María Teresa Mora, Cuban lady of chess
By Ana María Silveira
Among the women who have shone on the 64 squares battlefield is the Cuban chess player María Teresa Mora Iturralde, the first International Master of Ibero-America in the so-called science game and unbeatable national champion for two decades.
Born in Havana on October 15, 1902, she learned to play with her father, whom the soon defeated and, like the chess genius, José Raúl Capablanca, she was considered a prodigy.
The American Chess Bulletin published in 1917: "Not content with having given José Raúl Capablanca to the world, Havana draws attention with another chess prodigy in the person of the girl María Teresa Mora." The author of the article was Edgard Everet, champion of Washington, whom Maria Teresa, at the age of 14, had just won a match in the Cuban capital, with the result of three victories by one and three draws.
At 11, the new chess player had won a youth tournament held at the Havana Chess Club, which can be considered her public debut in these matches. In 1922 she won the Cuban title in the Dewars Cup, which was then considered a national championship, and in which, with the exception of her, only men participated, the most outstanding players of that time.
That same year, José Raúl Capablanca received her as a disciple, on the only occasion in which he worked as a chess instructor, and it was with a view to preparing her for the London World Championship, in which he managed to register her, but to which she could not assist due to lack of financial resources In her memoirs, her Grand Master remembers her like this: “There was a 12 to 14-year-old girl in Havana who interested me a lot. Not only was she intelligent and modest in all respects, but also she played chess quite well (I think that today she is probably the strongest player in the world, even though she is only 15 or 17 years old). Actually, I learned more than my student, although I hope my young friend benefits from the dozen lessons I gave her. "
The establishment of the National Women's Championship in 1938 debuted with the victory of María Teresa and that result was maintained uninterruptedly until 1960, when she retired. Her rich career also includes her participation in two women's world championships, in 1939, when she finished seventh, and in 1950, in which she finished tenth and defeated world champion Elizabetha Bikova.
That last year she received the title of International Teacher. Music lover, mandolin and violin player, she excelled as well in the teaching profession, in the field of chess. María Teresa Mora Iturralde, who died on October 3, 1980, did more than was foreseeable in her time, and more than many did, and even so her achievements are worth little considering her potentialities, in an adverse economic environment and with a traditional male predominance.