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Judit Polgar: The Princess of Chess

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Title: Judit Polgar: The Princess of Chess Author: Tibor Károlyi
Language: English Pages: 288
Cover: Paperback Published: 2004
Publisher: Batsford Homepage:
Price: Ł 15,99 ISBN: 0-7134-8890-5
Reviewed by: Pelle Bank Date: 23/10 2004

Judit Polgar: The Princess of Chess

A few years ago a Danish chess organizer asked me a question: "Which of the top players in the world should I invite to my tournament in order to get as much publicity as possible?" My answer as a TV reporter was simple: "Invite Judit Polgar. If she plays in your Tournament, the Press will come."

Perhaps my answer was a bit harsh, but it was more or less the truth. Since chess is boring to look at for everyone, who does not play the game, it is important for the Press, that there is a story to tell about the players. Unfortunately most grandmasters are so boring, that no one outside the chess world wants to write about them, but with Judit Polgar it is different. She is a woman. She is the only one to beat the guys.  She is young. She is good looking. She was brought up as social experiment to become a professional chess player. She is a great story!

This biography is written by Tibor Károlyi a former trainer of the Polgar sisters. In the 1980s he was Zouzsa's training partner and met Judit first, when she was just a sweet little girl. Tibor Károlyi has spent much time with the family, but in this book he
carefully avoids to reveal any private details of the family life. It is a book about Judit Polgar as a chess player not as a human being.

"In this book I concentrate on Judit's Chess. I intentionally did not contact her while writing this book. I could have. For me it has always been fun to talk to her. The reason is simple, when I analyse her games I try to forget that I know her personally." Tibor Károlyi


An Early Start

According to Tibor Károlyi he has examined all of Judit's games! He has selected 89 for this book. The first game is from 1984, when Judit was only 9 yeas old.

I. Balogh - J. Polgar
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Be2? Nf6 6.0-0 e5! 7.c4 Qd8?! 8.d3 Bd6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bxf6 Qxf6 12.Ne4? Qd8 13.Nxd6 Qxd6 14.a3 Bf5 15.Qc2  Rad8 16.Rad1 a6 17.h3 Qe7!!
    Tibor Károlyi has an annoying habit. He tends to give far too many exclamation marks.

18.Rfe1 Rd6! 19.Bf1 Rg6! 20.Kh2 Re6 21.Nd2 Nd4 22.Qc3 Qg5! 23.Re3 Qf4+ 24. Kg1 Rg6 25.g3

25...Bxh3?!! 26.Bxh3 Rxg3!! 27.Bg2?? Rxe3 28.Kf1 Qg4 0-1

Well played indeed for a girl at the age of nine. According to the author the Polgar sisters were able to calculate much better than ordinary players at an early stage. Tibor Károlyi has an interesting explanation, that is new too me. He likes to compare learning chess to learning a language. One has to start early to speak a language like the mother tongue. After one passes a certain age, one can no longer pick up different accents and is more likely to make small mistakes. Because of the way Judit Polgar was brought up, she developed this level of native language in the context of chess.


The most Beautiful Game Ever Played by a Woman?

J. Polgar - V. Anand
Dos Hermanas 1999
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.g4 e5 8.Nf5 g6 9.g5  gxf5 10.exf5 d5 11.Qf3 d4 12.0-0-0 Nbd7 13.Bd2 dxc3 14.Bxc3 Bg7 15.Rg1 0-0 16. gxf6 Dxf6 17.Qe3!! Kh8 18.f4 Qb6? 19.Qg3 Qh6

20.Rd6!! f6 21.Bd2 e4 22.Bc4 b5 23.Be6 Ra7 24.Rc6 a5 25.Be3 Rb7 26.Bd5 Rb8 27. Rc7 b4

   Black has almost all his pieces on the board, but now he is in Zugzwang.

28...Rb5 29.Bc6 Rxf5 30.Rxc8 Rxc8 31.Bxd7 Rcc5 32.Bxf5 Rxf5 33.Rd1 Kg8 34.Qg2 1-0

Tibor Károlyi believes that this game is the most beautiful ever played by a woman. He may be right. Of cause this game and all the others are analyzed very carefully in the book. But I still can't help thinking that there is something missing. Even though the author has been very close to the Polgars once, he does not succeed bringing the reader close, neither to the family or the action on the chess board. He has studied Judit's game against Anand, but he cannot tell us, how she prepared. How she felt during the game, or whether she consider it to be her best game ever.

This is not at all a bad chess book. It is a nice collection of some of Judit Polgar's best games since she was nine yeas old. The author used to be a training partner for the Polgar Sisters. He has studied all of Judit's games, but he has not contacted her before writing her biography.

Unfortunately the book does not bring us much closer to the interesting story of the Polgar family. I should like to know whether the sisters today consider themselves lucky to be brought up as chess players. But the answer to that question, and many others, is still blowing in the wind.



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