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Judit Polgar Interview

Judit Polgar is the greatest woman chess player of all-time, heading the women's ratings since 1989 and reaching #8 in the world against her male peers in 2005.

After taking some time off to start a family she has been playing more regularly again recently and still has the chess skills to beat anyone on her day.

The Russian chess website Crestbook (in co-operation with other websites) has published a lengthy interview with Judit, which is well worth a read.  Some brief excerpts are below.

Judit Polgar at the 2011 World Cup

 

When did you realise that chess was your destiny? Or did you simply have no choice? 

 I was 5 years old when I started to play chess. It was kind of natural because my older sisters, Susan and Sofia, were already playing, so a small sis always wants to do what the bigger ones like Smile I became very successful at a very young age and when at 12 I won the gold medal in the Olympiad it was practically obvious that chess would be the road for me!

What can chess be compared to, and why?

 Life. In chess I use psychology, logical thinking, preparation and such important skills as dealing with losing and winning and overcoming my own mistakes. It requires creativity, critical thinking and much more.

What motivates you to play chess?

 I believe motivation is one of the most important things one has to have after playing for many years. After all, I love the game and can play for enjoyment. When this year I tied for first in France at the European Championship after playing some of the greatest games of my life against Pantsulaia and Iordachescu it was a fantastic feeling again. The motivating force is playing well Smile

 

 

Do you think chess should be a mandatory part of education for all children?

 I believe chess helps in education, so the answer is yes, I support it very much!

If chess is implemented in schools as a mandatory subject, what are the advantages and benefits to society in general?

 Chess is a language. Chess doesn’t make any distinction between a girl and a boy. Religion doesn’t make a difference, nor whether you’re rich or poor. You can also socialise with your parents and grandparents. Chess teaches you critical thinking, the ability to focus, logic, how to think ahead, a respect both for rules and for your opponent – and there are many more ways in which chess helps children and society.

Judit pictured at JuditPolgar.com

 

Why do women seem less interested in chess? Based on your overall assessment, because apparently you’ve demonstrated that women can have the same virtuosity or talent as the best men.

 First of all, it’s a very difficult question. I think it’s partly a social issue. Girls lose interest in their teenage years because they like to plan their life more than boys. Chess isn’t a stable lifestyle. Being a chess player is like being a sportsman and/or an artist. For that you need dedication and a love for it.

If you were asked to choose the best game of your life, which would you choose and why?

 I’m very proud that I’ve played lots of nice games, some of which were great, but if I have to pick then the one against Anand in 1999 in Dos Hermanas. It was a Najdorf Sicilian and I sacrificed two pieces and kept the initiative for the whole game. I was proud of the move  28.b3 paralysing any black counterplay. It doesn’t happen often that I can win in that style against a World Champion!

 

What is your favourite time control?

Blitz is always fun! Otherwise all of them are ok, but all classical tournaments should be played at the same control. Just don’t change it in every tournament.

We all know that at the time you gave birth to your baby you stopped playing tournaments and when you came back you found you weren’t as good at first, but then you rapidly rebounded and today we have the pleasure of seeing you again above 2700 Elo. Was it difficult for you to accept that you were in bad shape after the time you'd spent as a mother, and that you returned without the results you expect?

 It was very difficult to accept that I had worse results than before but what was much more painful was that I was playing horribly for a certain period of time. I had to find the balance in my life again – how to train and get back the motivation and ambition for chess. It’s very hard to accept for a top sports person that you fall beneath your level. But I know that in my life family is top of my list of priorities, and because chess gives me happiness and pleasure I’m still ready to compete!

Which combination gave you the most satisfaction?

Shirov-Polgar, Buenos Aires 1994, in the Sicilian theme tournament. It was really amazing Smile

 

 You’ve more than once met Magnus Carlsen at the board. What impression did you get of him as a chess player? Where does his strength lie?

I had the feeling that he plays chess in a very calm way. He has lots of self confidence and patience and is a huge talent. In some very simple and roughly equal positions he can win easily! At least that’s how it seems after the game.

Unfortunately there’s very little information about you in the media at the moment...

I’ll soon have an updated website www.juditpolgar.com. My Twitter account is @GMJuditPolgar and I’m on Facebook as Judit Polgar Official.

