Introducing The Forgotten Women In Chess Series!

A monthly look at great women chess players in history.

Basically, this all started with New In Chess, which is a chess magazine. Specifically the April edition, with Bruce Monson’s article on women’s chess champ LaVieve Mae Hines, a women’s chess champ from the 1920s.

I was so inspired by this article. LaVieve was an incredible player, and even more so, her story overlaps with my own in one way — we both live and play chess in the same city. I was born and raised around Los Angeles, so this piqued my interest. I didn’t know my city had a chess history!

Around this time, I had put in a talk proposal for a conference to talk about the gender disparity in chess, and was ready to do some online chess user experience research. I was really fascinated by the hierarchy of titled players and yet the gender gap in titles, about how the user experience exists for women overall compared to men. I have been collecting a bibliography of gender differences in chess, women in chess, gender and neurology, etc.

I became really fascinated with women in chess. Not the Polgar sisters, or any of the great modern players who have been documented extensively.

I want to know more about the trailblazers, the predecessors who made the room for all modern female chess players.

The more I learned about the history of chess, as I wrote and talked about chess professionally, women used to be a big part of chess history.

At some point the social dynamics changed, and women like LaVieve disappeared to history.

Cover photo from the New In Chess article

I was all ready to search for more women in chess! I started at Wikipedia and cobbled together a list of women in chess who I had never heard of, or women who were strong players but vanished from the public view. I asked on twitter and got some really good feedback in the chess community that readers would be interested in this.

That was in May. Work got busy, and the project got put on the back burner.

I recently heard back about my talk proposal, and it didn’t get accepted.

The rejection wasn’t all bad, there’s a silver lining here. Even the conference committee thought it was an interesting topic.

Now, as I am reading Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado Perez, my women in chess history blog series came back to me. Even more so, all my research and thoughts about gender and chess that aren’t going into the talk. It’s all there, so why not use it to write this?

What will The Forgotten Women In Chess cover?

Right now, I’m focusing on the women in chess history. but I also want to use this series to be able to talk about other parts of chess culture — history of women’s titles, the role of women in chess as chess history evolved, probably other stuff, too, like important moments in chess history that women contributed to. The beauty of something really big like this is there’s lots of areas to cover.

This series will only be once a month, mostly because it’s going to require a lot of research. The more I research, I’m sure the more new topics will open up.

First up is going to be Maria Teresa Mora Iturralde. She was the first female Cuban chess champion in 1922. She was also the only student of Jose Capablanca, from what I’ve been able to tell. In 1950, she became a Woman International Master (WIM). For men, it’s just International Master (IM). I have thoughts on this, but I will save that for another post.

Maria Teresa Mora Iturralde

Something I am hoping to work on for my own skills is being able to annotate and analyze master games, so I am going to try that for every player I focus on in this series. I want to be able to show you why these women were amazing players.

Conclusion

So yeah! That’s gonna be my Forgotten Women In Chess series. Right now I have 4 women I plan to cover. I don’t have a definitive date for the first post on Maria Teresa Mora Iturralde, but I’m shooting for the end of July.

Jessi is a junior UX Designer at DIA Design Guild. She lives in Los Angeles and can be found on twitter @jessishakarian.