Interview with Judit Polgár

by ChessBase
1/18/2012 – The Brazilian site, Rádio Xadrez, spoke with Judit Polgár, who will visit Brazil next month. She gives details of her life as a mother, a wife and a chess player. She also recalls important moments of her career such as her games against Anand and Kasparov, or Bobby Fischer's visit to her family. She gives valuable tips to young and upcoming female chess players. Interview with Judit Polgár.

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Interview with GM Judit Polgár

By Rádio Xadrez

Rádio Xadrez – A lot of our readers were young when you came to Brazil in 1996, played (and won) a match against GM Gilberto Milos. Was it your first and only visit to our country?

Judit Polgár  It was my first visit to Brazil, yes, and I, my sister Sófia, and my parents Klara and Laszlo had a good stay in your country thanks to the organizers! 

Will we be able to see Judit Polgár playing here again?

I would love to return to Brazil and I believe I will, some day soon! :)

In your official website, there are many pictures of you with animals: dolphins, monkeys, etc. We know that your husband is a veterinary physician and it scares us a bit to see Oliver and Hanna, your children, next to a little lion cub. At home, do you have pets? How is your relation with nature and animals?

Since childhood I loved animals a lot and I was lucky to have the opportunity, during my vacations, to meet all kinds of wild animals as well! One of the nicest memories and experiences I had with nature was when I visited Botswana, in Africa, and went to the Okavango Delta. There I really saw the life of wild animals! Also when I was swimming with the dolphin it was an incredible experience which I can recommend to all! It is really fantastic!

The famous Brazilian composer Chico Buarque, who is also an author, wrote a book entitled Budapest (published in 2003). The plot passes in the capital of Hungary and, despite never having been there, Chico Buarque writes about the gothic architecture of the Parliament building, the Buda Castle, illuminated bridges over the Danube, the cultural richness, the city's mustard tone... Have you read this book?

I am happy that Chico Buarque was able to describe the way my home city is, such that you have the feeling that it is a nice place. Actually, I have not read that book, but Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in the world! :) You have to check it out by yourself if you do not believe! :)

Do you enjoy literature or any other hobby, besides chess?

Somehow my days are very busy and I do not find time for serious literature, I read usually when I travel, but mainly magazines and, naturally, chess books and articles.

There is a proverb in Chico Buarque’s book which says that the Hungarian language is so complex that it is the only one that the devil respects. We tried to learn some to show how much we admire you, but, after a few months of lessons, the only things we know are “jó napot kivánók” [hi] and “viszontlátásra” [bye]. Do you know some Portuguese? What languages do you speak?

Sorry, I speak nothing in Portuguese. I think I know to say “Axedrez”. Am I correct? I speak English, Spanish and Russian. (Ed: Very close. It is actually "xadrez" and is pronounced "shah-drayce" with a rolled 'r')

Hungary is well known in Brazil also because of its national football team of 1954, which had extraordinary players such as Puskás, Kocsis and Hidegkuti, who were what Pelé, Romário and Ronaldo are for us Brazilians. Is chess popular in Hungary?

Well, chess used to be very important until the political changes happened. Before, Kadar, who was the head of the country, liked to play chess against himself! Nowadays, chess is not as respected as it was in the 80's and 90's, but I am very famous and most people know my name and even recognize me in shopping centers.

Judit Polgár

In your family chess was always the main sport? Or, before becoming chess professionals, the Polgár sisters tried ice-skating, volleyball, ballet or any other activity?

My main sport was always chess, but from 1986 on I and my sisters also competed in table tennis. I was the 32nd of the national ranking in the under-12 category, in 1988. I really liked it, but I stopped in order to dedicate myself to chess. Nowadays, I even enjoy some other sports.

If you had the opportunity of meeting any person of the world, of any epoch, who would you choose?

It very much depends on how much time I would have to spend with this person. :)

If it was for only 24 hours?

It’s difficult to answer. I would like to pass this question...

Do you have a twitter account?

Yes, my twitter is @GMJuditPolgar.

Do you control your diet? What kind of food is most adequate for a chess player during a tournament?

I follow specific diets from time to time. During tournaments I eat twice a day, many salads and seafood.

There is a rumor, you could tell us if it’s true or not, that while playing chess you start to think in things outside of chess, like what you should buy for dinner or whether your son needs to do his mathematics homework. Is this serious? How can a woman manage to be so brilliant at the chessboard and, at the same time, take care of the duties of her private life (mother, wife, daughter, etc.)?

Well, it is incredibly difficult, but whatever I happen to be doing I must focus on it. I am always traveling a lot and I mostly travel without my children, so that I can focus completely on the tournament. Since I know that the children are in perfect hands at home, I can stay very relaxed about it.

People criticize so much GM Péter Lékó for considering his games as "boring", they say he always draws. What do you think of that? Is it hard to play against him?

It is already a long time since I have played against him. Lékó is a player who is very hard to beat. Nowadays he has some difficulties, like loss of self confidence. But I believe he has very good chances to get back to the level where he has already been.

How about Kasparov and Anand? You've defeated them both. Which win gave you the most pleasure?

From chess point of view I am happier with my game against Anand in Dos Hermanas, 1999. I beat Kasparov "only" in a rapid game. But really, from professional point of view I am happier with my games against Kasparov: the two draws I played against him in Linares, 2001.

Your children are growing amongst brilliant minds and great chess players. Grandfather, mother and aunts... Is it possible that they become excellent chess players as well? What do you think about that?

Well, my kids know how chess pieces move as they have learned it in the kindergarten, but so far I do not see that they are so interested that they would want to watch high level tournaments, or something of that sort.

What tips would you give to parents whose children have just started to play chess?

I think generally chess is a great game, and an excellent tool to have in schools as well. I am supporting scholastic chess programs and I am a member of the European Chess Federation's committee which is going to make a presentation about chess in schools to the EU Parliament in a few days.

In 1993, Fischer visited your family in Budapest. Do you have good memories about that?

Well, he was an amazing chess talent, a true genius! Unfortunately in his last years we did not see that ability of him; on the contrary, we saw mainly his negative declarations. :( Apart from being completely paranoid, I remember him as someone in good disposition to eat, he loved to eat! :)

There are many women, not just Brazilian girls, that see you as an icon, a great example. You are proof that men and women are equal at chess, but what do you think could really change the career of a woman chess player? Which point should girls study more to become equal or even surpass men at chess?

First of all they should get the same opportunity as boys: to get a trainer, to learn to like the game, see it as something important for them, etc. and last, but not least, parents should believe in girls the same way as if they were boys. Because no matter how liberal the society where you live may be, women have to fight harder than men, unfortunately. They have to fight up to the point when they overcome this social barrier, but then, after they make it, they will really enjoy the success!

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