Comments


  • 2 years ago

    IoftheHungarianTiger

    Yes.  That's a very fair point of view.  I guess because they knew the environment, I don't worry about them as much.  That is, they knew from early on they probably shouldn't expect lots of attention unless they made it to the very top.  And the fact that Judit may be receiving more attention than normal shouldn't detract from the reality that they agreed to the original "size of their prize," when they embarked on a chess career, and they probably understand that they can't revise their expectations now because they realized someone else got a better deal out of the same career choice.

    Also, I don't feel as bad for them as I might otherwise, because they're all "in the same boat" as it were.  It's not as if one GM is getting singled out to be ignored, or even just a few.  It's the majority.  But instead, not getting lots of attention is kind of the norm for them, I think. 

    Kind of like that smart kid back in high school who aced all his tests without trying too hard.  Every once in a while you got jealous, and you wondered, "Why not me?" but it's not nearly as bad as if everyone were passing and you were the only one failing, or the only one with poor grades.  If that illustration makes any sense at all ... Tongue out

    Anyways, just some of my thoughts Smile.  But you are right, it probably is pretty frustrating for many of them on occasion ...

  • 2 years ago

    Elubas

    Yes, I think we mostly agree -- you're just a bit more on the gentlemanly side than myself. But I don't think I need to be a gentleman, i.e., giving women more credit than men doing the same thing, or in other words, degrading my own gender, to respect and appreciate women. I view them as equals, but no, I'm sorry, I don't view them as superiors.

    One thing that I think you should do, however, is to take a look at this thing from the male perspective. Imagine how frustrating it is for those 2600-2700 (yet not quite in the elite, where you get some attention) grandmaster players, that haven't done any worse than Judit, but get so little of the praise and attention. Their reward for their lifetime of hard work is... watching videos like this, wondering why they aren't treated the same?

    I mean, can you imagine how frustrating that would be? They're doomed to be ignored just because they lost the coin flip! It's so sad!

  • 2 years ago

    IoftheHungarianTiger

    I don't know, maybe a girl conducting a mate in 7 demonstrates more skill than a guy doing the exact same thing, but I'm just not buying it.

    It's too bad, but it seems like the majority of the world seems too interested in these superficial things like beauty, as if that makes what you have to say any more meaningful.

    This is correct.  It no more impressive for a woman to display chess prowess than a man.  However, let's face it ... any time a woman succeeds in competing on an even level with men in a male-dominated activity, she's going to get noticed.

    I think if there were a more even ratio of men and women in chess, the female players would not get so much attention.  But right now, it's natural that Judit Polgar is going to get a lot of attention.  She is the only woman in FIDE's Top 100, and she has made the Top 10 besides.  She's unique, not because she's the only woman who could succeed in chess, but because she's the only woman who has succeeded in chess.

    Of course, as you say, we shouldn't even draw a line between men and women in chess, but it's hard not to.  I'll be honest, even though I believe women can play chess on equal terms with men, I still know that men and women are different, and I know Judit is the only woman to have succeeded in the arena of chess.  With this in mind, it's hard for me to look at Judit Polgar and not see a woman who is classy, who is uniquely successful (as a woman), and yes, who is also attractive.  When I consider these four attributes - or even just the first three: woman, classy, successful, and attractive - I have a hard time not admiring her and liking her in a special way, and adopting quite the same attitude toward her career that I do toward the male GMs.

    Of course, you are correct in that many are simply interested in watching a pretty face, and some female players have fan bases that are glaringly obvious about it.  But I think in the case of Judit Polgar, her support runs a little deeper than that.Smile 

    For example, I don't deny that one of the things that drew me to Judit's fan-base was that she was a woman; but there are many female player fan-bases I would never join even if that woman rose to Judit's level.  Nor can I think of a single female player I would support as heartily as I support Judit, even if they rose to her level, or even surpassed it.

    I appreciate her as another person who managed to make it to a very high level of chess, but she shouldn't be embraced anymore, or less, than others.

    Is Judit Polgar more popular than similiarly-ranked male GMs?  Yes, probably she is.  Is this fair?  No, probably not.  But on the flipside, it wasn't fair that Zsuzsa Polgar was excluded from playing for the World Championship title in the late 80s simply because she was a woman.  While Judit did not experience this level of discrimination (at least not that I have read of), she has admitted that she did not feel accepted as a colleage by her peers until the mid-90s.  The Polgar sisters (especially Zsuzsa) had a difficult time breaking into the chess world, so maybe it is only fair if they receive a little more popularity now ...

