Gisela K. Gresser


U.S. Chess

Hall of Fame

Inducted 1992







The first U.S. woman to earn a master’s rating and among the first seventeen to hold the title of woman international master, Gresser finished or shared first place in the U.S. Women’s Championship nine times between the mid-1940s and the late 1960s. Given these accomplishments, it is even more remarkable that she didn’t learn chess until the late 1930s, after becoming hooked during a transatlantic cruise. After attending the first U.S. Women’s Championship in 1938, she would compete in 1940 and win—with a perfect score—in 1944. She played in five Women’s Candidates tournaments and three Women’s Olympiads, and was the challenger in the 1949-1950 Women’s World Championship.

In addition to being a top-ranked chess player, Gresser was a distinguished classical scholar. After receiving her degree at Radcliffe College, she studied at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens on a Charles Elliot Norton fellowship. She was also an accomplished painter, musician, and world traveler, demonstrating a well-rounded intelligence. She became the first woman inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1992. At a time when some questioned whether women could endure the rigors of serious chess, Gresser was an important pioneer, demonstrating that women could—and can—compete in top-level events.

Notable Games

Nancy Roos
Gisela Gresser and Arnold Denker at the 1944 New York City, New York, U.S. and U.S. Women’s Chess Championships
Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame, gift of Jacqueline Piatigorsky