“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”

Every year on the 9th of August we celebrate the incredible women in our lives and today is no different!  Even though there are only about 37 female chess players who have achieved the highest title in chess, that of grandmaster there are 5 who are notably the best in history!

5.  Vera Menchik

The first women’s world champion!  She proved nearly 100 years ago that chess is not just a man’s game! In women’s events, Vera was unstoppable.  She played in 7 world championship tournaments and won an incredible 78 out of 83 games. She only had one loss and four draws averaging a 98.8% winning percentage!


4. Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona became the first female grandmaster in 1978 after amazing success at the 1977 tournament in California.  With a 6.5% score out of a possible 9, she tied for first place with grandmasters Yuri Balashov, Dragutin Sahovic and Oscar Panno.  Nona’s legacy was already cemented even before becoming grandmaster as she was the women’s world champion for 16 years and defended it 4 times.


3. Maia Chiburdanidze

Grandmaster Maia Chiburdanidze became women’s world champion in 1978 at only 17 years old, the youngest ever.  She held that title for 13 years, winning another 4 matches in defence of the title.  She earned the title of grandmaster in 1984 at the age of 23. Maia became the first woman to crack the top 50 rating since FIDE began tracking an official list in July 1971. In 1988 she reached #48 in the world. Maia played in 15 Olympic Games between 1978 and 2008!


2. Hou Yifan

In 2010 Hou broke Chiburdanidze’s record as the youngest women’s chess champion at only 16 years old!  Two years before then she became a grandmaster at only 14, a record she still holds.  In 2013 and 2016 she won the championship again before focussing on open events.  Hou peaked in 2015 at 55th in the world as per FIDE’s rating list. During her career, she has taken breaks to focus on her education and career outside of chess!


1. Judit Polgar

Grandmaster Judit Polgar did not become a women’s world champion but only because she has never tried to obtain the title. She has won games against GM Garry Kasperov and Magnus Carlson, both while they were ranked number 1 in the world.  Judit has even won against GM Bobby Fischer.  In 1991 when Judit earned her title as a grandmaster, she was the youngest ever, even beating Bobby Fisher’s record. By 1993, Polgar reached the top 20 and in 1996 she ranked number 10!  She retired in 2014 and was still the top-rated woman in chess.  Hou would pass her the next year, but by that point, Polgar had already been a top-rated female player for a quarter of a century.


These women in chess are proof that no woman should ever feel they aren’t good enough. Women have the drive and determination to achieve anything!

Today we salute all women, no matter your race or status!  Thank you for being the foundations of your communities and families!


To learn more about MiniChess, visit www.minichess.co.za or book a free online informational session: www.minichess.co.za/book-a-demo