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N. MayKarff

May Karff made her mark in the traditionally male bastion of professional chess as the first woman champion of the United States in 1938. Karff learned chess both from her father and from experts in Palestine before immigrating to the US. She played in her first international tournament in Stockholm in 1937, where she placed sixth out of twenty-six players. The following year, she won her first American tournament, playing undefeated. While she lost her title in 1939 to A. Rivero, she reclaimed it in 1941 in a powerhouse game, winning in just twenty-five moves. While she never again achieved the same success in international competitions, her record-breaking performances in the US earned her the title of International Female Master in 1950 from the Federacion Internationale des Eches. She continued to dominate the United States Women’s Open for decades, winning first place seven times, second place four times, and third place seven times. She won her last major championship in 1974.

Topics: Immigration

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May Karff.

Date of Birth


Date of Death
Chess Player

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "N. May Karff." (Viewed on June 3, 2020) <>.


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