    I get the feeling that the make-up covered Polgar's are more well-liked than male grandmasters of equal strength. The music and the focus on their looks makes me think they think we need a chess princess. We don't.

    I don't think it's fair to suggest that the "make-up covered Polgars" are pushing their popularity upon the chess world.  While Judit does try and look nice for some photoshoots and for public events like Aquaprofit's Chess Day, most of her pictures demonstrate that she is not pushing her looks - as some female chess players (who I will not name) have done.

    Also, do we need a chess princess?  No.  Do we like having a chess princess?  Judit's obvious popularity suggests to me that - as a whole - we do!  Maybe some like yourself don't care, but it seems obvious that many in the chess world enjoy Judit's presence and status as our chess princess.  I don't think you can blame the Polgars for recognizing an existing desire in the chess world and filling it.

    I'll admit with no shame whatsoever, that, right or wrong, rationale or not, I like having a chess princess! Or, rather, I enjoy having Judit Polgar as a chess princess! Wink

    Please realize that I do understand what you are trying to communicate, and I really do appreciate the thoughts and ideas behind what you've written.  I just feel that you're coming down a little hard on the Polgars, as if they're instigating their own popularity on an unsuspecting chess public.  And I guess maybe I'm also trying to defend my "superficial" appreciation of Judit Polgar!

    With the exception of your comment regarding the "Make-up covered Polgars'" emphasis/focus on their looks, I really agree with most of what you wrote ... even though I know it may not look like it from this post! Smile

  • 2 years ago

    Elubas

    I don't think Polgar has any ego problems; what I don't like is how the world around her seems to treat her and other women (like my example with Tania Sachdev) specially, compared to men of the same skill level. In fact, it's like this for a lot of things: female video game players, female shredders on you tube, etc, always get more comments because they are "beautiful," as if that in itself makes them a better person than the nerdy guys that do exactly the same thing. I don't know, maybe a girl conducting a mate in 7 demonstrates more skill than a guy doing the exact same thing, but I'm just not buying it.

    It's too bad, but it seems like the majority of the world seems too interested in these superficial things like beauty, as if that makes what you have to say any more meaningful.

  • 2 years ago

    RetGuvvie98

    IoftheHungarianTiger, you said:  (extracted)

    " .... Why do so few women succeed in chess?  I have my own theories, ...other than to say that I do NOT believe it's because they can't.  "   end of extract...

     

    I would totally agree with you.      See this excellent post by batgirl (one of the world's most knowledgeable experts on Paul Morphy and an outstanding chess historian - who graciously posts many of her articles here)  :

     

    http://blog.chess.com/batgirl/mate-in-35

     

    anyone who cannot see the 'mate in 35', (see the last two diagrams)....     then, must admit that they cannot compete with a woman who played this game in a prior century - long before computers became available.

     

    if you found that one entertaining and intriguing, then check out this summary of her posts:

    http://blog.chess.com/view/content-summary3

     

    regards,

  • 2 years ago

    IoftheHungarianTiger

    Very well said loftheHungarianTiger!  Thank you very much for adding some clarity to this discussion.

    I appreciate that, but anything you liked regarding my thoughts on Judit's ego ... it was actually Frittles who originally pointed out that Polgar's attitude towards women in chess was decidedly unegotistical of her; I merely agreed with and echoed his/her sentiments on that issue.  While Frittles and I obviously disagree on a few points, we seem to agree completely regarding Judit's vanity (or lack thereof) regarding her chess success.  I should have credited him/her in my original post, but failed to do so.  My apologies Frittles! Embarassed

  • 2 years ago

    litevibe

    Very well said loftheHungarianTiger!  Thank you very much for adding some clarity to this discussion.

  • 2 years ago

    IoftheHungarianTiger

    "she doesn't play against women. I think the article is a bit offbase to present her in this positive light on women chess when she doesn't come across as supportive of women in this game at all. She has too much ego for this game."

    Regarding Polgar's 'ego':

    First of all, you can't have too big an ego for the game of chess.  Capablanca, Alekhine, Fischer, and Kasparov have proved and underscored that fact.  While they were all amazing chess players,I'm hard pressed to name individuals who seemed to be more impressed with themselves than these men.  Polgar's ego, in fact, appears to be very modest indeed for the world of chess.

