Chess is one of the oldest board games and sports that can be traced back almost 1500 years. It has cultivated a sizable dedicated following for centuries and is even considered a sport by the International Olympic Committee. Chess grandmasters worldwide travel to meet up and battle each other in tournaments, and millions of players play it worldwide too. While chess grandmasters have predominantly been males for most of its history, the improvement of female rights has increased the number of female chess players. Some of these are pretty famous on social media platforms.
Here are the 25 best female chess players you need to know and follow:
Judith Polgar is perhaps the most outstanding female chess player ever. She began learning chess when she was a child and won her first international tournament at the age of 9. At the age of 11, she beat her first Grandmaster, and by 15, she earned the title of Grandmaster herself. Since then, she has defeated eleven out of the twenty world champions in chess history. She has currently stopped playing chess at the top level and instead focuses on promoting the sport through book writing, foundations, and school programs. Additionally, she worked as a coach for the Hungarian men’s chess team who won a bronze medal under her leadership. She truly is an inspiration by being a champion among men.
Susan Polgar is one of the greatest female chess players and is the sister of renowned chess player Judith Polgar. Susan Polgar became the youngest chess player to earn the number one world ranking by only 15. Additionally, seven years later, she became the first female player in history to earn the rank of men’s Grandmaster. She is the only player in chess to earn chess’s greatest chess crowns. She has created a non-profit organization, known as the Susan Polgar Foundation, that has promoted chess throughout the US and provided many benefits for young children, especially girls. She has had a whole documentary made on her and has been inducted into the chess hall of fame.
Alexandra Kosteniuk, known as the Chessqueen worldwide, is an international grandmaster and women’s world champion. She became the youngest women’s Grandmaster of her time at the age of only 14. She was a runner-up in the women’s world championship, where she narrowly lost in a tie-breaker. Additionally, she has been quite active in promoting chess worldwide and has authored three books on chess and a workbook for kids to boost their chess skills. You will see that she is very active on her social media platforms.
Anna Rudolf is an Olympic chess player that has become champion thrice at the Hungarian Championships. In addition, she is a Grandmaster, both at the international and women’s level. She is renowned as a reporter, streamer, and commentator for chess and established herself through a video series at the age of 24. She has since covered chess tournaments worldwide, including the 79th Tata Steel Chess Tournament and the 42nd Chess Olympiad. She even offers training courses on her website.
Jennifer Shahade is not only a renowned chess player but has also established a name for herself in the poker scene. She has been the US Women’s Chess Champion twice and is a chess host, speaker, and author. She is very passionate about empowering females in these sports and has done so regularly in her books which she hopes will bring more females into the scene. She is the Program Director of US Chess Women and is a host of the Grand Chess Tour.
Natalia Pogonina is one of the greatest chess players in the world and a chess Grandmaster. She has regularly represented Russia in chess tournaments and has won three Olympic gold medals for her nation. She has won plenty of other medals in various tournaments, which include European Women’s Championship and the 1st International Mind Sports Games. She was even present at the Russian Team Chess Championship that was held this year.
Yelena Dembo is a renowned chess player who began competing in tournaments at only three. Since then, she has won eight medals competing in various tournaments worldwide, including a gold medal at the 2002 European Rapid Championship and a bronze medal in the European Women’s Championship 2005. She has played in many men’s leagues and has even served as a member of the Hungarian Olympics team. She is currently a chess coach at a chess academy that she and her parents built. The academy has taught hundreds of students.
Alina l’Ami is a Romanian chess player with International Master and Women’s Grand Master titles. She established herself at a young age by being World Champion under 10 and European Champion under 18. Since then, she has won various international and national tournaments, including the Women’s Balkan Individual Championship and Women’s Grandmaster Tournament. She is also married to a Dutch chess grandmaster.
Maria Emelianova is a women’s FIDE Master that started playing chess at the young age of six. She competed in chess tournaments until the age of 17 and earned first at the Yekaterinburg’s Women Rapid Championship. Since then, she has served as a freelance photographer of the biggest chess events and commentates on chess tournaments through her Twitch Channel, PhotoChess.
Many may have heard of Alexandra Botez as a renowned chess figure who has quite a following due to her recent popularity on social media and Twitch. She is a Woman FIDE Master who won the Canadian National Girls Championship Thrice and the US Girls Nationals at only 15. She has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Susan Polgar Foundation and has regularly advocated for female equality in a chess environment which men dominate. She runs the Twitch channel BotezLive with her sister, Andrea, which has almost 1 million subscribers. She is also very popular on Twitter.
Anastasiya Karlovich is a Ukrainian chess player that earned the title of Women International Master and Woman Grandmaster. She started playing at the age of only eight and was part of the gold medal-winning Ukraine team at the European Girls Under 18 Team Chess Championship. Additionally, she works as a journalist for chess and has published various articles in popular newspapers and chess magazines. She was also a press secretary for the World Chess Championship for multiple years.
