14 May The Queen’s Reign – Top Female Chess Players of All Time
The Queen is the strongest piece in chess, but only a handful of women have got as much popularity and fan following as their male counterparts. In fact, few women seem to play the game of Chess. In the US, for instance, only one in 7 of the members of the National Chess Federation is a woman. Out of over 1700 active players who hold the title “Grandmaster” we have had only 37 active female players today who have achieved the highest title in chess.
Even if all these are stark truths, there is undeniable female talent in chess. Some of them have reached the highest levels of chess glory. Beating the odds comes naturally to women, and with their ability to foresee, multi-task and staying calm under pressure situations has only made the strong contenders over the years. We have certainly come far away from the times when; women were considered the inferior sex (and brain) who couldn’t have been able to negotiate and possibly win through the chess moves.
Are there any female chess Grand Masters?
There are many!
There are at least 37 active female players today who have been awarded the highest honor – Grand Master title in chess. As of January 2021, the FIDE database lists 121 living women who hold the International Master title. Open titles may be earned by all players, while women’s titles are restricted to female players. Many strong female players hold both open and women’s titles.
Mary Rudge (6 February 1842 – 22 November 1919) was an English chess master. She began her career has a chess player by playing chess in correspondence tournaments starting 1872. She was made to play in second class at Birmingham in 1874. She was the first every woman member of the Bristol Chess Club. Prior to her joining, women weren’t allowed membership. She played in several blindfold simultaneous displays by chess masters of the time.
By 1888, she had started making her presence noticed when she played and won on board for Bristol & Clifton against City Chess & Draughts Club. She also won the Challenge Cup of Bristol & Clifton Chess club.
Mary was the first woman chess player in the world to give simultaneous chess exhibitions. She won the Ladies’ Challenge Cup at Cambridge in 1890, and then went on to win the Second Class at the Southern Counties’ Tournament at Clifton in 1896.
She was the first winner of the First Women’s International Chess Tournament in 1897. Ms. Rudge was 55 years old then and the oldest amongst 20 players. She won the event with 18 wins and 1 draw, and cemented her position as a well-known English player of her time, ranking in chess strength with the first class of the leading men’s clubs.
In 1898, she played against world champion Emanuel Lasker in a simultaneous display. Lasker was unable to finish all the games in the given time, and Rudge’s was one of those unfinished. He conceded defeat because he would be lost with best play.
- Women’s World Champion 1927–44
Vera Menchik (16th February 1906- 26th June 1944) was the first Women’s World Chess Champion and retained her title from 1927-1944, a long reign of over 17 years in her relatively short lifespan. She is still considered the longest reigning women’s chess champion till date. Although she could never be awarded the title of Grandmaster, she was famous for competing against male chess masters of the time. One of her remarkable victories was against World Champion Max Euwe.
In 1929, she finished tied for second at Ramsgate—finishing tied with Akiba Rubinstein, just a half-point behind Jose Raul Capablanca. Menchik went undefeated in seven games. She won her matchups against George Alan Thomas, Reginald Pryce Michell, and Hubert Ernest Price and drew the rest. Those three wins without a loss matched the performance of all-time great GM Akiba Rubinstein in the same tournament, and was a half-point ahead of her former teacher GM Geza Maroczy.
Menchik had an even lifetime score against world champion GM Max Euwe in five games (+2 =1 -2) and U.S. champion GM Samuel Reshevsky in two bouts (+1 -1), but her sweetest victory was against Austria’s Albert Becker who reportedly mocked her participation at the 1929 Carlsbad tournament.
While there was no official rating system in place at the time, Chessmetrics rated her as high as 52nd in the world during her career.
She was the true superstar of Women’s Chess. She successfully defended her Women’s World Championship title six times, winning every championship until her tragic death in 1944 during a German raid in World War-II. Her incredible score of +78-1=4 (98.8% winning percentage!!) speaks a lot about her chess prowess which was miles ahead of her peers at the time.
In part because of her dominance, Menchik is honored every two years at the Women’s Olympiad, where the winning nation is awarded the Vera Menchik Cup.
