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Interview with Susan Polgar (by Natalia Pogonina)

User Rating: / 13
Written by Natalia Pogonina   
Monday, 05 October 2009


Grandmaster Susan Polgar, the first woman in history to break the gender barrier by qualifying for the 1986 Men's World Championship and earning the Grandmaster title in 1991. She became the #1 ranked woman player in the world at the age of 15 and remained in the top 3 for nearly 23 straight years. Polgar went on to win ten Olympic medals (5 Gold, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze) and four Womens World Championships.

  • Winner of 4 Womens World Championships

  • The only World Champion in history (male or female) to win the Triple-Crown     (Rapid, Blitz and Classical World Championships)

  • 5-time Olympic Champion with 10 overall medals Never been defeated in Olympiad     competition (5 Gold, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze)

  • Currently hold a record 56 consecutive Olympiad game scoring streak without a loss
  • 2006 Womens World Chess Cup Champion
  • Currently hold a record 56 consecutive Olympiad game scoring streak without a loss
  • Currently hold 4 world records for simultaneous chess exhibition

You can find more details about Susan at her website. All photos in the interview are courtesy of Susan Polgar.

The Polgar sisters are role models for all the girls who like chess, so I have always wanted to ask them to share some insight on the game, lifestyle, chess politics, etc. Therefore, I was very glad when grandmaster Susan Polgar recently agreed to give an interview for & share the questions with her famous sisters. Here's the first part of the interview (Susan's answers):

1)    The public is always hoping that top players will return (Susan and Sofia are currently listed as inactive, Judit rarely participates in classical events Is a comeback possible in your case?


Everything is possible. I enjoy playing. However, I have basically done everything I set out to do as a chess player. Now, some of my main areas of focus include: promoting chess in education, popularizing chess in general especially among girls, improving playing conditions and bringing in more sponsors for our professional players, and cleaning up chess corruption in the United States, etc.

2)    What is your favorite time control?


It does not really matter to me. I won the Womens World Championship in Classical, Rapid, and Blitz format. I am fine with any time control.

3)    Best game played by you?


Many but if I have to pick one, probably the one against GM Maia Chiburdanidze at the 2004 Calvia Olympiad.

4)    How do you treat your opponents: killer instinct, love, play against the pieces, etc.? Do you have good friends among women chess players?


I dont focus on who is sitting across from me. I play the position on the board. I have many friends but I dont want to offend anyone by accidentally leaving any name out.

5)    Who is your favorite in the Anand-Topalov match?


I have known both of them for over 20 years. I would like to see a good, clean, and exciting match. The chess world deserves this and I think it will be a very exciting match. I also think it will be a close match. It will all come down to preparation and their team of seconds and nerves.

6)    What influenced your chess career most: talent, environment, or hard work?


Hard work, hard work, and more hard work. I was also lucky to have supportive parents even though they are not really chess players. My Dad was an average amateur and my Mom did not even play chess when I started.

7)    Do you think physical condition matters a lot for chess players? How do/did you exercise physically when preparing for chess tournaments?


Physical training is very important to me. I like to jog and hit the gym. Being physically fit is vital.

8)    Are you satisfied with what you have attained in chess, or do you still have some unrealized goals?


On a personal level, I am basically done. However, I still have many goals to help chess.

9)    Your attitude towards the Caissa award


It is fine. However, I prefer to focus and recognize the younger girls, not professional players. If women chess wants to grow, we must start from the ground up and not from the top down. This is why I organize 3 major tournaments for girls each year:


  1. Annual Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls (most prestigious all-girls national championship in the U.S.)
  2. Annual Susan Polgar National Open for Girls
  3. Annual Susan Polgar World Open for Girls

My foundation has awarded over $1 million in chess scholarships in the past 6 years.


10)    What is the best world championship system? Match, knock-out, round-robin, etc.? And what about women world championship?


I think knockout is the worst system. This has the biggest luck factor and the champion receives little respect. I prefer the old system of Zonal, Interzonal, Candidates matches, and the World Championship match. Round robin is also interesting but the fans want to see a match to decide the champion.

11)    Whom do you consider to be the most promising young women chess players? Do you think they will be able to play at mens level?

There are many good young female players: Hou Yifan, Humpy Koneru, Anna Muzychuk, Tatiana Kosintseva, etc. If they want to be in the top 10 among men, they still have to work a lot harder.


12)    People say that chess players reach their peak at 35-40, and then hardly progress due to lack of energy, etc. Do you agree with this statement?

I am not sure if they peak at 35-40. But most people who are at that age are usually not as motivated to train as hard as a 16 year old. There is a lot more pressure dealing with family, money, life, etc. Korchnoi proves that he can play good chess at any age.


13)    Do you like Fischer 960? Is it a decent alternative to classical chess?
I like Fischer 960 a lot. I was one of the people who worked with him at the initial stages of the game on how to set up the rules. We played many 960 games together. In fact, I believe the most popular picture of Fischer playing 960 was with me. I have never seen a picture of him playing 960 with anyone else.

14)    Your hobbies?

Too many. I love to travel, cook, workout, watch good movies, play sports, etc.


15)    Do your kids play chess? How good are they?

My elder son has the strength of around 1900. He is 10. My younger son who is 8 prefers to play the piano. I let them choose what they want to be involved in.


16)    Do you think women (in general, not individuals) could play at mens level? Should they?

Yes, they can but not unless they train as hard as men. You cannot train 50% as hard and expect the same result.


17)    What impact did chess have on your life?

Chess is a part of my life. It has always been and will always be.


18)    Should chess keep trying to become an Olympic sport?

It would be nice if it could be. But I dont think it will be any time soon.


19)    What are the most effective ways of promoting chess?

Promote it often and consistently. Give a clear message about why people should play chess. This is not a one day job. Many of my sponsors are not chess related.


20)    What would you wish to young girls just starting to study chess?

Have lots of fun!  I do. If you do not love what you do then there is no reason to do it.

Thank you for answering my questions, Susan. My warm regards to Judit and Sofia!

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Comments (8)
1. Written by on 08:02 05 2009 .
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2. Written by on 10:11 05 2009 .
3. Written by on 03:28 06 2009 .
4. Written by Mikhail Koganov on 02:29 08 2009 .
US National Master.
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5. Written by on 17:58 10 2009 .

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6. Written by Russian on 01:12 11 2009 .
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Mr. Maliksky, do not worry. The free market will soon destroy the chess culture at Ukraine and their standards willl be like in USA.
7. Written by Mikhail Koganov on 13:31 12 2009 .
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8. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 06:20 31 2012 .
Ah yes, nicely put, erveoyne.

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