Qiyu Zhou, or Nemo Zhou as she is also known, is a Chinese-Canadian chess player that has earned the titles of Fide Master and Woman Grandmaster. She started to learn chess at the young age of 3 and won the Finnish National Under 10 Championship at the age of only five. At the age of 14, she was undefeated as she won the World Youth Chess Championship. She has represented Canada at the Olympics in the last four renditions and won the Canadian Women’s Championship in 2016. She is a notable content creator with one of the most popular chess Twitch streams and became the first chess player to sign with an esports organization.
Jovanka Houska is an English chess player that has the titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster. She is currently the British Women’s Chess Champion which has won nine times. She has competed in chess championships at the under 10 stages from a very young age and gained medals in them. She has contributed heavily to the England Women Team and has represented them in various international tournaments. She has also contributed as a chess writer for magazines and has written chess books, including collabs with other English chess masters.
Elina Danielian is an Armenian chess player that has the title of Grandmaster. She won some chess championships in her formative years at the under 14 and under 16 levels. Since then, she has become Armenian Chess Champion six times and was part of the gold medal-winning Armenian team at the 5th Women’s European Team Chess Championship.
Irina Bulmaga is a Romanian chess player that was born in the Republic of Moldova. She has achieved the title of Woman Grandmaster and International Master. From a young age, she won various chess championships in Moldova across various age categories and eventually won the Moldovan Women’s Chess Championship. She has represented Romania across various Chess Olympiads and European Championships, winning a bronze medal in the former.
Irina Krush is an American chess player and is currently the only active women Grandmaster. She also presently retains the US Women’s Champion title, which she has won eight times, including being the youngest ever to win it. She was born in the USSR before her parents emigrated to the US at the age of five, which is when she started to learn chess. In addition to competing in several individual tournaments, she has also represented the US at the Women’s Chess Olympiads, for whom she has won silver and bronze medals. She regularly writes chess articles for chess magazines and websites.
Anna Ushenina is a Ukrainian chess player who also has the title of Grandmaster. She was introduced to chess from the young age of seven and eventually received coaching at specialist facilities. She has represented Ukraine in several chess tournaments, where she has seen plenty of success and medals. She also plays regularly in national leagues in various countries. Her greatest triumph perhaps is when she became Women’s World Chess Champion in 2012 after a narrow tie-break victory.
Alina Kashlinskaya is a Russian chess player who holds the titles of Woman Grandmaster and International Master. She found success from a young age winning silver medals at under 10 and under 18 age levels. Since then, she has competed in several high-profile chess championships where, in 2019, she became European Women’s Individual Chess Champion. Her husband is also a successful chess grandmaster.
Marie Seabag is a French chess player who holds the title of Grandmaster. She won several European Youth Chess Championships in her formative years at the under 12, under 14, and under 16 age categories. She has won the French Women’s Chess Championship twice and reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Chess Championship and third position at the European Individual Chess Championship.
Viktorija Čmilytė is a chess player who holds the title of Grandmaster and is known more notably for her role in Lithuanian politics. She was coached by her father in chess from a young age and won the under 12 European and World Youth Championships, respectively. By the age of 16, she had cemented herself as a champion in Lithuanian chess competitions. She won various high-profile chess competitions later on, which included the European Women’s Individual Championship. She also competed in the Women’s World Chess Championships several times, where she progressed far a few times but did not win any medals.
Sabina-Francesca Foişor is a Romanian-American chess player who holds the title of Woman Grandmaster. Her parents were both chess masters winning multiple medals in Romania, leading to her and her sister following in their footsteps. She has won medals in European Youth Chess Championships in several age categories. In addition, she has competed at the Women’s World Chess Championships twice and has won the US Women’s Championship once. Apart from playing chess, she also coaches chess players across multiple levels.
Claudia Amura is an Argentinian chess player who holds the title of Grandmaster. She started playing chess at the age of seven and won the Argentinian Youth Championship by thirteen, mainly featuring boys. Since then, she has competed in various chess championships across South America, having men competing and won several of them. She has contributed as a chess writer in several Argentinian newspapers.
Keti Tsatsalashvili is a Georgian chess player who holds the title of Grandmaster. She has represented her country across multiple age groups at the European and World Youth Chess Championships and ended up winning six medals (two gold, two silver, two bronze). She has competed and won across several international competitions as well making her a memorable female chess player.
Kateřina Němcová is a Czech-American chess player who holds the title of Women Grandmaster. She won the Czech Women’s Chess Championship twice and won the European Youth Chess Championship once. Additionally, she also achieved a silver medal at the World Youth Chess Championship. She transferred her allegiance to the US later on and has even represented the US once at the Women’s World Championship.
Harika Dronavalli is a notable Indian chess player who holds the title of Grandmaster and has won several chess championships. This includes bronze medals at the Women’s World Chess Championship and winning the Women’s Grand Prix. Her several accomplishments led to her being among the top 5 women chess players in the world in 2016. The government of India has honored her with the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award for her contribution to sports.
Chess is a widespread sport and board game that is played by millions of people. However, the upper hierarchy of the chess community has been dominated by men for centuries which has severely hampered female chess players. Only recently, at the turn of the century, female chess players have begun to get opportunities to shine, and many have shown that they are on par, if not better, than most male chess players.
This list of 25 female chess players and their various accomplishments proves that they deserve more accessibility in the chess world and sports in general.
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