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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chantal Chaude de Silans

At play in 1951
     Chantal Chaude de Silans (March 9, 1919, Versailles – September 5, 2001, Grasse) was a French player and a pioneer of women's chess. She was awarded the title of Woman International Master at its creation in 1950 and later the honorary title of Woman Grandmaster. Like many people before and after her, life events interfered with her promising chess career. In her case it was World War Two and raising a family. 
     She learned how to play the game when she was nine along with her brother the Baron de Silans, who later became a strong amateur. She quickly demonstrated a talent for chess. 
     In 1932, at age thirteen, she entered her first women's French Chess Championship at the age of 13 where she finished fourth. She also finished fourth the following year and commentators predicted that she had a great future. Unable to participate in 1934 and 1935, she won he only title in 1936 at the age of seventeen. After that she no longer participated in the in the French Women's Championship, except when she returned 61 years later to pay in the 1993 Women's Championship. 
     In 1936, she was invited to participate in the French Men's Championship where she finished 8th out of 9, but the experience of playing against the best French players aided her progress. She went on to compete in will many other French men's championships: 1947 (7th out of 10), 1949 (9th out of 10). Her best result was in 1951 when she finished 3rd out of 14. 1952 (7th out of 10), 1955 (5th out of 11), 1958 (10th out of 12), 1963 (13th out of 26), 1969 (29th out of 30). Between 1936 and 1949 she participated in several Paris championships. 
     In 1939, she married Bernard Chaude a few days before the war broke out and followed him to Morocco. Chaude was a race car drive who once participated (in 1935) in the 24 hour race at Le Mans, but he failed to finish.  They returned to France in 1942 and joined the French Resistance.
     After World War Two she played the Women's World Championship Candidate Tournament three times with less brilliant results. Life outside of chess was the reason; she had four children. At the end of the second world war, the title of world champion is vacant following the death of Vera Menchik the defending champion, killed during a Nazi bombing of England where she resided. The first post-war women's world championship is organized by FIDE in Moscow from December 19, 1949 to January 18, 1950. This tournament was the turning point of her chess career. 
     By that time the Soviet players has established a dominance that was to continue for decades. The Soviet players were the big favorites in the 16-player tournament, but to everyone's surprise, Chantal Chaude de Silans jumped to the lead which she held until the 12th round. Unfortunately towards the end, the stress, the cold weather and fatigue caused her to crack. It also didn't help that she was one fo the few players who did not have a second. The French Federation could not afford one and was so poor that it even had to resort to seeking donations from the French players in order to send her to the tournament. She lost in the 13th and 14th rounds and ended up tying with Edith Keller-Herrmann (East Germany) and Eileen Tranmer (England) for 5th place behind the four Soviet players (Lyudmila Rudenko, Olga Rubtsova, Elisaveta Bykova and Valentina Belova). Also in 1950, she was the first woman to participate in the men's chess Olympiads as part of the French team that went to Dubrovnik to participate in the first postwar Olympiad. 
     She played a few matches against men: she lost to Swiss champion Henry Grob (5.5-2.5) in 1951, but defeated many time Paris champion Stephan A. Popel (2.5-1.5) in 1957. 
     Despite having to take care of her four children, she participated again in the Women's World Championships in 1952 and 1955 (Moscow) and in 1961 (at Vrnjacka Banja), always finishing in the lower half. 
later years
     In 1970, she became the President of the Paris Caissa chess club which shr managed for more than thirty years. During her tenure tha club produced several young talents who would later become strong GMs such as Olivier Renet, Eloi Relange, Manuel Apicella, Igor Nataf and Joel Lautier. 
     Madame Chaude de Silans was respected by all and when such greats as Boris Spassky, Vasily Smyslov or David Bronstein visited Paris they never failed to pay her a visit. 
     The following game, one of her later ones, is by no means one of her best, but it's exciting. Over-aggressive play lead to a lost position, but Mrs. Gresser discovered that won positions do not play themselves and in the complications, she lost her way and the game. The Women's Candidate Tournament was won by Nona Gaprindashvili who went undefeated. Madame Chaude de Silans scored +2 6 =8 and tied for places 12-14 with Gisella Gresser and Lisa Lane, both of the United States. She did have the satisfaction of drawing with the top three finishers, all of the Soviet Union: Gaprindashvili, Borisenko and Zvorikina.

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