"It used to be that women players were belittled in every which way," Robert Byrne of the New York Times noted concerning the coming Women's World Championship Tournament.

"They could not calculate combinations; their positional judgment was shallow; they lacked the determination to struggle hard over the board or to give opening preparation the arduous work it needs in the milieu of tournament play."It did not matter that the famous Czech-British star of the 1930s, Vera Menchik-Stevenson, had defeated an impressive roster of male players, including a world champion, Max Euwe.

Vera Menchik (1906-44) was, with the possible exception of the former world's woman champion Nona Gaprindashvili, the strongest woman master of all time.

Born in Moscow, her family moved to England where she became the student of Geza Maroczy and developed the solid positional style that brought her many outstanding victories.

In 1927 she won the first women's world championship with a score of 101/2 out of 11! She retained the women's title until her death, easily defending it in four tournaments and in two matches against the American Sonja Graf.

During this period, there existed a humorous association called the "Menchik Club." This group consisted of chess masters who had lost to Menchik: Euwe, Reshevsky, Colle, Sultan Khan, Yates, Alexander and Sir George Thomas.

In some tournaments she scored higher than Maroczy, Koltanwski, Pirc, L. Steiner, Speilman and Rejfir.

Tragically, in 1944 Menchik was killed, while still in her prime, during a German air attack on London.

The problem for women was that Menchik was considered unique. Indeed, at the beginning of her career, Alexander Alekhine, a world champion, wrote, "Vera Menchik, without doubt, is an outstanding phenomenon among women. She is distinguished by an exceptional chess talent."

These days the uniqueness has worn off. There are several very strong women players. One newcomer to the ranks is Xie Jun of China, who tied for first place in the women's candidates tournament in Borzhomi, the Soviet Union.

She will play a tiebreak match with Alisa Maric of Yugoslavia in early 1991 to see who will challenge the champion, Maya Chiburdanidze of the Soviet Union.

For the first time since 1949, a non-Soviet woman will be the challenger for the Women's World Championship. In the Candidates Tournament Xie Jun and Alisa Maric each scored 4 1/2-2 1/2 in the eight-player, round-robin competition.

A curiosity regarding this competition is that the two highest-ranked women on the International Chess Federation's (FIDE) list shun women's-only tournaments and matches and so took no part in the qualification series.

These two, Judit Polgar and her sister, Zsuzsa, of Budapest, prefer to play exclusively in tournaments open to players of both sexes.

- WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - As of this column's deadline, the 13th and 14th games between the world champion, Gary Kasparov, and his challenger and former world champion, Anatoly Karpov, ended in ties. The score remains even at 7-7.

The two Soviet grandmasters, tied 6-6 after their 12 games in New York, have now moved to France's second-largest city, Lyon. The 12 games in southeastern France, with timeouts, are expected to last until Dec. 30, organizers have said. Play will continue through Christmas.

Kasparov has held the chess crown since 1985, when he ended Karpov's 10-year reign. The two have battled through more than 130 title games. What is so startling is that Kasparov's superiority hangs by one victory. He has won 18 matches, and Karpov has won 17. There have been 99 draws.

Experts say that draws are so common because both men have phenomenal memories that store thousands of moves their rival may make.

Both have an entourage of more than 10 people, with six trainers apiece who analyze each mistake by peering into computer banks that store all previous moves made in thousands of games.

- TOURNAMENT - The Rowland Hall Open Tournament will be played Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Rowland Hall Upper School. Stu-dents in kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to play beginning at 9 a.m.

- CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOLVERS! - Jack Crandall, Jim Reed, David Wilhite, David Wilnes, Kevin Smullin, Donovan Weight, Russell O'Dell, David D. Kirk, Tim Painter, Joseph Evans, Ryan Stucki, Michael Brough, David L. Evans, Brent Terry, Hal Harmon, Neil Iversen, Monroe Iversen, Raeburn Kennard, Thomas Hazien, Ardean Watts, Edwin O. Smith, Stanley Hunt, Paul R. Lindeman, Vali Kremer, Chere Wood, Joye McMulland, Ronnie Millet, Glennin Cloward, Kim Barney, Scott Mitchell, Curt Jeppson, Robert E. Lee, Stephen Kirk, Dale Brimley, Ken Frost, Gordon Green, William D. Price, Ramon E. Bassett, John Newman, Ron Copier, Aaron Brough, George Stucki, Farrell Ostler, Peter Rogers, Nathan Kennard, Daniel Barker, William DeVroom, Eugene Wagstaff, Wilburn West, Jim Turner, Alison Hermance, Kay Lundstrom, Ann Neil, Dan Thompson, Richard Adams, David Ferguson and Dave Sonntag.