Lyudmila Vladimirovna Rudenko
- International Master (1950)
- Woman Grandmaster (1976)
- Women’s World Champion 1950–53
Chess Player, Champion Swimmer, Economist- Lyudmila Rudenko (27 July 1904 – 4 March 1986) wore several hats with equal elan. She was the second women’s world chess champion from 1950-1953, taking over the uncontested crown from Vera Menchik. But it was not without a good fight. In post WWII era, the World Chess Federation FIDE held a tournament in Moscow in the winter of 1949-50 to determine the new women’s champion. Sixteen women from twelve countries competed, with the four Soviet players taking the top four spots. Rudenko, who was then 45 years old, won the tournament, a full point ahead of the field (scoring +9-1=4).
She was awarded the FIDE titles of International Master (IM) and Woman International Master (WIM) in 1950. She was also USSR Women’s champion in 1952.
Lyudmila started playing the chess at the age of 10, learning from her father. In 1929, after her family moved to Leningrad, she started her training with chess master Peter Romanvosky.She was the first woman to be awarded the International Master Title. She was proclaimed as Woman Grandmaster (WGM) in 1976.
Despite so many achievements in varied fields of sports and politics, Rudenko’s most important accomplishments of her life weren’t chess or swimming. It was when she organized a train to evacuate children from the Siege of Leningrad during World War II. Till she was alive, she would recount this extreme act of humanity and bravery as her most important feat.
- International Master (1953)
- Woman Grandmaster (1976)
- Women’s World Champion (1953–1956 & 1958–1962)
Elisabeth Bykova, (4 November 1913 – 8 March 1989) was a Russian chess player and two-time Women’s World Chess Champion from 1953 to 1956 and again from 1958-1962. Born in a peasant family, Bykova started playing chess with her brother, and won several national championships till 1950. She won the Women’s Candidates Tournament in Moscow in 1952, and went on to defeat the reigning champion Lyudmila Rudenko in 1953 with a convincing +7-5=2.
She lost her title in 1956, but won it back two years later, becoming the first woman to do so. Bykova worked as an engineer in a large Moscow printing house, and was also an author and chess columnist. Her books about Vera Menchik, Soviet Women Chess Players, and Women’s World Championships are well received accounts of a woman’s perspective on chess.
She was awarded the titles of Woman International Master in 1950, International Master in 1953, and Woman Grandmaster in 1976.
- Grandmaster (1978)
- Women’s World Champion (1962–78)
- Peak rating : 2495 (July 1987)
Few can compete with Gaprindashvili’s combination of strength and longevity. Nona (3rd May 1941-) is still active in chess, well into her 70s, an impressive career spanning more than half a century, nearly six decades and maintaining a rating of 2270. She was the first woman to be awarded the title of Grandmaster in 1978 after a resounding success at the 1977 tournament in California with a score of 6.5/9. She tied for the first place with grandmasters Yuri Balashov, Dragutin Sahovic, and Oscar Panno.
Much before that she had proved her chess skills by winning the female world championship between 1962-1978 an impressive reign as a World Champion for 16 years. She was also awarded the title of Female Grandmaster. Nona’s career FIDE ELO rating is 2495. She also earned the (men’s) International Grandmaster title. She dominated the women’s Olympiad from 1963-1990, playing in 12 of them and scoring +94 =26 -8 while winning team gold 11 times and individual gold eight times. In 2019 at age 78, Gaprindashvili was the women’s 65+ world senior champion for the fifth time.
- Grandmaster (1984)
- Women’s World Champion (1978–1991)
- FIDE rating – 2500 (April 2021) [inactive]
- Peak rating – 2560 (January 1988)
Maia Chiburdanidze (17th Jan 1961- ) was a child prodigy, winning her fist USSR Girl’s Championship at the age of 15. She won her first Women’s World Chess Championship by defeating the reigning champion, Nona Gaprindashvili in 1978. She was 17 then, which made her the youngest Women’s World Chess Championship title holder until 2010. She went on to defend her title four times, holding onto her crown till 1991.
Maia (also spelled Maya) is the only chess player in history to have won nine Chess Olympiads. She defended her title successfully four times, until 1991, when she lost it to Xie Jun.
Maia got her all-time career high rating of FIDE ELO rating of 2560 and is the fourteenth highest rated female chess champion. She reached #48 in the world in 1988. Only one other female player has done so far (as of February 2021).
She was awarded the (men’s) international grandmaster in 1984, at the age of 23. She was the second woman to receive that title, after Gaprindashvili. She became the first woman to crack the top 50 in rating since FIDE began tracking an official list in July 1971.
