Judit Polgár

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Judit Polgár : biography

23 July 1976 –

In late 1986, ten-year-old Judit defeated 52-year-old Romanian IM Dolfi Drimer in the Adsteam Lidums International Tournament in Adelaide, Australia. Edmar Mednis said he played his best game of the tournament against Judit. "I was careful in that game", he said. "Grandmasters don’t like to lose to 10-year-old girls, because then we make the front page of all the papers."

In 1988, Judit and her sisters along with Ildikó Mádl, represented Hungary in the Women’s section of the 28th Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki. The International Chess Federation would not permit the Polgárs to play against men in team competitions. Prior to the tournament, Eduard Gufeld, Soviet GM and team coach for the Soviet women’s team, dismissed the Polgárs. "I believe that these girls are going to lose a good part of their quickly acquired image in the 28th Olympiad", he said. "Afterward we are going to know if the Hungarian sisters are geniuses or just women!" However, Hungary’s women’s team won the championship, which marked the first time it was not won by the Soviet Union. Judit played board 2 and finished the tournament with the highest score of 12½–½ to win the individual gold medal. She also won the brilliancy prize for her game against Pavlina Angelova.

Also in 1988, Polgár won the under-12 "Boys" section of the World Youth Chess and Peace Festival in Timişoara, Romania. In October 1988, Polgár finished first in a 10-player round-robin tournament in London, scoring 7–2, for a half point lead over Israeli GM Yair Kraidman. note: Day incorrectly gives Judit’s age as 10. Score of Polgár–Hennigen game is provided with brief analysis. In 1988, she made her first International Master norm in the International B section of the New York Open and by November 1988 she was awarded the IM title, at the time the youngest ever to have achieved the distinction. Both Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov were 14 when they were awarded the title. Polgár was 12. It was during this time that former World Champion Mikhail Tal said Polgár had the potential to win the men’s World Championship.

Judit was asked about playing against boys instead of the girls’ section of tournaments. "These other girls are not serious about chess", she said. "I practice five or six hours a day. But they get distracted by cooking and work around the house." By age 12, she was rated 2555, which was 35 rating points ahead of the Women’s World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze. Judit’s quiet and modest demeanour at the board contrasted with the intensity of her playing style. David Norwood, British GM, in recalling Judit beating him when he was an established player and she was just a child, described her as, "this cute little auburn-haired monster who crushed you." British journalist Dominic Lawson wrote about 12-year-old Judit’s "killer" eyes and how she would stare at her opponent. "The irises are so grey so dark they are almost indistinguishable from the pupils. Set against her long red hair, the effect is striking."

Before age 13 she had broken into the top 100 players in the world and the British Chess Magazine declared, "Judit Polgár’s recent results make the performances of Fischer and Kasparov at a similar age pale by comparison." British GM Nigel Short called Judit "one of the three or four greatest chess prodigies in history." The other great chess prodigies being Paul Morphy, José Capablanca and Samuel Reshevsky. However, not everyone was as enthusiastic and she also had to face prejudice because of her sex. "She has fantastic chess talent", said Kasparov. "but she is, after all, a woman. It all comes down to the imperfections of the feminine psyche. No woman can sustain a prolonged battle." However, Kasparov revised that opinion after his playing career was over, writing that "the Polgars showed that there are no inherent limitations to their aptitude – an idea that many male players refused to accept until they had unceremoniously been crushed by a twelve-year-old with a ponytail."