939, as the German women's champion, Goebbels would not allow me to play for Germany. So the Argentines made me a flag with the word "Libre" on it, and I played under that."

""When you play chess, your whole body works. Your feet tremble. My God, I can hear my heart pound two tables away! Against Menchik, when she was world champion, I had a won game, but I found the three stupidest moves you could think of and lost."

"Najdorf! My God! He would kick you under the table. He would grab the clock and shake it under your face!"

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: She loved fame and to be at the center of attention. "Public applause infiltrated each part of my body like honey."

Sonja Graf wrote two books in Spanish, "Asi fuega una mujer" (Thus plays a woman) 1941 about her life in the chess world, and "Yo Soy Susann" (I am Susann)1946 a semi fictional account.

To see a picture of the covers of those books ( in the later book it is a woman in a man's suit standing atop the globe) and some other photos see the 5 pages at

Jan-01-05  SBC: <tamar>


That's an amazingly good source. I also saw a long article on Sanja Graf (in German, unfortunately for me since machine translations can be really strange)

I didn't even know she had written some books. I feel pathetic being so monolinguistic.

May I use the contents of your posting in my journal (which is slightly geared toward the historical side of women's chess)?

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <SBC> You're welcome! Por supuesto usted puede :-)

Jennifer Shahade, who is the true multi-lingual one, not me, had an article on Graf in the 2004 Anniversary Issue of New in Chess. Here is the Introductory Paragraph:

<She was a radiant woman who knew how to enjoy life. She travelled at a breakneck pace throughout the countries of Europe, partied til dawn, smoked, made friends easily and preferred to play against men. Though this description fits our current Woman's World Champion, Antoaneta Stefanova, the subject of this article is a German player from six decades ago. Sonja Graf (1914-1965). A woman ahead of her time, Sonja's chess career gave her confidence and freedom, allowing her to pursue a wild and original life.>

Shahade got material for the article from Michael Negele, who wrote the German article.

Jan-01-05  SBC: <tamar>
<Por supuesto usted puede :-)>

back to machine translation!
spanish - french:
"Naturellement vous pouvez"


SuperJen had sent me a note back in July, part of which (since it's applicable here) is as follows:

"Great job on your reports on Lisa Lane. I have written a section on her in my book on women in chess (coming out this winter) and chanced by your story when fact-checking some info on Sonja Graf. I also think that the history of American women's chess is rich and am glad you are exploring it on your web-page, which I will become a regular visitor to! Sincerely,
Jennifer Shahade"

This explains the Sanja Graf connection (I should have guessed it on my own!), and also gives everyone interested something to look forward to and something long overdue, a promised book on the history of Women's chess in the U.S.

I don't belong to the USCF, but a friend of mine scans copies of articles from Chess Life (shh..don't tell anyone) she thinks I might enjoy and emails them to me. I generally find the writing rather mediocre and the content rather bland for a printed medium. (I feel Chess Life could probably get super fine articles for free, or at little cost, from very talented writers, players and researchers who would do it for enjoyment alone, but they seem to be content with less for more). However, the better articles that I read from Chess Life were the contributions by Shahade. She may have even a bigger future in the journalism side of chess.

Mar-06-06  BIDMONFA: Sonja Graf-Stevenson

GRAF, Sonja

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: A longer article on Sonja Graf in Spanish, incl some more pictures:
Jul-20-07  Petrosianic: >>I generally find the writing rather mediocre and the content rather bland for a printed medium. (I feel Chess Life could probably get super fine articles for free, or at little cost, from very talented writers, players and researchers who would do it for enjoyment alone, but they seem to be content with less for more).>>

That's the way it is now, but it wasn't always that way. Under Burt Hochberg, it was a first class magazine. Any issue from those years that you can get your hands on is well worth reading.

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: Player of the Day

Here is a superb researched biographie about the 'bustling' Sonja Graf-Stevenson, a lot of details, some interesting trivia etc... (19 pages, excellent documentation, in German)

Premium Chessgames Member
  twinlark: <Whiteshark> It'd be nice to have a a translation of this article...even my five years of high school (back in the 60s!) German can't make sense of this article.
Sep-24-07  FHBradley: Why so few games? There must be many more somewhere, right?
Sep-24-07  xrt999: only 51 when she passed away? sad...
Sep-24-07  Resignation Trap: <FHBradley> Many more games are available. Somebody should upload the ones from Hollywood 1952. She finished last, but was in good company: Svetozar Gligoric , Arturo Pomar-Salamanca , Herman Steiner , Arthur William Dake , Lionel Joyner , Isaac Kashdan , James Cross , Vladimir Pafnutieff and Ray Martin .

I had a chance to buy the tournament book on ebay, but some other *!#$%^! (did I spell that right?) kept outbidding me :( .

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <Hollywood 1952> was her first tournament since Parana in January 1946 (and her marriage in 1947 and after the birth of her son Alexander Hadley Stevenson on January 04 1951).

She drew only this game:

[Event "Hollywood"]
[Date "1952.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Graf, S."]
[Black "Dake, A."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E12"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Bg5 Bb7 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Rc1 h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 9. d5 c5 10. Qd3 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Nxg3 12. hxg3 Qf6 13. Rd1 e5 14. Nd2 d6 15. Ne4 Qg6 16. g4 Bc8 17. Qf3 Ke7 18. Ng3 Nd7 19. Nf5+ Kd8 20. e4 Nf6 21. Be2 Bxf5 22. gxf5 g4 23. Qe3 Qg7 24. g3 Ke7 25. Kd2 h5 26. Rb1 Qf8 27. Kd3 Qe8 28. Bd1 Rb8 29. Rb2 Qd7 30. Qc1 Rb7 31. Bc2 Rg8 32. Bd1 Qc8 33. Qe3 Qb8 34. Bc2 Qc7 35. Kd2 Qd7 36. Qe2 Rgb8 37. Rhb1 Qc8 38. Bd3 Qh8 39. Rh1 Qe8 40. Ra1 Qh8 41. Rh1 Qe8 42. Ra1 Qh8 1/2-1/2

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <twinlark>: Regret, but I had only 6 years English at school - late 70ties, and a bit learning on the job, so most you read here is a word by word writing with the help of my dictionary... :D

But here is a small compensation delivery

Premium Chessgames Member
  twinlark: Thanks <whiteshark>, that's a poignant article.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Resignation Trap> I'm working on the games from Hollywood 1952 at the moment.
Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: A very interesting and colourful person, Mrs.Graff-Stevenson. Ahead of her time for sure.

Does anyone here know whether J.Shahade's book on "..women in Chess.." has been written and published?

Jan-13-08  nescio: <brankat: Does anyone here know whether J.Shahade's book on "..women in Chess.." has been written and published?>

You mean "Chess Bitch"?

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