Judit Polgar

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Biography of Judit Polgar, Hungarian chess player, possibly the best chess player in history.

Hungarian chess player Judit Polgar wins

In the 1996 world ranking she was the only woman who managed to be among the top ten chess players in the world. Never before has a woman achieved this sensational ranking.

In September 2002, the “Third Russian Chess Tournament against the rest of the World” took place in Moscow.

Such was the Russian power in this sport, that its great champions could afford to challenge chess players from all other countries.

Among these countries was Hungary, which had Judit Polgar, a 26-year-old young woman on its team. The tournament took place in 10 rounds, from September 8 to September 11, 2002.

Judit Polgar and Kasparov
Judit Polgar faced Garri Kasparov. Credit: youtube

In round 5, Grandmaster Garry Kaspárov (considered by many to be the best chess player in history) faced off with Judit Polgar. Shortly before, a nonchalant Kasparov had said: “She has a fantastic talent for chess; but, after all, she is a woman. No woman can sustain a protracted battle“.

Judit Polgar defeated the great Kasparov

After movement 45, Kasparov gave up, got up, shook the young woman’s hand, and left. It was very clear that there was no point in continuing to play.

The giant Kasparov was angry and it was no wonder: this time, little David was shaped like a woman.

Grand Master Kasparov. Credit: Wikipedia. Elke wetzig

The incredible triumph of young Judit Polgar, having defeated the Grand Master, no less than in Moscow and in the surroundings of the first great match of the 21st century, was a historic moment for her, for her family, especially for her father and for all the women who started to practice this sport.

Father Judit Polgar
The visionary father of Judit Polgar, the teacher Lászlo Polgar. Credit: Wikipedia

Childhood of the notable Hungarian chess player

Judit Polgar was born in Budapest on July 23, 1976. Her parents, Lászlo and Klara had three daughters: Susan, Sofía and Judit.

They decided to educate them themselves without sending them to school. They had the idea that any healthy child can become incredibly successful in any field if he is taught early to strive and reflect with joy.

They only went to school once a year, for the compulsory exams. Lászlo and Klara were school teachers and they organized an educational program at home where chess took pride of place.

All three girls became formidable players.

3 sisters
Sofia, Judit and Susan at a chess tournament in Central Park, New York, on July 4, 1988. Credit: Wikipedia. R. Cottrell

Judit Polgar’s sisters

The eldest of the sisters, Susan, became a GM, Grand Chess Master. She was nationalized in the United States and is one of the largest disseminators of the game in the world.

The middle-aged Sofia did not devote herself professionally to chess. She came to the IM category, International Chess Master.

Judit, the little one, at the age of 12, defeated a Grand Master. In 1992, at just over 15 years old, she became the youngest GM in history. Later, the successes happened without stopping.

Following their parents’ advice, none of the three sisters ever agreed to compete in all-female chess championships.

The whole family always opposed discrimination against women in the noble sport of chess. Women are not inferior in intelligence to men.

The Polgar sisters always competed in absolute tournaments, where Elo’s number matters, not age or sex.

The Elo is a universal measure in chess and reflects the competitive importance of a player. A very good player has 2000 Elo; a great player 2200: and Magnus Carlsen 2780, the highest. If a player wins official tournaments, his score increases; if he loses, he drops his Elo.

Judit Polgar at world chess competitions

In 1987 Judit Polgar was forced to play the Women’s U-14 World Championship and won it.

She was eleven years old, and her Elo was already 2355. The 2355 Elo that Judit had when she was eleven years old is really something very exceptional.

Sofia and Judit Polgar
Judit and Sofia in 1988, during the Chess Olympiad, in Thessalonica. Credit: Wikipedia. GF Hund

Judit’s opponents have been world champions Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Boris Spassky, Vasily Smyslov, Veselin Topalov, Viswanathan Anand, Alexander Khalifman, Ruslan Ponomariov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Gata Kamsky and Alexei Shirov.

When she was just 19 years old, Judit had an Elo of 2735 and ranked number 8 in the world.

Judit Polgar’s remarkable career in chess

Judit Polgar’s professional career is impressive. It started in 1990 when she won the Gold Medal at the “Novi Sad Olympiad” in Yugoslavia. She was also the Children’s World Champion in Wisconsin.

In 1991 Judit Polgar was the Absolute Champion of Hungary. She was awarded the title of Grand Master, the youngest GM in chess history.

She finished second in the Madrid and New York tournaments in 1992.

In 1993, she finished first in the tournament in Hastings, England; she was second in the Dos Hermanas tournament in Spain. She defeated former world champion Borís Spassky in a duel by 4.5-3.5.

The following year, she achieved the best female result in chess history. She won the Community of Madrid Tournament and finished undefeated. She was consolidated among the 15 best boards in the world.

In the years 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 she continued to accumulate wins. On some occasions she defeated emblematic figures of world chess, such as Boris Spassky, Timman and Viswanathan Anand.

Family life of this remarkable sportwoman

In 2000, she married the distinguished veterinary doctor, Gustav Font. Four years later, Judit temporarily interrupted her chess career, to give birth to her son Oliver; and again in 2006 when her daughter Hanna was born.

Judit and her son
Judit Polgar with her son Oliver in 2010. Credit: twitter.com/juditpolgar

In October 2008, Judit Polgar was ranked 27th in the world according to the FIDE classification (which includes men and women). Her Elo score was 2711.

Judit Polgar is the only woman who managed to be in the top ten chess players in the world ranking.

This remarkable Hungarian chess player succeeded Vera Menchik in recognizing the chess world of women’s ability to succeed in international chess competitions.

In August 2014, shortly after earning the silver medal at the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway, Judit Polgar retired from competitive chess.

With more time, she devoted herself to other activities related to chess: simultaneous exhibitions, conferences, talks and popular articles.

Judit Polgar library
Judit Polgar dedicated to the spread of chess in schools. Credit: web juditpolgar.com

Also in 2014 the “Judit Polgar Chess Foundation” opened. Its objective is to bring chess to schools around the world, as an educational tool.

The three Polgár sisters

In 1988, when Zsuzsan was 19, Zsófia 14 and Judit 12, the three sisters competed as a team in the “Women’s World Olympics” held in Thessaloniki, Greece. They achieved the first victory in the history of Hungary over the favorite Soviet players.

The following year, in 1989, Zsófia revolutionized the chess world at the “Rome Tournament”, in which several GMs (“Grand Masters”) participated. The girl obtained a result of 8.5 out of 9, which gave her an ELO of 2735.

The three sisters repeated their great triumph as a team at the 1990 “World Olympics for Women”.

In 1996, Zsuzsan won the “Women’s World Chess Championship”.

Currently, Zsuzsan lives in the United States (Texas) and participates actively in promoting chess among children. She directs the “Zsuzsan Polgár Institute” dedicated to achieving Excellence in Chess.

Zsuzsan Polgár also promotes college chess from “Webster University” in St. Louis, with a college chess program, which is number one in the United States.

Like her sisters, Zsófia achieved fantastic results in chess competitions. In July 1984, she was at the top of the FIDE ranking of female chess players.

Great triumphs followed in 1989 (Rome), 1994 and 1996. In 1996 she won the world title of chess champion.

She has also been an Olympic champion three times at the “Chess Olympics”, and has won medals six times.

Zsófia Polgár is the only person who won the title of chess champion in classical and rapid chess (25 minutes). In October 2005 she obtained an ELO of 2577, making her the second woman in the world ranking, behind her sister Judit Polgár.

Zsófia is married to GM Yona Kosashvili, lives in the United States, teaches chess and is a renowned painter.

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