- Grandmaster (1991)
- FIDE rating – 2675 (April 2021) [inactive since September 2015]
- Peak rating – 2735 (No. 8 player and No. 1 woman in the July 2005 FIDE world rankings)
- Peak ranking – No. 8 (July 2005)
One of the famed Polgar sisters, Judit Polgar (23rd July 1976- ) is regarded as the strongest female player ever and has won a game against a reigning #1 male player along with multiple male world champions.
Raised to be a chess prodigy, Judit followed into her elder sister Susan Polgar’s footsteps only to surpass her younger siblings in her chess achievements.
By the time she was 13, she was already ranked amongst the top 100 chess players in the world. Judit is also the only woman to have ever made it to the top 10 list of the best chess players in the world. Her performance is even said to be superior to Fischer’s when he was the same age. Judit also had a rivalry with a Russian grandmaster, Garry Kasparov. She lost the first time she faced him but eventually made history by defeating him in 2002 during the Russia versus the Rest of the World Match.
Despite being such a great player, Judit has never been a World Women’s Chess Champion ever because she never competed in a World Chess Championship, preferring the open arena except in 2005, where she finished 8th. She has a unique distinction of having beaten nine World Champions. She has also defeated ten champions in classical or rapid chess. In the 2005 FIDE World Chess Championship, she finished the tournament at an impressive 8th position. She stayed in the top ten until 2006.
Judit was awarded the Grandmaster title at the age of 15 in 1991, the youngest ever, beating Fischer’s record. She was the only woman to cross 2700 Elo rating. Her career best Elo rating is 2735. Judit Polgar is the only woman to have ever won a match against reigning world champion, and has defeated eleven total current or former world champions in either rapid or classical chess, including Magnus Carlsen, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Spassky, Vasily Smyslov, Veselin Topalov, Viswanathan Anand, Ruslan Ponomariov, Alexander Khalifman, and Rustam Kasimdzhanov. Against Kasparov and Carlsen, she won her games when they were #1 in the world.
When Polgar was 21 years old, New York Times chess columnist GM Robert Byrne declared, “there is no argument about the greatest female player ever.”
Polgar retired in 2014. She was still the top-rated woman in chess at 2675. Hou would pass her the next year when she reached 2686. By that point, Polgar had been the top-rated female player for a quarter of a century, 26 years running all the way back to 1989.
- Grandmaster (1991)
- Women’s World Champion 1996–1999
- FIDE rating – 2577 (April 2021) [inactive]
- Peak rating – 2577 (January 2005)
Older sister of Judit Polgar, Susan (19th April, 1969) is one of the most famous female players in the world. Susan was the first woman to earn the title of Grandmaster through tournament play, rather than by winning the Women’s World Chess Championship. She was also the first woman to qualify for the World Chess Championship at the age 17 (then called the Men’s World Chess Championship) but wasn’t allowed to compete due to her gender.
Unlike her younger sister, Susan Polgar chose to compete for the Women’s Championship and won her first world title in 1996. She would go on to win four Women’s World Championships in her career. At 15, Susan was the top-ranked woman chess player. She received the title of grandmaster in 1991, the third woman to do so.
In January 1991, Polgar became the third woman awarded the title of Grandmaster by FIDE, after Nona Gaprindashvili and Maia Chiburdanidze.
Polgar tended to avoid women-only tournaments till 1992. In 1992, Polgar won both the Women’s World Blitz and the Women’s World Rapid Championship. She entered the candidates’ cycle for the 1993 Women’s World Championship and was eliminated after the candidates’ final match with Nana Ioseliani, though the match was drawn and winner was selected through a draw of lots. She became the Women’s World Champion at her second attempt in 1996.
The United States Chess Federation named her “Grandmaster of the Year” in 2003, the first time a woman has won that honor. In that same year, Polgar also became the first woman to win the US Open Blitz Championship, against a field which included seven grandmasters. She won that title again in 2005 and in 2006. She has a total of twelve Olympiad medals: five gold, four silver, and three bronze. She has played 56 games in the Women’s Olympiads, never losing a game.
