This article looks at the
beginnings of organized women's chess in America. My two primary sources were
the N.Y. Times and and American Chess Federation's Chess Review
magazine. There is a tremendous amount of information in these pages, much of
which has been ignored over the years. I feel very honored to be the medium
through which this information finds the light of day, but my dearest friend,
Deb, deserves the bulk of the credit for her unselfish expenditure of time and
effort in supplying me with most of this material and in helping me interpret it
all. I only hope I've done it justice.
It was 1904 and Carrie Kraus received an unexpected
Christmas present. She met the man of her dreams. The New Year brought her a new
name - Mrs. Frank James Marshall when, on January 5th, she married the man who a year later would be the
premier chess player of the United States. It was perfect union. Caroline
(Carrie) was pragmatic; Frank, a dreamer.
In 1915 Frank Marshall founded the Marshall Chess Divan which seven years later would be
incorporated as the Marshall Chess Club. The Club found itself in various sites
over the years but in 1931 it reached its permanent home in a magnificent old
brownstone located at at 23 West 10th Street, N.Y. By this time, Marshall had retired from international chess and was close
to hanging up his U. S. chess champion crown which he had worn since 1909.
American chess scene itself was in a state of flux. FIDE had established itself
tenuously as the worldwide governing body of chess in 1924. Unlike the Soviet
Union, the United States recognized FIDE, but America itself had no single,
unified chess federation. Both the American Chess Federation (ACF), which could
trace its roots back to 1900, and the National Chess Federation (NCF),
established in 1927, claimed to speak for the American chess players. While much
of the problem would be solved when they unified as the United States Chess
Federation (USCF) in 1939, the intervening years would be marked by the contention
between these two bodies.
Frank and Carrie Marshall
The Western Chess Association had held
tournaments, called the Western Championships, each year since 1900. Then
in 1934, it changed its name to the ACF. The Western Championships evolved into
what today is called the U. S. Open. The Chess Review magazine, founded by
Israel Albert (Al) Horowitz and Isaac Kashdan in 1933, was the "Official Organ
of the American Chess Federation." When Frank Marshall retired from U. S.
chess competition in 1936, he organized an invitational tournament specifically
to determine the next U. S. chess champion. This tournament was sponsored by the
NCF with the Marshall Club providing the trophy.
The Marshall Club, whose members were the wealthy, the
influential and the elite, was, like most chess venues, a Men's Club. But
fortunately Caroline Marshall took an active interest in the club. One of her
agendas was the establishment, not just of organized women's chess, but of a
women's championship. Starting in 1934 with the first women's tournament held in
the Marshall Club, the goal of a U. S. Women's championship was reached in
either 1937 or 1938, depending on how the events are interpreted.
Organized women's chess, born during the Depression and nurtured through the War
Years would eventually claw its was to a place of recognition. This story is
dedicated to those women who pioneered this effort.
More on the
Navigating these pages:
Below are the five main
pages covering the years 1934-1951 in a linear fashion. Within
each of these pages are
links to pages containing copies of original source material, more
games and additional
photographs. There are also occasional links to pages with some
All links open new windows.
The First 17 Years of Organized Women's Chess in America
Page 1: Let's Get
Organized - 1934 - 1936
The Birth of a Championship
-1937 - 1938
The (European) War
- 1939 - 1941
The (American) War Years
- 1942 - 1945
The Post-War Years
1946 - 1951