In memory of Edith Keller-Herrmann (17 November 1921 - 12 May 2010)

by André Schulz
11/18/2021 – After World War II, Edith Keller-Herrmann, who was born on 17 November 1921 in Dresden, Germany, was one of the best women's players in the world. She played for the German Democratic Republic and won several team and individual gold medals at Chess Olympiads. On 17 November Edith Keller-Herrmann would have celebrated her 100th birthday. | Photo: Edith Keller-Herrmann, Paul-Werner Wagner, Lothar Schmid (German Chess Federation)

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Edith Keller-Herrmann was born in Dresden on 17 November 1921. Her older Brother Rudolf had learned to play chess from their father at the age of twelve and later became an excellent player. In 1935 he won the Championship of Dresden and in 1938 he became Master of Saxony.

When the Greater German Chess Federation organised a tournament in Dresden from 7th to 14th June 1936 to prepare for the Chess Olympiad in Munich 1936, the 15-year old Edith Keller visited the tournament to see the masters play. The German players Friedrich Sämisch, Ludwig Engels, Ludwig Rödl Karl Helling and Efim Bogoljubow, the latter a German citizen since 1929, competed with the international players Alexander Alekhine, Paul Keres, Henri Grob, Geza Maroczy und Gideon Stahlberg. Edith Keller was particularly impressed by the playing style and the charisma of tournament winner Alexander Alekhine. The year before, Alekhine had lost his World Champion title to Euwe but he would regain it one year later, in 1937.

Edith Keller subsequently became deeply involved with chess and soon proved to be a very talented player. In August 1939, she was invited to the "Youth Chess Week" in the town of Fürstenwalde near Berlin, where the now 17-year-old met other German chess talents including Klaus Junge (15 years), Wolfgang Unzicker (14 years), Rudolf Kunath (15) and Karl Krbavic (17). 

The outbreak of World War II did not stop all of her chess activities. As the only female participant at a ten-player tournament in Bad Krynica in 1943, she finished seventh. The winner was Josev Lokvenc from Austria, Efim Bogoljubow tied for second place.

In 1946, after the war, she was the only woman to play in the Championship of the Soviet occupation zone. In a 12-player field she shared 5th to 7th place, one point ahead of her brother Rudolf.

In 1949, the two German states, the GDR (East Germany) and the FRG (West Germany) were founded, and Edith Keller, who continued to live in Dresden, became a citizen of the GDR.

Rresults and games from the first years after the war are incomplete, but her win against Lothar Schmid, who was to become a Grandmaster, arbiter and world famous chess collector, at the city championship of Dresden has been recorded.


In the first few years after the war, and even after the foundation of the two German states, there were still events and championships with players from all over Germany. In 1948, Edith Keller was the only woman in a 12-player tournament in Duisburg, in West Germany. She finished eighth. At the All German Women's Championship in Munich in 1949, she finished second behind Elfriede Rinder. 

She was also invited to the first Womens World Championship after the war, which took place in Moscow 1949/50, though a number of Russian FIDE officials were opposed to inviting a German player. But Edith Keller could play, and in the end shared 5th to 7th place with Eileen Tranmer and Chantal Chaude de Silans. The first four places all went to Soviet players. The tournament was won by Lyudmila Rudenko who thus became the second Women's World Champion – the first was Vera Menchik.

In 1951, Edith Keller played at a 12-player international tournament in Dortmund, where she finished second to last but managed to beat Nicolas Rossolimo and Efim Bogoljubow.

In 1951, she married the physician Ludwig Herrmann and became Edith Keller-Herrmann. Ludwig Herrmann was a strong player who for a time played for the national team of the GDR.

Edith Keller-Herrmann won the All German Women's Championship five times, and she also won the Women's Championship of the GDR five times. She played in five Chess Olympiads for the GDR, and won three team bronze medals - at the Olympiads in Emmen 1957. in Split 1963, and in Oberhausen 1966. Moreover, she also won an individual silver medal in Emmen and a bronze medal in Split for her performance at board one (10.5 out of 14 and 11.5 out of 14)

In 1969, Edith Keller-Herrmann stopped playing tournament chess and after that only played in one last tournament many years later. In 1978, the FIDE awarded her the title of Woman Grandmaster (WGM). At its founding event in Potsdam in 2001, the Emanuel-Lasker-Society made her an honorary member.

f.l.t.r: Prof. Holländer, Susanna Poldauf, Paul Werner-Wagner, Edith Keller-Herrmann

Edith Keller-Herrmann died in Ingolstadt on 12th May 2010.

Translation from German by Hugo B. Janz

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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