Sunday, September 30, 2007
AP News and International Herald Tribune
Speaking at the Department of Education in Mexico with the Secretary of Education
Release Date: 09/30/2007 08:16 AM
Susan Polgar breaks stereotypes as female chess champion, LA
By MIGUEL ALVARO SARMIENTO
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Susan Polgar discovered chess by accident as a child and has kept stereotypes about female players and gender discrimination in a double check ever since.
"I was 4 years old ... and searching for a new toy at home, and I kind of stumbled on a chess set," the grand master told The Associated Press in Mexico City, where she was attending the World Chess Championship that ended Sunday. "I just got curious about it, and my father taught me."
Polgar, a U.S. citizen born in Hungary in 1969, won her first international title at age 12. In 1982 she won her first World Chess Championship in her age category. Despite being the youngest player, she won all 10 of her matches and her career took off.
Over her three-decade-plus career, Polgar has toppled barriers restricting women's access to international tournaments.
In 1986 she became the first woman to qualify for the men's World Chess Championship by winning 15 qualifying rounds — the last of them a four-hour match against grand master Levente Lengyel that was over in just 30 moves.
Rules barring women kept her out of the championship that year, but her achievement led the International Chess Federation, FIDE, to open the tournament to women the following year.
"I felt like I was breaking into an 'old boys' club", Polgar said.
In 1991, Polgar became the first woman to win the title of grand master in competition against men and with standard scoring. Two women had previously received the title by winning female-only championships.
In 1994 she emigrated to the United States and two years later became the first chess player of either sex to win the triple crown of international tournaments: the World Blitz and the Rapid and Classical World Championships.
After a brief retirement, Polgar began competing again in 2003 and soon qualified as the best player in the U.S. The United States Chess Federation named her "grand master of the year" for her lifetime achivemtents.
Polgar represented the United States in the 2004 Chess Olympics in Mallorca, Spain, helping the U.S. team to its first silver medal. She also won three individual gold medals.
A year later, Polgar broke four world records in a single event in Palm Beach, Florida, including the greatest number of games played simultaneously: 326.
Shifting away from major competition, Polgar turned to education through chess — a game she says helps children improve their concentration and discipline, "to learn to make decisions and to think before acting."
She took part in a Scottish program in 2005 that showed chess can help improve children's ability to calculate and featured in a recent British television series, "My Brilliant Brain," which mapped her thought patterns and brain activity.
On the Web:
Susan Polgar's Official Site: http://www.susanpolgar.com/indexone.html
My Brilliant Brain: http://www.tvthrong.co.uk/my-brilliant-brain/my-brilliant-brain-ond ay-july-16
Source: AP and IHT