Monday, May 14, 2007

Elaine Saunders

I found some information online about Elaine Saunders, who was mentioned in the Chess Prodigies post yesterday. Chess historian Edward Winter has five photographs of a young Elaine (scroll down to her entry, they are in alphabetical order, last name first), including a nice photo of Elaine with one of the greatest chess players of all time, Vera Menchik, at his website along with some biographical information and one of her games. He reports that Elaine married David Brine Pritchard on February 29, 1952 (she would have been 26) and that Pritchard was a chess writer. Sadly, Mr. Pritchard passed away in late 2005. Elaine was British Women's Chess Champion four times: 1965, 1956, 1946, 1939. I also discovered further biographical information on Elaine at a rather interesting website that is not very well put together (both the website and the information). It is apparent that the website's owner, A. J. Goldsby, is a fan of women chessplayers. The enterprising AJG writes that he (or she) entered into a correspondence with Elaine and/or members of her family, and was able to obtain information to fill out what he has previously reported at his website. I am a little confused by his reference to "Mrs. Richardson" - I don't know if he means this was Elaine Saunders Pritchard's name at the time he made his entry (as best I can tell, it was sometime after he received a letter on November 14, 2005) or if Mrs. Richardson is a relative of Elaine Saunders Pritchard who gave him the information in the letter. Elaine learned how to play chess from her father when she was 5. By age 8, she was beating good players - of course, there is no mention at all of how many hours of study and effort must have gone into her chess education. In addition to the information that Winters supplied, Goldsby indicates that Elaine was awarded the title of WIM in 1957, and won a silver medal (but he says he doesn't know what board) at the 1976 Chess Olympiad at Haifa; if my calculations are correct, she would have been 50 years old at the time. What an achievement - not because she was 50, although there aren't too many 50 year olds playing boards at Chess Olympiads these days! No, it was an achievement because it seems to be a crown to her long chess career, most of which us internet dependent folks won't ever know about because when people were writing about Elaine, there was no internet and the articles were mostly British newspapers and chess journals; to track down that information takes a lot of hard work and dedication. So, kudos to Winters and kudos to Goldsby for providing us with this glimpse into the chess life of Elaine Saunders. I did a little further research regarding the 1976 Chess Olympiad, since it may not have been available online at the time Goldsby wrote his web entry. The gold/silver/bronze by Women's Teams were won by: Israel, England and Spain. The English Women's Team consisted of: Jana Hartston (2230) on board 1 (she was British Women's Chess Champion LOTS of times), Sheila Jackson (2055) on board 2 (ditto), WIM Elaine Pritchard (2055) on board 3, and Susan Caldwell (2060), who played "reserve" but played eight games. Hartston had a performance percentage of 81.8 (9.0/11); Jackson 66.7 (6.0/9); Pritchard 62.5 (5.0/8); and Caldwell 50% (4.0/8). To put this silver medal into perspective, no British Women's Team has won ANY medal, before or since. So - Elaine Pritchard did win a Team Silver medal at the 1976 Chess Olympiad. This year Ms. Pritchard will be 81.

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