Sonja Graf

Sonja Graf

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Sonja Graf

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Sonja Graf (December 16, 1908—March 6, 1965) was a German chess master who also lived in Argentina and the United States. She was the Women's World Sub-Champion, two-time winner of the U.S. Women's Chess Championship and author of two books which describe her life in chess as well as the sufferings of her abusive childhood.

Early years

Born in Munich, Sonja Graf was the daughter of Josef Graf and Susanna Zimmermann, both Volga Germans from the Samara region, who had moved to Munich in September 1906. She later wrote that despite the suffering she endured at the hands of her father, who was originally a priest in Russia, but moved to Munich to pursue life as a painter, she was grateful that he taught her the game of chess when she was still a child.

Chess became her means of escape, both mentally and physically, and she began spending all her time in Munich chess cafés. Her fame as a coffeehouse player grew and she was introduced to and became the protégée of the German master, Siegbert Tarrasch. By age twenty-three, she had beaten Rudolf Spielmann twice in simultaneous competition and turned chess professional. She began traveling throughout Europe, following the chess circuit both for the experience and to distance herself from what she considered the ominous Nazi movement based, at the time, in Munich.

During the early decades of the 20th century, female chess players were a rarity and Sonia Graf basked in the popularity and attention her sudden fame brought...
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