Five Women Chess Players That Have Set The Stage Alight

Judit Polgar hit back at Nigel Short’s patriarchal remarks about women players in the best way possible, by beating him. She is just one of many female players who have left an impact on the sport.

Polgar's achievements in chess include wins over Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen.

There is a reason the Global Chess League features male as well as female players. Women players have given the sport some of its most memorable moments. Here are five who made an impact with their will and smarts.

Judit Polgar (Hungary)

Polgar is renowned for her remarkable achievements in chess, having defeated Grandmasters Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen during the peak of their careers. Notably, she earned the prestigious title of Grandmaster in 1991 at the age of 15, surpassing Bobby Fischer's record. Polgar's exceptional abilities in chess propelled her to become the first and only female player to break into the top 10 players ranking list, a milestone she achieved in 1996. Throughout her illustrious career, Polgar recorded victories over 11 chess world champions, including Carlsen, Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. She also famously defended the quality of women players when Nigel Short said men were naturally better at the game. Polgar also defeated Short a number of times.

Hou Yifan (China)

She displayed her innate talent for chess by starting to play at the age of three. Hou Yifan received coaching from International Master Tong Yuanming at the age of five and went on to win the Girls U-10 World Youth Championship at the age of nine. In 2010, at just 16, she broke Maia Chiburdanidze's record for the youngest women's world champion, a title she held until 2013. She further solidified her reputation by securing world championship wins in 2013 and 2016.

Koneru Humpy (India)

Her mastery of chess is evident from her consistent presence in the top five women's rankings since 2005, with only one month spent outside this elite group.

In 2002, at the age of 15 years, 1 month and 27 days, she became the youngest woman to become Grandmaster, beating Judit Polgár's previous record by three months. Humpy has two gold medals to her name in the 2006 Asian Games (Women's Individual, Mixed Team). Her feats also include the Arjuna Award (2003) and the Padma Shri (2007).

Tania Sachdev (India)

The 36-year-old Grandmaster has made significant contributions to women's chess.

She has an Asian women's title to her name (2007) and more so, claimed gold in the Commonwealth Women's Chess Championship in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Tania also bagged gold and two silvers at the Asian Team Championship in Tehran in 2014. An Arjuna Awardee, she now commentates at many tournaments on TV and digital platforms.

Vera Menchik (Russia)

Menchik holds the distinction of being the world's first women's world champion in chess. She played in seven women’s world championship tournaments and went on to win an unbelievable 78 games out of 83, with just a single defeat and four draws. Menchik defeated many top male GM's, including Max Euwe and Samuel Reshevsky. However, her career was cut short when Menchik, her two sisters, and their mother were killed in a rocket bombing raid at their South London home in June 1944 during the Second World War. The Women's Olympiad trophy is named after her.