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Vera Menchik vs Emanuel Lasker
"Lasker? I 'Ardly Know 'Er!" (game of the day Jun-14-2015)
Moscow (1935), Moscow URS, rd 10, Feb-28
Queen's Gambit Declined: Cambridge Springs Variation (D52)  ·  0-1

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Sep-08-07
Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: Lasker was way too good to join the Vera club.
Sep-08-07  Nasruddin Hodja: Not only that, but Moscow 1935 was the 63-year old Lasker's last hurrah, when he tied for second behind Botvinnik and ahead of Capablanca, going through the tournament undefeated. Not for nothing does Korchnoi often compare himself to Lasker (they both smoked like fiends in their heyday as well).
Sep-08-07
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: The 66-year-old's third placing was certainly a remarkable achievement.
Dec-11-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Benzol> Lasker was a frigging god.
Jun-14-15  Jamboree: I realize that Vera Menchik was by far the strongest woman player of the era, but this game doesn't reflect well on her abilities compared to either the men of that era nor to the woman of modern times.

Way too many positional mini-blunders along with what seems like a kind of planlessness throughout the game. Half of her moves in the second half of the game seem to merit a "?!" -- not outright tactical blunders, but rather semi-dubious concepts or strategic inaccuracies.

I see that she finished in last place in this tournament with no wins and 16 losses, which considering the quality of this game is understandable.

Even 25 years later Bobby Fischer was bragging that he could give any woman in the world knight odds and easily win -- and I'm beginning to think he was right.

It wasn't until the arrival of the Polgar sisters that woman's chess underwent a revolution in quality, apparently. After that, the floodgates were opened, and now there are hundreds of female players who can perform at GM level. But aside from Judith and You Hifan, they all still seem to stall around 2500, even after all sexism-related impediments have been removed. Even so, I wager that most of the women in the top 100 of the 2015 rating list would have handily defeated Menchik in a match, if we had a time machine to test out the theory. Judging from this game, I can't imagine that Menchik was stronger than weak IM territory, in modern terms.

Now of course that means she was stronger than me, but that's not the point: I'm speculating on her strength as a sort of milestone in the history of the development of women's chess. If she was the best in the '20s and '30s, then we have indeed come a long long way, baby.

But even so, there's more to go. Will women ever catch up to men in chess, or is Nigel Short (and Bobby Fischer and lot of other folks too) right -- men's minds just work on a different level (at least at the upper end of the skill range)?

Jun-14-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <Jamboree><Way too many positional mini-blunders along with what seems like a kind of planlessness throughout the game. Half of her moves in the second half of the game seem to merit a "?!" -- not outright tactical blunders, but rather semi-dubious concepts or strategic inaccuracies.> That's bit too harsh. I guess that 17.Bxd5 was suboptimal decision (I would prefer immediate 17.b5) but white was still ok until 21.bxc6, which was consistent continuation in white's QS minority attack plan but it had its shortcomings (21.Qe3 defending Pawn d4 was correct), which became clear after several moves. In already worse position then Vera simply collapsed tactically, when she tried to play actively (28.Qf3? and 29.Rxf6? were bad moves, the Queen is not optimal piece for blockade but it was better to keep it there, instead of "sac" on f6 it was still better to play 29.Nd5, though the game was then already probably lost anyway). 31.Nd5 (31.Nc4 was a bit better) just shortened white's misery.
Jun-14-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  sleepyirv: Menchik was a good player but obviously never in the top five at any given time. Her record against Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker, Nimzo, and Botvinnik was 0 wins and 20 losses (16 of those coming against Alekhine and Capa)
Jun-14-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <sleepyirv: Menchik was a good player but obviously never in the top five at any given time. ...>

At her top form in late 20's and early 30's, Menchik was about 50-60 strongest player in the world.

For comparison, Judith reached as high as #5 spot, Hou is 65'th at the current FIDE ranking, and Zsuza, at her top rank, broke into the top 100 at 98'th place.

Jun-14-15  Jamboree: Honza Cervenka: You say that my assessment was a "bit too harsh," but then you yourself go on to note five blunders by Menchik. If anything, you're being as harsh as I was -- but your assessment is accurate, not unfair.
Jun-14-15  RookFile: Pretty no nonsense by Lasker. He just sits down and wins, no sentimentality.
Jun-14-15  jith1207: <Jamboree> Taking one bad game of a 1935 player and comparing to current generation women players based on her performance of that one bad game is not a proper scale to achieve what you apparently want to analyze, unless you want to prove your point as the accurate one. I think comparison can be done in a lot of different ways, better than that kibitz!
Jun-15-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Black will queen by force, or win the rook,or both.
Jun-15-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <jith1207: <Jamboree> Taking one bad game of a 1935 player and comparing to current generation women players based on her performance of that one bad game is not a proper scale to achieve what you apparently want to analyze, unless you want to prove your point as the accurate one. I think comparison can be done in a lot of different ways, better than that kibitz!>

Well, that wasn't all he said. Menchik also went +0-16=3 in this tournament. Compare that with some of Hou's recent performances in strong tournaments.

