Beth Harmon, the chess player from the Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) series, is a fictional character based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, but in the early 20th century a similar figure made history as the first female chess star to win . to high level male opponents. Her name was Vera Menchik, a masterful chess player who was born in Russia, competed in the United Kingdom from the 1920s to the 1940s, and became the first women’s world chess champion.
She was born in Moscow in 1906. She was the daughter of Wellington Menchik, a cotton manufacturer and estate manager for the Russian nobles, and Marie Illingworth, a governess for the Russian nobles.When Vera Menchik was 9 years old, her father began to teach her to play chess . In 1921, he moved to England with his mother and sister. Two years later, he joined the Hasting Chess Club.
Like the character of Beth Harmon, Menchik had a difficult childhood.She grew up in the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1917 before her parents divorced, and she and her sister later moved in with their mother.

A pioneer in real life long before the protagonist of The Queen’s Gambit, whose plot is set in the 60s, she had problems fitting into society all her life. One of the reasons he loved chess was because he didn’t speak English well.and this was a quiet game, in which there was no need to say anything.
Menchik represented Hastings and Sussex County in tournaments for 20 years, working with coaches and developing her skills as a chess player. She was the first woman to compete in all-male tournaments.
In 1926 and 1927, she won the first London Women’s Championship. This last year he also won the World Cup. In 1928, she made history again by becoming the first woman to play professionally by participating in the Scarborough tournament. A year later, she was the first woman to compete in a world tournament alongside grandmasters.
In 1937, the player married Henry Stevenson, who suffered from a chronic illness.Unlike the character of Beth Harmon, who is obsessed with chess and seems to live only for himself , her predecessor in reality led an intense social life that sometimes interfered with tournaments. “It’s nice to play tennis, and I spend a lot of time modeling clay too,” he told the Sussex Daily News in an interview. He also loved to travel and had numerous friends. On the other hand, he taught chess and also published a magazine called Social Chess.
In fact, until her husband died of a heart attack in 1943, she was retired from chess. Although later I came back strong. After his return, he beat the great master Jacques Mieses. She was the first woman he had ever met.
While the character of Harmon displays in fiction his aggressive style in the game and his ability to break gender norms in a game dominated by men, Menchik often sacrificed pieces to achieve the final victory, he was more of a strategist. and pacifies that his alter ego on Netflix. All this according to a biography written by Robert Tanner and published in 2016.
Vera Menchik tragically died in World War II when the Nazis bombed her house in 1944, along with her mother and sister. He was in the middle of a competition in which, by the way, he was winning.
In 2011, she became the sixteenth person and the first woman to be inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis, Missouri. Vera Menchik paved the way for women in chess, and she did it at a time when it was almost impossible. Unfortunately, his longing for women and men playing chess side by side has not yet come true.

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