In July 2005, Polgar gave a large simultaneous exhibition in Palm Beach, Florida, breaking four world records: the largest number of simultaneous games played (326, with 309 won, 14 drawn, and 3 lost); consecutive games played (1,131); highest number of games won (1,112); and highest percentage of wins (96.93%)
Pia Anna Rosa Della Cramling
- Grandmaster (1992)
- FIDE rating – 2459 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2550 (October 2008)
- Peak ranking – No. 1 ranked woman (Jan 1984), No. 178 overall (Jul 1992)
Pia Cramling (April 1963) is a Swedish chess player and became the fifth woman to earn the FIDE title of Grandmaster in 1992. Pia has been one of the strongest female players in the world having been the highest rated woman in the FIDE World Rankings on three occasions.
Pia, aside from Judit Polgar (who opted not to play in women’s events) is the only woman to have earned the grandmaster title before 2000 who has never won the Women’s World Champion crown. According to her World Championship is a team effort, and more prominent chess nations are able to give their players better support. Cramling has a unique distinction of coming in close contention for the title on four occasions, all in different decades. In 1986, and 1996 she came in fourth and third respectively in
Candidate’s cycle. She reached in semi-finals in 2008 and 2015 in Women’s World Championship knockout formats, qualifying her to play in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix series in 2009-11 and 2015-16 respectively.
Cramling, she has won the individual gold medal as the best player on board 1 (according to the rating performance) in 1984 and 1988 in the Women Chess Olympiad. In the European Club Cup for Women, Cramling has won the team gold medal in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2016 playing for team Cercle d’Echecs Monte Carlo.
- Grandmaster (1993)
- Womens World Champion – 1991–1996, 1999–2001
- FIDE rating – 2574 (April 2021) [inactive]
- Peak rating – 2574 (January 2008)
Xie Jun (born October 30, 1970) is a Chinese chess grandmaster and the first true Chinese Chess Star.
She had two separate reigns as Women’s World Chess Champion, from 1991 to 1996 and again from 1999 to 2001. Xie is one of three women to have at least two separate reigns, besides Elisaveta Bykova and Hou Yifan. In the first reign, Xie defeated Maya Chiburdanidze to grab the Women’s World Chess Championship in the year 1991 when Susan Polgar claimed the title by defeating her. Jun is the star that proclaimed China’s ascent into dominance in the field of women’s chess.
In Guangzhou in April 2000, Women’s Champion Xie played a match with former World Champion Anatoly Karpov. Billed as a “female vs. male chess contest”, the match consisted of four games at normal time controls and two rapid games. The four-game portion was won by Karpov 2½–1½ (1 win, 3 draws), and the rapid-play portion also went to Karpov, 1½–½ (1 win, 1 draw)
- Grandmaster (2001)
- Womens World Champion – 2001–04
- FIDE rating – 2423 (April 2021) (No. 20 ranked woman in the November 2012 FIDE World Rankings)
- Peak rating – 2548 (January 2008)
Zhu Chen (March 13, 1976) was the first Chinese player to win an international chess competition when she won the World Girls Under-12 Championship in 1988.She became China’s second women’s world chess champion after Xie Jun, and China’s 13th Grandmaster in 1999, the seventh woman in the world to do so. Zhu defeated Alexandra
Kosteniuk of Russia in Women’s World Chess Championship 2001/2002 by 5-3, becoming the ninth World Champion.
- Grandmaster (2002)
- Women’s World Rapid Chess Championships (2019)
- FIDE rating – 2586 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2623 (July 2009)
Indian chess grandmaster Humpy Koneru (31st March 1987-) achieved her career high FIDE ELO rating of 2598 in 2014. This high ranking placed her third in the elite list of female grandmasters. She also became the second female player to cross the ELO 2600 ratings threshold in October 2007.
Koneru also holds held the record of being the youngest woman grandmaster from 2002-2008 which she achieved at the age of 15 years 1 month and 27 days, beating Judit Polgár’s previous record by three months. (Claimed by Hou Yifan in 2008). The Indian chess legend became the highest-ranking player to contest in the women’s World Chess Championship.
- Grandmaster (2007)
- FIDE rating – 2546 (April 2021) No. 5 ranked woman in FIDE World Rankings
- Peak rating – 2560 (December 2018)
Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Lagno (27 December 1989) a chess prodigy, she earned the title Woman Grandmaster (WGM) at the age of 12 years, four months and two days. In 2007, she was awarded the grandmaster title.
