Susan Polgar – Grandmaster of the Year

6/5/2003 – The four-time Women's World Chess Champion Susan Polgar has just been named "Grandmaster of the Year" by the United States Chess Federation. This is the first time in history that a woman has won this most prestigious award. Susan is also to lead the US women's team at the next Olympiad. Here is the full story and some personal pictures from the past.

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Susan is the Chairperson of the US Women's Chess Committee, and it has been named as the Committee of the Year by the United States Chess Federation as well. The award will be given out on August 9, 2003 in Los Angeles.

Captain of the Olympiad team

Susan Polgar will also lead the US Women’s Olympiad Team to go for the Gold Medal in the 2004 Chess Olympiad in Minorca, Spain. The final team selection will not be announced until around mid 2004, but it looks like it will consist of true superstars of women’s chess in America today. These beauties and brains include two US Women’s Champions and two-time Olympians IM Irina Krush and WIM Jennifer Shahade, two-time Ukrainian Women’s Champion and two-time Olympian WGM Anna Zatonskih, and three-time World Junior Champion WGM Rusudan “Rusa” Goletiani. The US Women’s Team has never won a medal in the Chess Olympiad in the past. However, this team will be considered as one of the top three favorite teams to win the Gold medal in 2004.


The US Women's Olympiad training team: WGM Anna Zatonskih; WGM Rusa Goletiani; GM Susan Polgar; WIM Jennifer Shahade; IM Irina Krush.

A press report release that will be circulated shortly says:

"After a long illustrious Hall of Fame career as a chess professional, a pioneer in Women's Chess, one who has broken through a number of "gender barriers" to become the first woman ever to earn the prestigious Men's Grandmaster title (through the same qualifications as men), the first woman to qualify for the Men's Zonal World Championship cycle, and the only World Champion to have won the triple-crown in chess (World Blitz, Rapid and Traditional Time Championship), Susan is now embarking on a new mission.

Her lifelong dream is to bring chess for women and children of the next generation to a whole new level of popularity. She wants to transform chess into a mainstream sport. In the past year, she has travelled throughout the United States to promote chess for women and children as an Ambassador of the game. Everywhere she went, she was warmly greeted with admiration and respect. Her grace, beauty, charms and style, along with an impressive chess resume, make her one of most popular and well-loved chess personality. She is truly a perfect role model to millions around the world, especially for young boys and girl!"

With the NYC Sports Commissioner Ken Podziba: Irina Krush, Jenny Shahade, Susan Polgar, Rusa Goletiani, Anna Zatonskih.

Naturally ChessBase is one of the sponsors of this beautiful chess team!

On a personal note

When going through the above news it occurred to me that I first met Susan (or Zsuzsa, as she was known at the time) almost exactly twenty years ago. It was during the World Microcomputer Chess Championship in Budapest in 1983. She turned up there and was introduced to me as a "very strong girl chess player." The same evening Kathy Spracklen, the author of many Fidelity chess computer programs, joined me to visit the Polgars at their home in Budapest.


Zsuzsa Polgar at 14 in the Polgars' Budapest flat

(Yes, this was still the time of chemical black-and-white pictures – or was it simply the world that was monochrome at the time, as Calvin's dad explained it to him?)

During my first visit I spent a very interesting evening learning all about the training methods employed by Laszlo Polgar (above) on this three daughters. He showed me the following chart of the Elo development of female players in Hungary. The dramatic line going straight up in the middle of the page is Zsuzsa.

There were two other little girls in the family, six and eight years old. They came to the World Micro to see the computers play. After the round was over they tried their hand against the machine.

In the title story of a German computer chess magazine you see Sophie Polgar playing against a Mephisto program. She is watched by her six-year-old sister Judit and father Laszlo. But this is tale that will be told on another occasion...


Susan analysing with Sophie in 1983

In 1985 I returned to Budapest and found Susan is a dire predicament. The Hungarian chess federation would not allow her to travel abroad (only to Eastern communist countries) because she had refused to play in women's tournaments. I negotiated with them at length and finally they agreed to allow her to come to Hamburg for an exhibition match against Dr John Nunn.


Susan playing warm-up blitz against John Nunn in our garden in 1985


We took Susan to a place in the centre of Hamburg where people were playing open-air chess. It was a typical scam: the young lady wants to play, will you give her a game? Sure, said the local chess crack, does she know all the moves? You know how it ends. I am sure that he is telling his grandchildren today how he was beaten by a future women's world champion when she was still 14.


Susan on the cover of a German news magazine


Experimenting with ChessBase version 1.0 on Atari ST


One more picture from the Eighties in Budapest. That's Susan with her sisters, All three were avid ping-pong players, especially the little one on the right, always the most ambitious of the three.

Frederic Friedel


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