Elizaveta Bykova’s strong play not only led her to become one of the first FIDE Woman International Masters in 1950, but it also earned her the title of FIDE’s Woman Grandmaster in 1976. Born in the Russian village of Bogolyubovo, Bykova moved to Moscow when she was twelve years old and began to play chess competitively at age fourteen. She began winning tournaments in the 1930s, earning first place in the Moscow Women’s Chess Championship in 1938.
Bykova’s skill won her the Soviet Women’s Chess Championship title in 1946, 1947, and 1950. Over the next decade, she gained renown on the world stage through her victory over a fellow Soviet player Lyudmila Rudenko in the Women’s World Championship match in 1953. She lost her title to another Soviet player, Olga Rubtsova, in 1956, but became the first woman to regain the title after a loss in 1958. She successfully defended her title from a challenge by Kira Zvorykina in 1960, but two years later, Nona Gaprindashvili defeated her. Passionate about women’s chess, Bykova also wrote three books about Vera Menchik, Soviet women chess players, and the Women’s World Championship. She also promoted chess through lectures and the organization of tournaments.