Judit Polgar Interview
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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 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
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
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.