Five hours on her heels – Judit in Jerusalem

7/22/2005 – It is a beautiful Sunday evening in Israel. So what does a chess lover do when the eighth best chess player in the world is giving a simultaneous exhibition, just a couple hours from his house? He fights the traffic and finds his way to the Municipal Building in Jerusalem so he can see her in the flesh and send us a story and pictures.

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Judit Polgar Simultaneous

Through the eyes of Yair Spiegel

I confess, I’m not a professional chess player. I play mainly with friends and on the Internet, and I have never been to a simultaneous exhibition before. But when I heard that GM Judit Polgar, the eighth best active player in the world, is going to give a simul here in Israel, I decided that there won’t be a better first time for me. And so I went on a beautiful Sunday evening (July 17) to the Jerusalem city hall where the event took place.


Jerusalem’s Municipal Building

Those who arrived early enjoyed a little surprise. Outside the municipal building, in “Safra” square was a giant chess board on which Uri Lupolianski, the Mayor of Jerusalem, and Josef “Tommy” Lapid, former Minister of Justice and leader of the Opposition Coalition – two people who represent two edges of the Israeli society – played a friendly game, observed by Judit Polgar. They both later spoke at the opening ceremony.


Opponents off the board – but chess makes them friends Mayor Lupolianski has white, Minister Lapid with black

At 19:00 everyone gathered in the beautiful big conference room of the city hall, where 40 chessboards were already set on a huge round wooden conference table.


The City Council’s chambers – just perfect for a simultaneous match

After the usual speeches and blessings, and after Judit and Moshe Slav, chairman of the organizing committee of the Chess Maccabiah, greeted all the audience, the games began.


Moshe Slav, happy to have Judit Polgar, happy to have brought her to Jerusalem

But not before Judit had to climb over the circular table, because no one ever thought that someone would actually want to get inside that circle, and therefore the table had no passage into the inner circle.


Caught in a blur: Judit climbed over the tables so quickly,
nobody got a good picture of her doing it

Judit turned out to be a warm and pleasant person, and in impressive humbleness treated every player with respect and with a smile, so the atmosphere during the whole event was very good.


A gifted and gracious lady greets her opponent

Playing a simul looks like very hard work to me, but Judit seemed to enjoy herself. She wandered among those 40 boards, taking a few seconds on each board and rarely looking up to see the players.

The funny thing was that after only a few moves into the games, the participants started to hold their heads in their hands, and by the looks on their faces one could tell they are already struggling. Every time Judit reached a player, he buried his head in the board, took a deep breath and hesitantly played his move, not looking up at her. It took a few seconds for Judit to make her move, and after she passed to the next board, you could hear a deep sigh from the recent player who was left to deal with the new position. And so it went on until the end of the simul.


So this is what it’s like to play the world’s number eight? Oy vey!

Rarely, a player actually made Judit think for more than a minute, and you could immediately see the audience gathering behind that player’s chair, trying their best to see what he did that it took Judit “so long” to make her move.


Why does she think so long – and against a little girl?

Judit stood on her heels during the whole evening (about five hours) and didn’t sit even once until the last game ended. Needless to say that all the other players sat on nice and comfortable leather chairs and were free to go out and grab something to eat and drink. So, who said chess doesn’t involve physical effort??


The orphaned chairs waited – but Judit stayed on her heels for five hours of play

Judit’s final result was 29 wins, 5 draws and 6 losses. Those were the six happiest people I saw in a long time, all having big smiles spread on their faces. After all, you don’t get to play Judit everyday, let alone win the game.

One of those shiny happy people was Mr. Almog Burstein, an International Arbiter, 55 years old, who is the deputy mayor of the city Hod Hasharon. Mr. Burstein was a member of the pairing committee of 7 (!!) Chess Olympiads and even has a pairing system named after him (that would be “The Burstein Pairing System”, of course). He is the delegate of Israel to FIDE and besides, as was proven at the simul, he plays chess pretty well. Before the game he told me about his draw with Kasparov in a simul back in 1996, but now, after his win, he will have an even better story.


“If I concentrate I can beat her” – Almog during game

Polgar,Judit - Burstein,Almog [C97]
17th Maccabiah, Simul., Jerusalem, 17.07.2005
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3 d6 9.c3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 Re8 13.Nf1 cxd4 14.cxd4 Bb7 15.Bg5 Bd8 16.Rc1 Rc8 17.b3 Nc6 18.Ng3 g6 19.Bb1 Qe7 20.d5 Nb8 21.Nh4 Rxc1 22.Qxc1 Bb6 23.Qc3 Nxd5 24.Qd2 f6 25.exd5 fxg5 26.Nf3 Rf8 27.Ne4 h6 28.Qd3 Rf7 29.b4 Nd7 30.Rc1 Nf6

31.Nexg5 hxg5 32.Nxg5 e4 33.Qd2 e3 34.Qd3 exf2+ 35.Kf1 Nxd5 36.Nxf7 Qxf7 37.Qxg6+


Position after 37.Qxg6+ – come on, Almog, you’re almost there!

37...Qxg6 38.Bxg6 Nf4 0-1. [Click here to replay this game]

Another exhibit not to be missed was the magnificent chess set on display outside the playing hall. It is made of ceramic and wood, an artwork of the artist Idit Elbaz.

16
A chess set fit for a Queen

Idit started exploring chess history and chess icons about two years ago, and that was the first time she exhibited her chess artwork to the public. Her beautiful unique chess sets will be displayed at the World Team Championships, October 31 – November 11 in Beersheva.

Pictures by Yair Spiegel and Sharon Bentov

About the Author

Yair Spiegel is 32 years old, married and father of two boys, Boaz and Noam. He lives in Omer, Israel, a town near the city of Beersheva, site of Israel’s most famous chess club and of the upcoming World Team Championship. Yair is a lawyer (mainly “white collar” crimes and tax law) and a partner at Bitron, Bar-Tov Law firm in Tel-Aviv. He is an enthusiastic jazz fan and even plays the saxophone from time to time (only when the kids permit). He started playing and studying chess 3 years ago, and enjoys every minute of it.

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