Judit Polgár


Judit Polgár : biography

23 July 1976 –

Polgár has spoken of appreciating the psychological aspect of chess. She has stated preferring to learn an opponent’s style so she can play intentionally against him rather than playing "objective" chess. In her 2002 victory over Kasparov, she deliberately chose a line Kasparov used against Vladimir Kramnik, employing the strategy of forcing the opponent to "play against himself". Kasparov’s response was inadequate and he soon found himself in an inferior position. In an interview regarding playing against computers she said, "Chess is 30 to 40% psychology. You don’t have this when you play a computer. I can’t confuse it."


Polgár has rarely played in women’s-specific tournaments or divisions and has never competed for the Women’s World Championship. "I always say that women should have the self-confidence that they are as good as male players, but only if they are willing to work and take it seriously as much as male players," she said. While László Polgár has been credited with being an excellent chess coach, Pandolfini, chess author and coach, writes "Judit Polgár is simply the strongest female chess player in history." the Polgárs had also employed professional chessplayers to train their daughters, including Hungarian champion IM Tibor Florian, GM Pal Benko and Russian GM Alexander Chernin. Susan Polgár, the eldest of the sisters, 5½ years older than Sophia and 7 years older than Judit, was the first of the sisters to achieve prominence in chess by winning tournaments and by 1986 she was the world’s top-rated female chess player. Initially, being the youngest, Judit was separated from her sisters while they were in training. However, this only served to increase Judit’s curiosity. After learning the rules, they discovered Judit was able to find solutions to the problems they were studying and she began to be invited into the group. One evening Susan was studying an endgame with their trainer, a strong International Master. Unable to find the solution they woke Judit, who was asleep in bed and carried her into the training room. Still half asleep, Judit showed them how to solve the problem, after which they put her back to bed. László Polgár’s experiment would produce a family of one international master and two grandmasters and would strengthen the argument for nurture over nature, but also prove women could be grandmasters of chess. Note: From article The Expert Mind by Philip E. Ross Aug 2006 issue. The Ross article uses the wording "proves" nurture over nature.

Child prodigy

Trained in her early years by her sister Susan, who ultimately became Women’s World Champion, Judit Polgár was a prodigy from an early age. At age five she defeated a family friend without looking at the board. After the game the friend joked, "You are good at chess, but I’m a good cook." Judit replied, "Do you cook without looking at the stove?" However, according to Susan, Judit was not the sister with the most talent, explaining "Judit was a slow starter, but very hard-working." Polgár described herself at that age as "obsessive" about chess. She first defeated an International Master, Dolfi Drimer, at age 10, and a grandmaster, Lev Gutman, at age 11.

Judit started playing in tournaments at six years old and by age nine her rating with the Hungarian Chess Federation was 2080. She was a member of the chess club in Budapest where she would get experience from master level players. In 1984 in Budapest, Sophia and Judit, at the time nine and seven years of age respectively, played two games of blindfold chess against two masters which they won. At one point, the girls complained that one of their opponents was playing too slowly and suggested a clock should be used.

In April 1986, nine-year-old Judit played in her first rated tournament in the U.S., finishing first in the unrated section of the New York Open, winning $1,000. All three Polgár sisters competed. Susan, 16, competed in the grandmaster section and had a victory against GM Walter Browne and Sophia, 11, finished second in her section, but Judit gathered most of the attention in the tournament. Grandmasters would drop by to watch the serious, quiet child playing. She won her first seven games before drawing the final game. Although the unrated section had many of the weaker players in the Open, it also had players of expert strength, who were foreign to the United States and had not been rated yet. Milorad Boskovic related a conversation with Judit’s sixth-round opponent, a Yugoslav player he knew to be a strong expert, "He told me he took some chances in the game because he couldn’t believe she was going to attack so well." Not able to speak English, her mother translated as she told a reporter her goal was to be a chess professional. When the reporter asked her if she would be world champion one day, Judit answered, "I will try."