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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kate Finn

     Catherine "Kate" Belinda Finn (born December 16, 1864 (?) in Cork, died March 8, 1932 in London) was the first British Women's Chess Champion in 1904 and defended her title in 1905. 
     She was the only daughter of Eugene Finn, MD and his wife Belinda. After the death of her father she lived together with her mother, who died in 1906, in well-off conditions in the London district of Kensington, an upscale area with stately Victorian buildings and embassies. 
     Later, she lived with a younger woman, Eileen Florence Hodson Moriarty (1880-1945). She learned the game of chess from her mother, who often accompanied her to tournaments. 
     Kate Finn was a founding member of the Ladies' Chess Club, which was launched in January 1895 in London. In the following months, the club members played several friendly matches against other clubs. Four members participated in a women's tournament organized during the Chess tournament at Hastings in 1895. It was won by Lady Edith Thomas, Finn finished fourth. 
     In 1897, Finn took part in the first international women's tournament, held in London and won by Mary Rudge. There were 32 entries for the tournament, from which 20 participants were selected. After eight rounds Finn's score was 3.5-4.5 and she withdrew owing to warm weather and the tight schedule of 19 rounds in 11 days was too exhausting for her. 
     In June 1900, Finn won the B tournament at the Annual Congress of the Kent Chess Association, in which four men and two women participated; she scored 4-1. In a simultaneous exhibition of 25 boards given by Isidor Gunsberg in December 1902, Finn was the only participant to defeat the master. 
     In 1903, Wiener Schachzeitung printed one of her games from a tournament in Plymouth which she lost to Wilfred Palmer in only 10 moves. This prompted the following remark by the editor: "This rapid defeat is likely to mislead some psychologists to regard the game as a valuable contribution to the popular chapter "Inferiority of Female Intelligence." On the other hand, it must be noted that Miss Finn is well acquainted with the intricacies of chess and has excelled on many previous occasions." 
     At the 1904 British Championship in Hastings she scored 10.5 -0.5 points and finished three points ahead of the runner-up. She received a cash prize of £ 10 and a gold medal. As a result, she was featured in an article in the British Chess Magazine which was the most comprehensive report to date about a female chess player in the magazine (see page 400). 
      In 1905 she defended her title with an undefeated score of 9.5-1.5. She skipped the 1906 tournament because of a serious illness of her mother. 
     In the women's tournament as part of the international tournament in Ostend 1907 she tied for first place with Grace Curling and apparently won a later tiebreak match with one win and two draws. 
     In 1911, Finn won another international women's tournament, organized by Theodor von Scheve in San Remo. The first prize was 1.000 francs. The games are not known. 
1) Kate Finn 7.0 
2) Selma Cotton 6.0 
3) Mrs J.D. Rentoul 5.0 
4) A. Smith-Cunninghame 
5) Mrs Charlotte Tiedge 
6) Mrs Pillans J. Stevenson 
7) Countess Maria Fossati 
8) Countess d’Arlay 

     In later years, her eyesight diminished and her overall health deteriorated. However, she played in team competitions for the Imperial Chess Club in the London League until 1931. Only a small handful of her games have survived. 
     For years she played top board for the original Ladies Chess Club, which then played in the “A” Division of the London League. Here she held her own with the leading London players. Latter, she joined the Imperial Chess Club where she was a regular. She did defeat Sir George Thomas in a tournament game in 1906. 
     One of her last known appearances was in a match played on board the Union Castle passenger liner Llangibby Castle moored in Royal Albert Dock in London in 1930. Mir Sultan Khan played on top board. 
     According to Edo historical ratings her highest rating was 2095 in 1905. Finn died of bronchial pneumonia on March 8, 1932. Her roommate was Eileen Florence Hodson Moriarty (1880-1945, Wales) and her estate was valued at £6000, a tidy sum in those days. This is the equivalent of about £300,000 today (about $395,000 in US dollars). 
     The following game was one of the only two of her games that I was able to locate. It was played in the 1905 Ladies' Championship and appeared in the Manchester Guardian. Her opponent's name was not given, perhaps to save embarrassment. 
 

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