Gisela Kahn Gresser (February 8, 1906 Detroit, Michigan - December 4, 2000) was (with Mona May Karff) one of the first two female chess players in the United States, and one of the first seventeen players in the world, to be awarded the title of Woman International Master in 1950 when FIDE created official titles. She was also the first American woman to be inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. She won the U.S. Women's Chess Championship in 1944 (scoring 8-0), 1948 (with Karff), 1955 (with Nancy Roos), 1957 (with Sonja Graf), 1962, 1965, 1966 (with Lisa Lane), 1967, and 1969 (at age 63).
Gresser learned chess at a very late age. On a cruise from France to New York in the late 1930s, she borrowed a chess manual from a fellow passenger and taught herself how to play. By the end of the cruise, she was hooked. In 1938, she was a spectator at the first U.S. Women's Chess Championship tournament, organized by Caroline Marshall (wife of US Champion Frank Marshall) and held at the Rockefeller Center in New York City (won by Adele Rivero). She first played in the championship in 1940, and in 1944 she won it with a perfect score.
Gresser studied classics at Radcliffe. She won a prestigious Charles Elliott Norton fellowship, which she used to continue her studies at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. In 1927, she returned to New York, where she married William Gresser, a New York City attorney and musicologist, who died in 1982. She was a housewife, and raised their two sons, Ion and Julian. Gresser was an accomplished painter and musician, as well as a classical scholar. She went on safari many times, even in her eighties.
In addition to her repeated successes in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship, Gresser also played in five Women's Candidates' tournaments (for the Women's World Chess Championship) and three Women's Chess Olympiads. She won the 1954 U.S. Women's Open Championship. In April 1963, she became the first woman in the United States to gain a master title, with a rating of 2211.
She also wrote an article for the October 1950 issue of Ladies Home Journal, entitled "I Went to Moscow". Mrs. Gresser (Mrs. was her preferred title) took lessons from International Master Hans Kmoch and Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier. When she died at age 94, the USCF still had her listed:
Here Gresser (White) hands Lyudmila Rudenko, who won the Women's World Championship in this event with 11½ points out of 15 games (+9 =5 -1), her only defeat.
Gresser-Rudenko, Eighth Women's World Championship, Moscow 1949-50 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 f5 5.d4 fxe4 6.dxc5 exf3 7.Qxf3 Nf6 8.Bg5 O-O 9.O-O Qe7 10.Bc4+ Kh8 11.b4 a5 12.Bxf6 Rxf6 13.Qd5 Rf8 14.b5 Nd8 15.Nd2 c6 16.Qd6 Qxd6 17.cxd6 b6 18.Rfe1 cxb5 19.Bxb5 Nf7 20.Nc4 Ba6 21.Bxa6 Rxa6 22.Nxe5 Nxd6 23.Nxd7 Rc8 24.Rad1 b5 25.h3 Nf7 26.Re7 Kg8 27.Rde1 Nd6 28.R1e6 Rxc3 29.Ne5 h6 30.Rd7 Rc5 31.Nf7 Nxf7 32.Rxa6 Ne5 33.Rb7 b4 34.Raa7 Nc6 35.Rxg7+ Kf8 36.Raf7+ Ke8 37.Rb7 Rf5 38.Rg8+ Rf8 39.Rxf8+ Kxf8 40.Rb6 Ne5 41.Rxh6 1-0