    I think a woman with a real ego would brand herself as special, as unique - doing something no other women were capable of.  Instead, Polgar suggests that all women can compete successfully with men, if they simply have the ambition and drive to work at it.  

    Regarding Polgar's support of women in chess:

    Polgar is very supportive of women in chess.  But it is true that she is not supportive of women's chess.  Think about that for a minute. Two different things.  Once you realize the difference, you'll start to realize how patronizing the term women's chess and the title of women's world champion really are. 

    Why do so few women succeed in chess?  I have my own theories, but I'd rather not publically speculate - other than to say that I do NOT believe it's because they can't.

  • 3 years ago

    FM CharlyAZ

    If I'm allowed, Laughing I would like to point out that this interview was a combined effort of three websites, Crestbook.com, ChessInTranslation.com (the Colin "mishamp" McGourty's website) and AjedrezDeEntrenamiento.com, (my website), not only Crestbook as stated here. Wink

    A translation to Spanish of this interview (in three parts) is in this address:

    (UNA TRADUCCION AL ESPAÑOL DE ESTA ENTREVISTA ESTA EN LA SIGUIENTE DIRECCIÓN)

    http://ajedrezdeentrenamiento.com/entrevista-de-los-lectores-a-judit-polgar-primera-parte/

    Regards!

  • 3 years ago

    litevibe

    Elubas, you make some valid points.  On the other hand I do believe that Judit deserves a little more credit than the average; because of the above average effort she has always made to support and promote chess.

  • 3 years ago

    Elubas

    I don't think anyone should be acting as if they know the reason for the disparity. Social tradition or values probably have a lot to do with it. For me that's not the issue. My problem is that it seems like you can do the same thing a man does, and get more recognition and praise for it because you are a woman. In most of the 2012 tata steel interviews on youtube, there are often no comments, or very few, because a chess tournament is esoteric. But Tania Sachdev gets like 15 comments -- stuff like "she's so pretty" and "she's so cute." I agree, those qualities are pleasant, but they're too superficial to do anything to make you a better person. Whenever a cute girl says something otherwise normal, it's thought to be extraordinary. Tania pretty much said the same kind of stuff that all the men did; they are typical quick reflections of their game and tournament. Tania just says them in good english, with cute mannerisms and a cute voice and all of a sudden her interview is more popular.

    Judit is exceptional as far as gender goes. But so what? Who says that exception must be significant? I don't think it has to be! To me, she's just another human who is really successful at chess; she shouldn't get any more or less praise than usual. Less of those humans are women, but so what? As long as they're all humans, it doesn't make much of a difference in my eyes.

  • 3 years ago

    Frittles

    Cool article, games and video, though I think it's weird she thinks women have as much of a chance at this game as guys do just because she's successful at it. That's decidedly unegomaniacal for her to not admit she's an anomaly: she's been over 100 points higher than the women's number two at some points.  There are differences in men's and women's brain chemistry and organization that leads to men doing better than women in Chess as a whole, just like men are generally better in math and women are generally better at emotional intelligences, for example.  It's not simply that there isn't enough participation or interest from women in the Chess world. 

  • 3 years ago

    gvanderford

    Thanks Roger, don't know how I missed that!

  • 3 years ago

    Zsofia_D

    how cool! my name is sofia too.

  • 3 years ago

    drumdaddy

    Judit's website is very interesting and tastefully done. I enjoyed this lovely video there.

    http://www.juditpolgar.com/chess-playground

  • 3 years ago

    litevibe

    Thank you Judit!  You are a great benefactor and promoter of chess.  All of us in the chess world benefit from your efforts.

  • 3 years ago

    nebunulpecal

    "She has too much ego for this game."

    Well... I think she has the RIGHT amount of ego required by chess. Wink

  • 3 years ago

    Elubas

    I get the feeling that the make-up covered Polgar's are more well-liked than male grandmasters of equal strength. The music and the focus on their looks makes me think they think we need a chess princess. We don't. I appreciate her as another person who managed to make it to a very high level of chess, but she shouldn't be embraced anymore, or less, than others.

    Maybe I'm just making too many assumptions, but I don't know.

  • 3 years ago

    idbtc

    she doesn't play against women. I think the article is a bit offbase to present her in this positive light on women chess when she doesn't come across as supportive of women in this game at all. She has too much ego for this game.

  • 3 years ago

    arthurqq

    Amazing Games. Amazing player. Excellent interview. Games worth studying intently

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