Interviews

interviewGrandmaster Susan Polgar has had numerous interviews conducted by various sources. These personal reflections about her present, past, and chess action are fascinating in their depth and detail. The interviews are very lengthy and ask important and passionate questions that reveal her intentions, past and present struggles, and future commitments and goals. Below are just a few of the many interviews Susan has had over the years. Enjoy these wonderful interviews!

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Julian Schuster first heard the rumor a year and a half ago. Susan Polgar, the legendary grand master known to journalists as “the Queen,” was unhappy in her current position as Texas Tech’s chess coach. She was feeling unappreciated. She had made this known to certain people in the tight-knit world of chess, and the news had traveled from one of these confidants, a foreign grand master living in Texas, to the ears of Schuster, a passionate fan of the game, in St. Louis.

He knew her story, of course; it had achieved the status of legend. Her father raised her and her two sisters to be chess prodigies. In the 1980s, the three Polgar sisters began showing up at tournaments and crushing all comers, men and women alike. At age 21, Susan, the eldest of the three, became the first woman to earn the title of grand master in the way men always had, by proving she could hold her own in competition against other grand masters. Once, over the course of 16 hours and 30 minutes, she played 326 chess games simultaneously, winning 309 of them—a world record at the time. She blazed a trail for women in the game.

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It hardly seemed fair. Hungarian-born Susan Polgár—who brought home the U.S.’s first Chess Olympiad medal and ranked among the top three women players in the world for 24 years—was hired by Texas Tech University in 2007 to create a chess program. She set to work, establishing the Susan Polgár Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) and assembling a team. Four years later, Texas Tech won the 2011 Final Four—the World Series of collegiate chess—defeating long-established powerhouses.

Then, less than a year later, in February 2012, Polgár announced that she and her entire team would move to St. Louis. In April, the team won its second—and last—national championship for Texas Tech. Now Webster University, at least on paper, has the top-ranked team in the nation.

Logo-GothamistQuestion: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring chess players or those who’ve yet to pick up their first pawn?
Susan: Chess can be the coolest game and it can give you lots of fun! Just learn one step at the time and soon you will master the entire board!
Question: How have computers and technology affected the world of chess – have they been a positive or negative thing?
Susan: Computers affected chess greatly. Some say it is good and some say it takes away from the game. I personally think it helps the game if we utilize them the right way. I welcome the new technology.
Question: You began playing chess at a very early age, and won the world under 11 girls championship at the age of 4. What age would you recommend for kids to start learning chess? Have you taught your own sons to play?
Susan:I think it depends on the child. Some can start at 4 years old while others are better off starting at 5 years old but anywhere between 4-6 is fine. Both my sons started around 4 years old.

chessvillecolumQuestion: Your domestic situation as a child was certainly unusual, if not unique, growing up with two such talented chess siblings. Did you understand at the time how unusual this was?
Susan: One thing that most people forget is I was already very strong when my sisters started to play chess. I am 5.5 and 7 years older than Sofia and Judit. Therefore, I played more of a big sister role helping my younger sisters. It was not until much later that we can all enjoy top level chess together. I am very proud of both of them. Our first major success together as a family came at the 1988 Olympiad when we did the unthinkable by winning the Gold medal, ending the Soviet dominance in Women’s Olympiad. I never really thought about how unique this situation was until later.
Question: Your professional life seems completely committed to stimulating chess development in the USA. What single factor would most further this development? What most hinders it?
Susan: My dream is to revolutionize chess for the better. Chess is the most incredible game which brings so much pleasure as well as benefits. The single most important factor to further this development is to surround myself with competent, creative, and passionate people who love chess such as my friends Paul Truong (Captain of the 2004 U.S. Women’s Olympiad Team), Frank Niro (former ED of the USCF), and many others. What would hinder my goals is money. If we don’t succeed in doing sufficient fundraising for our initiatives, it will slow things down.
Question: Paint us a picture of what you want to have achieved in chess five years from now. What steps are necessary to bring this about?
Susan:I want to see chess in America and chess as a whole change for the better. I am working hard toward bringing more interest, enthusiasm, and excitement into chess in the mainstream media / audience. I am also working to bring chess to TV full time. I would like for chess to become successful, like the World Poker Tour.

chessbase-shop-logoQuestion: You have shown that you are still in top form. Do you plan to play active chess again or will you disappear for another 8-9 years?
Susan: Well, I am not going to play in a regular full time schedule. My two young children are on the top of my priorities. However, I will probably play in very selective events if the circumstances are right. I would definitely like to play very interesting matches to promote chess, such as the one I played against former World Champion Anatoly Karpov.
Question: Who would you consider to be the future of Women’s Chess?
Susan: There are many young talented young female players out there. The question is how motivated will they be to continue to train hard to reach the highest level. I would say these young players have a lot of potentials: Humpy Koneru, Zhao Xue, Tatiana Kosintseva, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Nana Dzagnidze, Kateryna Lahno, and Anna Muzychuk, etc. There are many more.
Question: What about your teammates, and the performance of the US “Dream Team” back in the 2004 Olympiad?
Susan: I am half disappointed and half happy with our team results. We needed this medal to help boost US Chess. It created a lot of excitement in America. It also paid off dividends for our sponsors especially the Kasparov Chess Foundation for believing in us and sponsoring us. It was nearly two years of hard work finally paying off. This was the first ever Women’s Team medal for the US Women and I am glad I could bring home the first ever individual Gold for America as well.