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Friday, February 17, 2012

Mary Bain

       Mary Bain (born Hungary, August 8, 1904 – died New York, October 26, 1972) was an American Women's World Championship Challenger in 1937 and 1952 and the first American woman to represent the U.S. in an organized chess competition.
       Bain was awarded the Woman International Master title in 1952 and represented the US at the 1963 Chess Olympiad, held in Split.  In international tournaments, she took fifth place at Stockholm 1937 and 14th place at Moscow 1952.  She won the U.S. Women's Chess Championship in 1951.
       In 1937 an open women's tournament sponsored by the Marshall Chess Club for custody of the Hazel Allen trophy was held in New York City.  , As we go to press, the finals of this tournament are getting under way. In contained four who qualified from preliminary events and six seeded players.  The qualifiers were: Miss Adele Raettig of Hoboken, NJ, Mrs. Wm. Davey of New York City and Mrs. Elsie Rogosin of Roselle, NJ and Miss Elizabeth Wray of New York City.  The seeded players were Mrs. Adele Rivero of New York City, (Champion), Mrs. Mary Bain of Astoria, NY, Mrs. Raphael McCready of Hackensack, NJ, Mrs. William Slater of Doylestown, PA, Miss Helen White of New York City, and Miss Edith L. Weart of Jackson Heights, NY.
       Adele Rivero won, going through the tournament without the loss of a game. Her only draw was with Bain who was runner-up for the second time. Mrs. Bain received a beauty kit as her prize. She also went through the tournament without losing a game and missed her chance for first by drawing Kathryn Slater of Doylestown. 

Adele Rivero – 8.5-0.5
Mary Bain – 7-1
R. McCready – 5-4
Kathryn Slater – 5-4
Adele Raetig 4.5-4.5
Helen White – 4-5
Mrs. Davey* - 3-6
Ellie Ragosin – 3-6
Edith Weart – 2-6
Elizabeth Wray 2-7
*Withdrew due to illness with a 3-3 score

      Also in 1937 for the first time in many years an American woman competed for the title of Woman Chess Champion of the World, held by Vera Menchik. The representative for the US was Mary Bain, who finished second to Adele Rivero in the women's tournament at the Marshall Chess Club. Unfortunately Rivero was unable to go to Stockholm.  This was Bain’s first appearance in the international arena.  Of course no one expected she would displace Menchik.
       There were twenty-six entries in the women's tournament at Stockholm, which was played using the Monrad system.  The Monrad system was a common tournament system in Norway and Denmark which was very similar to the Swiss System, but deemphasized ratings, and based the pairings on the starting number each contestant received at random before the tournament.
In the Danish version the players were initially ranked at random, and pairings modified to avoid players meeting each other twice. The Norwegian system had an optional seeding system for the first round pairings, and within a score group, the pairing algorithm used to give players alternating colors.
       As expected, Vera Menchik retained her title of Woman Chess Championship with an impressive fourteen wins. The surprise of the tournament was Benini's second place finish. In the Semmering tournament of 1936 (Menchik did not play) Benini finished in second place, two and one-half points behind Sonia Graf.  Bain made a very creditable showing in this, her first international tournament, finishing in fifth place.

The leading scores:
Vera Menchik Czechoslovakia 14
Clarice Benini, Italy 10
Sonia Graf, Germany 9
Milda Lauberte, Latvia 9
Mary Bain, U. S. A 8½
May Karff, Palestine 8

       In describing her Stockholm experience Bain said, “It was a most wonderful experience.  Everything was very well arranged and the accommodations were very good. It was a most successful tournament,"
       Speaking of Menchik, Bain described her as  a very friendly and charming person.  She described Clarice Benini of Italy as an attractive, tall, dark young woman.  Her description of Sonia Graf was less flattering: Graf dresses mannishly and walks, hands in pockets, with a masculine stride. Mona May Karff (who played for Palestine) was formerly from Boston, MA who eventually returned to the US.  Bain spoke of 18 year old Milda Lauberte of Latvia, who she described as a small, blond, very calm young woman with great promise and predicted that she would be a future woman champion.  Lauberte (born 7 October 1918, Vildoga and died on October 19, 2009 in Riga) never quite fulfilled Bain’s prediction but she was a Latvian master and played in two Women's World Championship tournaments.  Besides sharing third place at Stockholm she placed sixth place at Buenos Aires 1939 (Menchik won).
       It was aid that the previous year at Warsaw the women were more interested in having a good time than in playing chess, but Bain said this was not true at Stockholm. The women, she said, all took their games very seriously.
       One thing which impressed Bain particularly was the fact that most of the European women were under the instruction of some chess master. She was asked who was her coach. "No one," she answered. "Well, then, who is teaching Mrs. Rivero?" "So far as I know, no one," she replied again. They couldn't understand it. How could a woman progress unless she was being tutored?
       Bain was not very well pleased with her standing. She entered the tournament not expecting to finish very high but believing the experience would do her good.  When she began winning and had a chance for second place and missed it by losing her final game, she felt that she should have done better.
       While returning to the US she gave a simultaneous exhibition aboard ship against ten men, winning eight, losing one and drawing one.   games, lost one and drew one.  Then in the US at the Women's Chess Club of New York with simultaneous play against eight women, all of whom she defeated.
       Eventually Bain owned a chess club in New York City which was, in about 1958, purchased by Larry Evans and Aaron Rothman but it eventually folded due to lack of interest, most likely because at the time there were three clubs operating within two city blocks on 42nd Street.
       In California the Pasadena Chess Club was a strong proponent of women's chess. The club did not segregate men and women in its competitions and included women among its board members.  Despite that it still did not give equal status to the women's events.
       It once proposed double-round robin event was to be played on weekends on the days adjournments were played in the master's event. This resulted in games being postponed or never played altogether. The participants were Mary Bain, LaVieve Hines, Marian Fox, Alma Wolff, Laura Hinchman and Elizabeth Hillman.
       The two most prominent participants were Hines and Bain.  What was interesting was that Hines was said to have been "the strongest American female chess player you've never heard of."  Indeed, she won the tournament undefeated 7-0, with three games going unplayed.  Hines became a noted international musician and died June 12, 1998.  Wolff finished second with 6-3 (one game unplayed) and Bain at 5½-4½ (all games played).
       Hines was a child prodigy on the violin, played piano, studied dance, and was fluent in three languages. She worked full time as a violinist with the Pasadena Symphony, and is said to have been sharp-witted, outspoken, and contemptuous of authority. She was quoted in a chess column of the Los Angeles Times in 1931 as saying, "Men aren't so bad if they are chessmen You can generally get them to do as you wish."  Unfortunately, very few of Hines's games exist. There are four are from simuls:  a win against the strong master Harry Borochow, and two losses and a draw against Alekhine!
       Bain moved with her husband to Hollywood in 1931. He had acquired a contract with the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation, and though he was not as interested in chess as Mary, he was instrumental in establishing the Hollywood Chess Club, whose members included Cecil B. deMille and Douglas Fairbank, Jr.  Mary was on the board of director.
       In the following game Bain defeated the US Junior Champion Charles Kalme (b. 1939) who eventually went on to gain the IM title, play on the US Olympic Team, participate in the US Championship and become a master in contract bridge.  Originally from Latvia, Kalme’s family ended up in the United States after WW2.  When Latvia got its freedom from the Soviet Union, Kalme returned to Latvia where he died in 2002.

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