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February 2007

Sonja Graf
Picture 1: Sonja Graf

By Michael Negele (a version from 10th February 2007; an abridged version appeared in Karl 3/2004, pp. 28-34.)

While leafing through some old issues of Schach-Echo I came across a photo (Picture 1) of a young woman whose enigmatic smile instantly aroused my curiosity. Who was this “Miss Sonja Graf” and why does Dr. Eduard Dyckhoff (Picture 2) refer to her as “the German champion” (Text A..) in Magyar Sakkvilag (April 1934, pp. 83-85) when there is hardly any mention of her in German chess magazines of that time?

This was the beginning of my extensive research which revealed some interesting facts about the eventful life of this mysterious figure.

According to some sources, Sonja Graf was born on 15th May 1912 in Munich. This date is also mentioned by Alfred Diel in “The Bavarian Chess Federation – Beginning of the Third Millennium” (2000). However, after consulting the „Chess Personalia A Biobibliography” (1987) things became more complicated. Jeremy Gaige, who has a reputation for being extremely careful, gives 16th December 1914 as Sonja’s birth date, referring to the information in her death certificate. And finally, the third birth date that I came across was 18th December 1912 – this was mentioned explicitly in a laudatory article on Sonja Graf in the short-lived Czech weekly Šachový týden (Chess Week) published on 8th April 1937 before the commencement of the Prague tournament (Text B).