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         The History and The Culture of Chess

Women in Chess - The Post-War Years  1946-1951
September  2007

After WWII there seems to have been a declining interest in women's chess in America. While the reasons for this aren't entirely clear, there's no doubt that reports, when available at all, were sparse and lacking in the rich details that exemplified those of earlier years. All the information I was able to access through the New York Times and Chess Review for the years of 1946-1951 are listed on this page with no attempt at a narrative.

1946 -

In the Women's Tournament, Miss N. May Karff of Boston scored as easy victory by winning all but her last game for a final score of  8 - . Mrs. Mary Bain of Los Angeles was a good second with 7 - 1, while former champion Mrs. Gisela Gresser of New York City came third with 6 - 2. Thus both champions, Denker and Mrs. Gresser, lost their titles.

1947 -

Nothing to report. 


1948 -

New York Times - Aug. 24, 1948
South Fallsburg, N. Y.                    

   Mrs. Caroline D. Marshall, widow of the late Frank J. Marshall, whose birthday anniversary was recently observed at the Marshall Chess Club, arrived in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Fritz Brieger of the Queens Club. She will have charge of the United States women's championship tournament, starting here tomorrow afternoon. Miss N. May Karff of Boston, the title-holder, is also here, as well as Mrs. Gisela Kahn Gresser, champion in 1944.
   Mrs. Mary Bain is due in form Miami, Fla., and Miss Lucille Kellner [1] from Detroit. Others who will play are Mrs. Mary D. Selensky of Philadelphia, Miss Adele S. Raettig of Hoboken, N. J., Mrs. Lena Grumette of Brooklyn and Miss Elizabeth Wray of Manhattan, who recently won the championship of the New York Women;s Chess Club. Miss Edith L. Weart of Jackson Height's will be the assistant tournament director.

Note that Edith Weart, whose name hadn't been mentioned in a long time, assisted in directing the tournament.

The following comes from Chess Review:

Miss Karff, Mrs. Gresser Tie

   For the next two years the U. S. Women's Chess Championship will be shared by Miss N. May Karff of Boston and Mrs. Gisela K. Gresser of New York City. Each had 6- when their final game ended in a draw. Both were far ahead on Mrs. Mary Bain of Miami Beach, 4-3.  Mrs. Lena Grumette of Brooklyn had an even 3-3.

        UNITED STATES WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP             South Fallsburg, N.Y
               August 23-31, 1948

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 W L D Score
1  Mrs. Gisela Gerrer (New York City)... - 1 1 1 1 1 1 6 0 1 6 -
2  Miss N. May Karff (New York City).. - 1 1 1 1 1 1 6 0 1 6 -
3  Mrs. Mary Bain (Miami Beach)........... 0 0 - 1 1 1 3 2 2 4 - 3
4  Mrs. Lena Grumette (Brooklyn, N.Y.). 0 0 - 1 1 2 2 3 3 - 3
5  Miss Lucille Kellner (Detroit).............. 0 0 0 - 0 1 1 2 4 1 2 - 4
6  Miss Adele Raettig (Hoboken, N. J.)... 0 0 0 0 1 - 0 1 2 0 5 2 - 5
7  Mrs. Mary Selensky (Philadelphia)...... 0 0 0 1 - 0 1 4 2 2 - 5
8  Miss Elizabeth Wray (New York City) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 1 6 0 1 - 6

Female of the Species

     Women chess-players will have their fling when the women's world championship is revived next year. A meeting of the International Chess Federation approved a proposal by the U.S.S.R. to hold such a tournament in the Soviet Union. There are to be sixteen entrants, four from the U.S.S.R. This title has been vacant since the death of Mrs. Vera Menchik Stevenson during World War II.

N. May Karff would also win the 1948 U. S. Women's Open in Baltimore.

1949 -

nothing to report.

1950 -

nothing to report.

1951 -


New York Times, Nov. 5, 1951  

Mrs. Bain Takes U. S. Chess Title,
   Beating  Miss Raettig  in 45 Moves

Miami Contestant Scores at Marshall Club
After 107-Play Eighth-Round Draw With
Mrs. Gresser --  Miss Karff Triumphs.

     Mrs. Mary Bain of Miami, Fla.,  defeated Miss Adele S. Raettig of Hoboken in forty-five moves in the ninth round to win the United States women's chess championship at the Marshall C. C. yesterday. She finished the tournament with a score of 8 - .
      Mrs. Raettig played an irregular defense to Mrs. Bain's queen's pawn opening. The new champion won the exchange at the twenty-fifth move and captured two pawns later.
     Miss N. May Karff of Boston won her last game from Miss Lucille Kellenr of Detroit in a queen's pawn opening, lasting forty-eight moves. Miss Karff finished the tourney with a score of 6 - 3.
     Mrs. Gisela K. Gresser of New York finished second with 6 - 2. She won her final game from Kathryn Slater of Manhattan in fifty-four moves.
     Mrs. Bain had drawn her eighth-round match with Mrs. Gresser to enter the last session with a point advantage over the field. There was some delay in starting the third sitting of this match, which began on Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Gresser was of the opinion that all adjournments should be cleared up before the final round.
     Mrs. Caroline Marshall, tournament director, obtained the consent of the ninth-round opponents of the two leaders so that the match could go on. Eighty moves had been recorded when they adjourned Saturday night. Mrs. Gresser, the only contestant with a chance to overtake Mrs. Bain, had three pawns to two and a bishop against a knight and was striving for a victory.
     Mrs. Bain soon began application of the rule which requires  a player, bent of victory, to checkmate in fifty moves, with the provision that the count starts again whenever a capture is made of a pawn moved by the opponent. But Mrs. Gresser agreed to the draw after only twenty-seven additional moves.
     The competition closed with the presentation of prizes by Hans Kmoch, vice president of the United States Chess Federation.

P. S.

Nancy Roos of Belgium would finally become a U. S. Women's co-champion (with Gisela Gresser) in 1955.
Adele (Rivero) Belcher, another Belgian, moved to Bristol, Vermont, where for an unspecified period, she was undefeated in Vermont tournament chess. At one point she gave a 26 board simul scoring +25=1.
Mary Bain, while never again winning the U. S. Women's Chess Championship, would win the U. S. Women's Chess Open in 1965 (with Kathryn Slater) and 1966.
Kathryn Slater would win the U. S. Women's Chess Open in 1962, 1964 (with Cecilia Rock) and 1965 (with Mary Bain).

1. Lucille Kellner of Detroit, Michigan was co-winner, with N. May Karff of the Women's U. S. Open in 1950  [back]


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