She is a twice European Women’s Champion and won two team gold medals at the Women’s Chess Olympiad, in 2006 and 2014, playing for Ukraine and Russia respectively. She also won team gold at the Women’s World Team Championship in 2013 playing for the Ukrainian team and in 2017 playing for Russian team. Lagno won the Women’s European Team Championship four times. Lagno was the Women’s Vice World Champion in 2018, Women’s World Rapid Champion in 2014 and Women’s World Blitz Champion in 2010, 2018 and 2019.
In November 2018, Lagno lost to world champion Ju Wenjun in the finals of the Women’s World Championship. In December 2018, Lagno won the Women’s World Blitz Chess Championship held in St. Petersburg without losing any games. She won the women speed chess championship against Alexandra Kostenkiuk hosted by chess.com in 2020.
- Grandmaster (2008)
- Women’s World Champion (2010–2012, 2013–2015, 2016–2017)
- FIDE rating – 2658 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2686 (March 2015)
Hou Yifan (27th Jan 1994- ), Chinese Grandmaster and four -times Women’s World Chess Champion started playing chess very early in her life. By the time she was 3, she was already defeating her father and grandmother. She was the youngest member of the Chinese national chess team, and went on to win her first championship.
In 2010, Hou, then 16 broke Chiburdanidze’s record as the youngest women’s world champion. Two years before that, she had surpassed Judit Polgar by becoming a GM at just 14 years, making her the youngest female GM ever, she still holds the record as on Feb 2021.
After winning the championship twice, in 2013, and 2016, before shifting her focus to open events. She won outright 6.5/9 with a peak performance rating of 2810 in 2017 against giants like FIDE world champion GM Ruslan Ponomariov, GM Peter Leko and four other super GMs (players whose rating peaked above 2700).
Hou’s peak ranking at 55th in the world on the May 2015, FIDE rating list. A Rhodes Scholar, Hou is a professor at Shenzhen University and recently returned to play two international team competitions in 2020. Despite continuing her studies and becoming a professor, she’s still the best ranking female player in the world and is listed as number 88 on the top 100 ranking of overall players.
- Grandmaster (2008)
- FIDE rating – 2438 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2537 (March 2013)
Marie Rachel Sebag (15 October 1986-) is a two-tome French Women’s Chess Champion and a French Grandmaster. She started her chess career by winning the European Youth Chess Championship (girls under-12) in 1998, she repeated her champion run next year (girls U14,) and in 2002 (girls U16). In 2004, she was the joint winner in U18.
She reached the quarter-finals during the Women’s World Chess Championship in 2006. She was already an International Master and Woman Grandmaster when she scored her second GM norm in August 2007, she achieved this feat with against former FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov.
With her third norm during the European Individual Chess Championship, she qualified for the title for Grandmaster in May 2008.
- Grandmaster (2008)
- FIDE rating – 2524 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2573 (June 2015)
Nana Dzagnidze (1 January 1987) was awarded the title of Grandmaster in 2008.She is the member of the gold medal winning Georgian team in the Women’s Chess Olympiad in 2008 and European Women’s Individual Champion in 2017.
Dzangnidze began her career in 1999 when she won the Girls Under 12 section of the World Youth Chess Championships. She went on to win the gold medal at the World Girls Under 20 Championship in 2003. She was the best female player in 2009 and 2011 at the Gibraltar Chess Festival.
In 2010, she won the fourth leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix series, a part of the 2011 Women’s World Chess Championship cycle. In the eleven-round round-robin tournament, she finished +7=4, and a good 1½ points ahead of second-place finisher Tatiana Kosintseva. She was the winner of the honorary FIDE award of Carissa as the best female player of the year (2017). She shared the 1st place in the 3rd leg of FIDE Women’s Grand Prix 2019-20 in Lausanne.
- Grandmaster (2008)
- FIDE rating – 2421 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2505 (April 2008)
Monika Soćko (24 March 1978) is eight-time winner of the Polish women’s chess championship between 1995-2017. She was awarded the title of Grandmaster by FIDE in 2008, becoming the first and the only Polish female to achieve this to date. In 2009, she won the Arctic Chess Challenge, in spite of being ranked as #16 before the tournament. Her top-ranked husband, Bartosz Socko, finished 13th.
