Susan Polgar must have felt like a movie star at the Hyatt Regency here on Saturday evening. People wanted to take photographs with her and journalists wanted to speak to her.
She may not be in the movies, but she is a star, alright, in women’s chess. She became the World No. 1 when she was 15, she has been the World champion, has won 10 medals at the Chess Olympiad — mostly for Hungary, and taught the opening moves to the finest female player of all time, Judit Polgar, her kid sister.
She is in Chennai as a commentator for the World championship. “I enjoyed my stint as a commentator today, but I lost my voice for a while after it though,” she says smiling. “Yes, I was a bit surprised with Carlsen’s choice of opening today, but wasn’t surprised that they agreed to a draw in that position.”
Carlsen’s last tournament before coming to Chennai was at St. Louis, Missouri, USA, where Susan now lives. “He was devastating in that event, the Sinquefield Cup, which he won by two points,” she says. “I was quite impressed by his energy; he came to my Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Webster University and played basketball and football. He is quite good at football, you know.”
She says Carlsen is incredibly strong, but Anand has the game and the experience to stop him. “I am happy to be here for this match,” she said.
“The match is generating tremendous amount of interest across the globe, because of Carlsen and the fact that it is being held in Anand’s hometown. The estimate is that over one billion people would be following the game online,” she says.
Susan is a contemporary of Anand, and has played with him. “He impressed me from the beginning,” she said. “I remember being punished severely by him for making a (questionable) gambit in my opening in a tournament way back in 1990.”
She rates India’s best female player Koneru Humpy highly too. “Humpy is a potential World champion,” she says. “She is very strong, but she has to be psychologically even stronger at the World championships.”
Looking back at her own World championship victory over China’s Xie Jun in 1996, she says it was one of the high points of her career. “Though I won 8.5-4.5, it was lot closer than that,” she recalls. “Yes, I was disappointed that I wasn’t given an opportunity by FIDE to defend my title.”
Susan is proud of Judit, one of the most remarkable women ever, in any sport. She has beaten men’s legends such as Garry Kasparov, Anand and Karpov.
Judit, though, doesn’t compete in the women’s World championship.
“I feel she should play and win the women’s world title at least once,” says Susan. “Maybe she will one day, who knows.”
The Polgar sisters — the middle one is Sofia, and she has been as high as World No. 6 — have been something of a marvel in women’s chess.
They are also proof of their father Laszlo Polgar’s theory that geniuses are made, and not born.
“Yes, he could have put us in any field, but it was I who chose chess as a four-year-old,” says Susan. “I liked the chessmen; they were toys for me.”
The Polgars, then, began to toy with the opposition in world chess.