Remembering Eva Moser

by André Schulz
1/25/2021 – About two years ago, Austrian Woman Grand Master Eva Moser passed away. Michael Ehn, Kurt Jungwirth and Markus Ragger have now published a beautiful and impressively detailed book to honour the memory, life and chess career of this outstanding player.

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Throughout its history, the Austrian chess community has seen a number of outstanding female players. Paula Kalmar-Wolf, Gisela Harum and Salome Reischer even had the chance  to represent Austria at the Women's World Championships. However, the best Austrian-born female player was Eva Moser, and while she never got the opportunity to participate in a World Championship like her predecessors, she nonetheless represented her country admirably in numerous other international tournaments.

Born on July 26th, 1982 in the small town of Tamsweg and raised in Spittal an der Dau, Eva Moser began playing tournament chess at the age of ten. In secondary school, a class mate encouraged her to join the chess club. A mere few months later, she showed her exceptional talent at a school chess tournament in Klagenfurt, where she scored four wins and one draw as the youngest participant. Shortly afterwards, she joined a chess club in Spittel, which was quite unusual for a girl her age.

It did not take long for the Austrian Chess Federation to notice her outstanding talent. Eight times Eva Moser played in the Junior Championships in the age categories U10 to U14, winning eight times. In 1994, she participated in the World Junior Championship U14w in Szeged, finishing on place eight. In 1998, the European Junior Championship was held in Austria, and in spite of the stiff competition from a number of East European countries, she managed to finish second in the U16w, together with Ana Matnadze. In the following World Junior Championship, she finished fifth, an even more substantial achievement.

After finishing school, Eva Moser began studying business economics in Graz. She continued playing in tournaments, receiving professional training for brief periods of time. However, a lot of her chess knowledge came from reading books. Eva Moser finished her studies with a bachelor's degree and planned to pursue a career as a professional chess player. In 2005, chess was officially recognised as a sport in Austria and the Federation received access to public funding. Additionally, training of cadre and junior players was taken over by Zoltan Ribli, a development which benefitted Eva Moser.

From the very start, Eva Moser had understood that she had to measure her strength with male players to refine her technique. And so she did. In 2000, Eva Moser played her first Olympiad, as a member of the female national team. However, in 2004, she already represented Austria in the open section, playing first board for the Austrian team.

In 2006, she even won the overall Austrian National Championship. In 2003, she was the first Austrian woman to receive the title of Woman Grand Master (WGM). In the mid-2000s, Eva Moser was the best chess player in Austria. In the history of chess, a woman taking up the spot at the very top of her country's leaderboards has always been a rare sight, but Eva Moser managed to pull it off regardless.

Aside from playing in tournaments, Eva Moser also contributed articles to the Austrian Federation's official publication Schach Aktiv. She also held lectures and recorded a number of DVDs for ChessBase in Hamburg.

However, in 2015, Eva Moser suddenly retired from public chess life and no longer played tournaments. She had been diagnosed with leukemia. On March 31, 2019, Eva Moser passed away. She was only 37 years old.

For German-speaking readers, Michael Ehn, Kurt Jungwirth and Markus Ragger have now published a beautiful book which represents a touching tribute to this outstanding chess player: Eva Moser: Phantasie und Präzision auf dem Schachbrett (Eva Moser: Imagination and Precision on the Chess Board)

The book is divided into three parts and nine chapters. The first section, compiled by chess historian Michael Ehn, presents an overview of women's chess in Austria in the time before Eva Moser. Kurt Jungwirth's recollections of the Woman Grand Master are introduced by a lovingly assembled series of photographs showing an energetic and lively young girl growing up to be a world class player. 

Over the years, Michael Ehn got to interwiew and talk with Eva Moser a number of times. The first time he spoke with her, she was 16 years old and had just won the silver medal at the European Junior Championship in 1998. Back then, Eva Moser told him about her role models, Paul Keres most of all, but Bobby Fischer, as well. The next opportunity for a conversation came after the U20 National Championship in 2002. 20 year old Eva Moser was planning to complete her studies and dreaming of a career in professional chess. However, she first wanted to reach an Elo rating of 2450.

After conquering the title of national champion in 2006 (men and women), she spoke with Michael Ehn about women's chess in Austria and the rest of the world. The way she saw it, the main reason behind the low number of women who manage to reach top positions in the world of chess is primarily a statistical one. According to her, there are just not enough female players to provide women's chess with a large base of strong players. 

In 2014, Eva Moser triumphed at a Grand Masters' Tournament in Augsburg, winning against Petar Arnaudov in a spectacular game, which went down in chess history by featuring no less than five queens on the board.

Here's this unique game:

 

After the tournament, she told Michael Ehn about her newfound fascination with the style of Richard Rapport and said that she did not believe Emanuel Lasker would stand a chance if he were to play a game against Magnus Carlsen nowadays, considering the amount of research that has been put into analysing every phase of the game since then.

In 2015, Eva Moser suddenly retired from tournament chess. In 2017, she also stopped contributing to Schach Aktiv. Eva Moser did not disclose any reason for her choice, but the Austrian chess community already had a suspicion that a serious illness might be the cause.

In January 2019, Michael Ehn spoke with a very sad Eva Moser one last time. "I am waiting," she told him.

The largest section of the book is dedicated to Eva Moser's chess legacy. She always favoured a lively and inventive style, quite frequently to great success. Markus Ragger, by now Austria's top-ranked player, annotated a selection of her games. There is a lot to be learned from him and Eva Moser. Comments about her opening variations are lengthy and exhaustive. Some of these variations were controversially discussed by Markus Ragger and Eva Moser on a number of occasions.

For instance, Moser thought that the retreat 3...Qd8 in the Scandinavian was a valid alternative to 3...Qa5 or 3...Qd6. Markus Ragger disagreed, but after looking at the lines again, he admits that he was probably wrong. Nowadays, 3...Qd8 is even played by players such as Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. The book also features a number of interesting games, with commentary based in part on Eva Moser's own notes.

The three authors have taken great care in assembling this beautiful and educational tribute to Eva Moser for German-speaking chess enthusiasts, and for this, they deserve all the recognition they can get. The book is a wonderful reminiscence of a great chess player and exceptional personality.

Eva Moser: Phantasie und Präzision am Schachbrett, Euro 38,-

Available for instance at Schach Niggemann...

- Translation by Hugo B. Janz


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

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