Jun-15-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: One rather suspects that Hou would not earn the ignominy of the wooden spoon if she were to play in an event of corresponding length, facing the equivalent of this opposition.
Jun-17-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <... ignominy of the wooden spoon if she were to play in an event of corresponding length, facing the equivalent of this opposition.>

Botvinnik, Capablanca, Lasker, Flohr, Spielmann, Ragozin, Levenfish, Stahlberg, Lilienthal, Romanovsky, I. Rabinovich, Riumin, Bohatirchuk, Alatortsev, Lisitsin, Pirc, ...

3 World Champions, 1 World Champion in correspondence chess, 4 WC Candidates, 6 USSR Champions, 3 runners-up in USSR championships ... this was not a field of pushovers.

Jun-17-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: As stated: there is every reason to believe Hou would have fared better--if not necessarily winning the event, or even making a plus score.
Jun-17-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <there is every reason to believe Hou would have fared better--if not necessarily winning the event, or even making a plus score.>

Not sure what you mean by faring better: Vera was expected to do somewhat better on points, though probably not on placement.

The last four placements in the tournament were
.... Stahlberg, Pirc, Chechover, and Menchik. Of these, Stahlberg's top rank would be #3 in the world, Pirc's #9, and Chechover's #25. (Realistically, even the 'unknown' Chechover was stronger than Menchik.)

As for Hou, she seems about as accomplished among the men now as Vera was in her best. And perhaps, Hou will even pass Chechover's top world rank of #25 one day. (And, perhaps, she will not. I rather doubt that Hou will beat or match Stahlberg's top ranking, or Pirc's, for that matter -- breaking into top 10 is really tough.) But where in all of that one should get sufficient confidence that Hou would certainly fare better than a place somewhere at the end of the table of a similarly staffed tournament? She could, of course, if she was playing above her average strength; but her average performance would likely earn her a spot only somewhere at the end of such a table.

Jun-17-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Gypsy>

<Not sure what you mean by faring better: Vera was expected to do somewhat better on points, though probably not on placement. >

Menchik scored +0-16=3 in this tournament. If you put Hou in a tournament consisting of the top 19 in the world by rating (and, of course, Moscow 1935 was nowhere near that strong), she'd score better than that.

Jun-18-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: Using Chessmetrics, Moscow 1935 had nine rated players and a bunch of 'unrated' local players (such as Ragozin, Levenfish, Riumin, ... ha!).

The relevant Chessmetrics rating list is that of February 1935. Conceptually, we can mod out, the 'unrated' players and consider the smaller tournament of the rated ones.

In order of their standing [Feb, 1935, Chessmetrics] world rank, they were:

Flohr (3)
Lilienthal (6)
Pirc (9)
Botvinnik (11)
Stahlberg (14)
Spielmann (15)
Lasker (16)
Capablanca (18)
Menchik (69)

In this restricted tournament, Vera was expected to finish dead last and score 2.5/8 points. In poor form, she did finish dead last but scored only two draws -- ironically, against the paper favorites Flohr and Lilienthal -- for mere 1/8 points.

Overall, the 'rated sub-tournament' results were:

1.-2. Lasker, Botvinnik (5.5/8)
3.-4. Flohr, Spielmann (5/8)
5.-6. Capablanca, Lilienthal (4/8)
7. Stahlberg (3.5/8)
8. Pirc (2.5/8)
9. Menchik (1/8)

(Lasker outperformed his rating by +1.6, Pirc underperformed his rating by -1.8. Those were the biggest outliers.)

Interesting (to me, at least) is also the (Scheveningen match) results of the 'unrated Russians' against all the rated players:

Ragozin +3
Riumin +2
Rabinovich +1
Kan =
Bohatirchuk =
Alatortsev -1
Lisitsin -1
Romanovsky -2
Goglidze -2
Chechover -6

----

Closest tournament, to the 'rated tournament' above, I found with Hou is

Airports Authority of India (2011)

In turn, Hou's probably 'worst' result rating-wise is

Women Grand Prix Geneva (2013)

Aug-02-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: The first tournament How played after this discussion was Dortmund (2015). After two rounds there, I looked up the live rating standings of the participants. Their world ranking went thus:

Caruana #6
Kramnik #7
So #8
Nepomniatchi #38
Naiditsch #53
Hou #66
Nisipeanu #74
Meier #88

For the tournament results, follow the link.

Jun-07-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: Gashimov Memorial (2016)

Hou's oponents rank:

Caruana #3
Giri #8
Karjakin #9
Harikrishna #12
Eljanov #16
Mamedyarov #18
Radjabov #32
Safarli #68

Feb-03-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: Tata Steel (2018)

Rank of Hou's opponents at the start of the tournament (live ratings), including Hou herself_

Carlsen #1
Caruana #2
Mamedyarov #3
So #4
Kramnik #7
Swidler #10
Anand #11
Karjakin #14
Giri #15
Wei Yi #22
Matlakov #32
Hou #64
Adhiban #106
Jones #127

Feb-03-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: 'Unrated local players'....

lmao

Sep-29-20  RookFile: Yeah, that's pretty funny, whoever the weakest guy in that list was, he probably was at least 2500 strength.
Sep-29-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Gypsy: Using Chessmetrics, Moscow 1935 had nine rated players and a bunch of 'unrated' local players (such as Ragozin, Levenfish, Riumin, ... ha!).>

<RookFile>, have you seen the recent discussion at Karlsbad (1911), dealing in large part with Nunn's views of playing strengths of that era? Wonder how the good doctor would rate Menchik here, along with those 'unrated' fish above.

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