She went on to win a bronze medal at the Women’s European Individual Chess Championship. From 2014 to 2017, she won several Woman Grandmaster and women’s tournaments around the world.
- Grandmaster ()
- Peak rating – 2506 (July 2009)
Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant started her career in 1985, when she won the World Junior Chess Championship for Girls. Very soon thereafter, she fulfilled the criteria for the Woman International Master title and she was awarded the same in 1986. Soon, she became a Women’s World Championship contender and through the late eighties and early nineties, she proved that she had the ability to compete with the top-level players.
Her participation at the Hastings Premier in 1993/94, where she finished ahead of six male grandmasters and defeated three of them on her way to a share of third place. In respect of women competitors at Hastings, the result was second only to that of Judit Polgár. With the Soviet and then Georgian Ladies Teams, she has won nine Olympiad medals, and including two team and three individual gold medals.
In 2007, she beat former U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura at Gibraltar Masters, in a 100-move first round encounter. Journalist John Saunders describes Arakhamia-Grant as the ideal role model: “her charming and dignified manner belies a tough, determined fighter at the board.” Having additionally met the 2500 Elo rating requirement in the January 2009 FIDE list, she was awarded the title in March 2009, making her, her adopted country Scotland’s sixth grandmaster.
- Grandmaster (2009)
- FIDE rating – 2475 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2581 (November 2010)
Tatiana Anatolyevna (11 April 1986) started playing chess at 6 years along with elder sister Nadezhda and was deeply inspired by games of Alexander Alekhine, Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer. She is a two-time European Women’s Champion and three-time Russian Women’s Champion. She was awarded the Grandmaster title in 2007.
As a member of the gold medal winning team, she represented Russia at the Women’s Chess Olympiads twice and the European Team Chess Championships thrice.
- Grandmaster (2010)
- Peak rating – 2499 (May 2010)
Natalia Oleksandrivna Zhukova (5 June 1979) was just 12 years old when she made her debut at the World Youth Championship in 1991. She tied for 3rd-4th spot with 7.5/11. She was the youngest player when she made her debut in 1996 at the Ukrainian women’s level. In 1995, she earned the title of Woman International Master from FIDE, and was promoted to Woman Grandmaster in 1997.
She is a two-time European women’s champion. She won several age-group titles as a teenager, at both the European and world levels. She has also won several international women’s tournaments. Zhukova has played for the Ukrainian women’s national team since age 17 in 1996, the same year she won the Ukrainian women’s championship in her debut. She played board one on the winning Ukrainian team at the 2006 Women’s Chess Olympiad. She has represented Ukraine in six straight Olympiads, since 1998 on board one.
- Grandmaster ()
- FIDE rating – 2407 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2521 (July 2011)
Elina Danielian (16 August 1978) is six-time Armenian women’s champion. She has represented Armenia twelve times in the Women’s Chess Olympiads (1992–2014). She played in the gold medal-winning Armenian team at the 5th Women’s European Team Chess Championship in 2003.
In May 2019, Elina narrowly defeated grandmaster Kateryna Lagno (the reigning women’s world blitz champion) in round 1 of the Women’s Speed Chess Championship hosted by Chess.com. The match was a combination blitz & bullet format with the first set being 5 minutes with a 1-second increment (5+1), the second set being 3+1, and the final set being 1+1. The match was decided by the final bullet game as the score was tied leading up to the finale.
- Grandmaster (2010)
- FIDE rating – 2538 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2542 (June 2017)
Lithuanian politician Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen (6 August 1983) is an accomplished chess player. Awarded the title Grandmaster by FIDE in 2010, she was European women’s champion in 2011, and is a two-time Lithuanian champion.
She began playing chess at age six, and was coached by her father Viktor Ivanovic Čmil. She spent her early chess career being coached by her father. In 1993, she won the European Youth Chess Championship in the under-12 girls’ category, and later won the 1995 World Youth Chess Championship in the same category.
In 2000, Čmilytė-Nielsen, 16, won both the women’s and absolute national championships of Lithuania. She won the latter edging out Grandmasters Darius Ruzele, Viktor Gavrikov and Aloyzas Kveinys, and International Masters Vaidas Sakalauskas and Vytautas Slapikas on tiebreak. Čmilytė-Nielsen won the absolute championship again in 2005 on tiebreak from Šarūnas Šulskis.
