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Lyudmila Rudenko: The Female Chess Champion You Should Know About

Lyudmila RudenkoPhoto Credits to

In chess history, few female players have commanded as much respect as Lyudmila Rudenko. Rudenko first learned to play chess through the encouragement of her father at the age of 10. Later, she went on to become the Women’s World Chess Champion in 1950.

But her journey towards this ultimate victory was not a straightforward one. And according to some accounts of her life, her appeal stemmed as much from her political identity and sex, as it did from her playing ability.

So Who Was Lyudmila Rudenko…exactly?

Rudenko, born in 1904, was a Soviet Ukrainian citizen. Initially, she showed little interest in pursuing a career in professional chess. She longed to swim, and entered into many competitions to prove her skill inside the pool. Her hard work in peddling one breaststroke after another eventually paid off, however. And it wasn’t long before she became the swimming champion of Odessa. It was in this Ukrainian city that she also chose to pursue a degree in Economics.

Her education in a social sciences discipline greatly expanded her sense of civic duty. And this was much evident from her later occupation in government service. It was during her civil service period, interestingly, that she started playing her hand at chess again. But this was more by the way of a hobby; something to relax and unwind with. She had the ‘chess playing’ germ since her birth. But it was only in her adult life that she started to take her hidden passion seriously.

Playing Chess like a Pro

Chess, whether it’s played on the traditional board or conducted in elaborate chess online sessions, is based on a few principles. Its moves rely on the active mindset of its players. And in particular, how they choose to strategize against their opponents. The winner is most often the one with the most experience, as well as the most mental discipline. Someone who is successfully able to anticipate his or her opponent’s moves in advance.

A number of modern chess masters and grandmasters also claim that it helps to keep the rule and discipline of good poker playing in mind. When facing one’s foe in a chess match, that is. Rudenko, according to firsthand accounts of her accomplishments, was a natural at this. In fact, she was known to be able to guess her opponents’ complete strategy before a match even started.

Struggles on Being a Female Chess Player

As can be said of practically any field, Rudenko had to face a certain degree of sexism in her sporting arena. In a game that was (and is) prominently dominated by men. During the 1920s, the Soviet regime was busy in finalizing its hold on power. The state was all-powerful now. And so there was an added pressure on Soviet citizens to perform well against their anti-communist counterparts. These were the professionals hailing from other countries.

Initially, Rudenko chose to resist such pressures. But it wasn’t long before she yielded to them. She had it a little easy because her days in professional swimming had significantly strengthened her nerves. And instead of getting bogged down by her position, she chose to shine through. She made a consistent effort in excelling in the one area where she knew she had some natural talent. Which, of course, was the domain of chess.

Chess Achievements

In 1929, Rudenko began her apprenticeship under the famed Russian chess master Peter Romanovsky. Her training sessions with her mentor were soon followed by three successive wins in the Leningrad Women’s Championship.

In the 1940s, Rudenko represented her country along with four other Soviet players at the World Chess Federation (FIDE). This tournament took place in Moscow. After a grueling series of matches with women players from over twelve countries, she finally succeeded in getting the first position. As chess grandmaster, she held the title for many years. This was until she finally lost it in 1953.

She died in 1986, and was buried in Leningrad.

In 2015, Rudenko was inducted into the prestigious World Chess Hall of Fame. Recently, Google chose to celebrate her legacy by putting a doodle of her image onto its homepage.

Today, she is remembered as one of the pioneering figures in women’s sports around the world.

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