Sarah's Chess Journal

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         The History and The Culture of Chess

Women in Chess - 1934-1951 - Introduction
September  2007

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.
     The 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 Marshall Club

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
          biographical material. All links open new windows.



                      The First 17 Years of Organized Women's Chess in America

Page 1: Let's Get Organized - 1934 - 1936
Page 2:
The Birth of a Championship -1937 - 1938
Page 3:
The (European) War Years - 1939 - 1941
Page 4:
The (American) War Years - 1942 - 1945
Page 5:
The Post-War Years 1946 - 1951



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