By 2001, she was ranked number one by FIDE amongst girls. In 2011, Čmilytė-Nielsen finally took the gold medal in the European Women’s Individual Championship.
- Grandmaster (2011)
- FIDE rating – 2483 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2576 (November 2010)
Nadezhda Anatolyevna Kosintseva (14 January 1985) is a Russian chess grandmaster. She was a member of the gold medal-winning Russian team in the Women’s Chess Olympiads of 2010 and 2012, and in the Women’s European Team Chess Championships of 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Having won several Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal positions in the various championships as a teenager, she tied for the first place with Kateryna Lahno in the European Individual Women’s Championship in 2005.
In 2006, along with younger sister Tatiana and Elena Tairona, she shared second place at the Russian women’s championship super final. Kosintseva won the 2008 Russian women’s championship in Moscow. She finished second in this event in 2009.
- Grandmaster (2011)
- FIDE rating – 2515 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2543 (November 2016)
Harika Dronavalli (12 January 1991) is an Indian chess grandmaster. She has won three bronze medals in the Women’s World Chess Championship, in 2012, 2015 and 2017. In 2016, she won the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix event at Chengdu, China and rose up from world no. 11 to world no. 5 in FIDE women’s ranking. Vladimir Kramnik, Judit Polgar and Viswanathan Anand are her chess inspirations.
She took keen interest in chess at a very small age. She won a medal in under-9 national championship. She followed it up with a silver medal in world youth chess championship for under-10 girls. She became the second Indian woman to become a grandmaster, after Humpy Koneru in 2011.
- Grandmaster (2012)
- FIDE rating – 2535 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2606 (July 2012)
- Ranking – No. 7 ranked woman (February 2020)
- Peak ranking – No. 2 ranked woman (August 2012)
Anna Olehivna Muzychuk (February 28, 1990) is the fourth woman, after Judit Polgar, Humpy Koneru and Hou Yifan, to cross the 2600 FIDE Elo rating mark, having achieved a rating of 2606 in July 2012.
Muzychuk was taught to play chess at the age of two by her parents, both professional chess coaches. She played her first tournament at five and in the same year she placed second in the under-10 girl’s championship. From 1997 to 2005 she won several medals at Ukrainian, European and World Youth Championships. She was awarded the titles of Woman FIDE Master in 2001 and Woman International Master in 2002. Muzychuk was awarded the titles of International Master in 2007 and Grandmaster in 2012.
- Grandmaster ()
- Women’s World Champion – 2012-13
- FIDE rating – 2416 (April 2021)
- Peak rating – 2502 (July 2007)
Anna Yuriyivna Ushenina (30 August 1985) is a Ukrainian chess grandmaster who was Women’s World Chess Champion from November 2012 to September 2013. Determined that the young Ushenina should develop intellectual and creative talents, her mother introduced her to chess at the age of seven, along with painting and music. She became the Ukrainian Girls’ (under 20) champion at 15 years. Many of her chess skills have been self-taught, although in 2000–2002, her coach was International Master Artiom Tsepotan.
At the combined (men and women) events, she has defeated grandmasters of the caliber of Anton Korobov and Oleg Romanishin and in Ukraine was endowed with the title “Honored Master of Sports”.
A very active league chess player, she regularly plays in the national leagues of France, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia.
In the final of the Women’s World Chess Championship 2012 she achieved a tiebreak victory over Antoaneta Stefanova to become the 14th Women’s World Chess Champion. This automatically entitled her to the title of grandmaster and also qualified her to the 2013 Chess World Cup. She is Ukraine’s first women’s world chess champion. Ushenina was voted Ukraine’s best female chess player of 2012.
- Grandmaster ()
- FIDE rating – 2421 (April 2021), (No. 16 ranked woman in the March 2016 FIDE World Rankings)
- Peak rating – 2548 (June 2015)
Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina (February 4, 1989) is a Russian chess grandmaster. She is a three-time winner of the Women’s European Individual Chess Championship and has won the Russian Women’s Championship 3 times. She was a member of the gold medal-winning Russian team at three Women’s Chess Olympiads of, at the Women’s European Team Chess Championships 6 times and at the Women’s World Team Chess Championship of 2017.
Gunina won the 2016 London Chess Classic Super Rapid Play Open in one of the best performances for a female at a top-level chess tournament, defeating several male Grandmasters along the way.