Queen of Chess - a documentary about Judit Polgar and Garry Kasparov

by Arne Kaehler
4/22/2020 – "Queen of Chess" is documentary about Judit Polgar and Garry Kasparov that is scheduled for release at the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. In six episodes the documentary tells the story of the encounters and battles between Judit Polgar, the greatest female chess player of all time, and Garry Kasparov, who many consider the best male player of all time. In an interview with ChessBase Peter Stern, the producer of "Queen of Chess", reveals details about the project and his passion for chess.

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Queen of Chess - An interview with producer Peter Stern

"Queen of Chess" is still in the making but Peter Stern, the Hungarian Producer of the series, was kind enough to find the time for an interview about the project – and had a lot of interesting details to share.

Arne Kähler: Dear Peter, you are the producer of Queen of Chess, a documentary about Judit Polgar and Garry Kasparov. But before we talk about this project, can you reveal a bit about yourself?

Peter Stern: My pleasure. I am Hungarian, I live in Budapest and started working as a lawyer. Not long ago, I thought it was time for something new and interesting, so I began working for an environmental protection agency, which has its own radio show dedicated to climate protection. Due to this new passion of mine, I met film makers, and together we founded "Film in Green", an advocacy for sustainable filmmaking. I am very fond of documentaries, and when I heard about the story of Judit Polgar this beautiful project began.

AK: Do you have a chess background?

PS: Not on a professional basis, but I learned the game very early on in my life and have never stopped playing chess. I have a big interest for the game and saw a lot of documentaries about chess: about Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and many other famous grandmasters. Part of this fascination goes back to my father-in-law, who is from the same small town (Gyöngyös) the Polgar family is coming from. He told me again and again how he beat László Polgár in chess!

AK: Queen of Chess won the development prize in Zagreb 2020 but the project still is in the early stages. When can we expect the series to be ready and how is your project affected by the coronavirus?

PS: It is difficult to predict an exact date, which is partly due to the pandemic, but we want to finish at the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. 70-80% of the movie will show material from the archives and while the coronavirus prevents us from making plans when to shoot certain scenes we can at least edit the material from the archives. The whole documentary will have six episodes of 45 minutes each, which is a total of over 270 minutes and a lot of work.

AK: How did the project come to life?

PS: It was an interesting coincidence. My friend, writer and creator Gabor Harmi, was working on a crime story and had time-consuming negotiations with a media service about the script. During his negotiations he mentioned to me that they reminded him of a game of chess. When he was looking deeper into chess he came across the story of Judit Polgar. He was fascinated, wrote a script and gave it to me. I was hooked immediately. Our basic team was complete when we found Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, an Hungarian film editor and director of several short movies and documentaries.

AK: What is the story of "Queen of Chess"?

PS: It is about Judit Polgar, our protagonist, and Garry Kasparov, our antagonist. 

A BBC documentary about Judit Polgar

Kasparov once said in an interview:"I don't believe that women can fight against men. It's very difficult because of the great tension of the game. I am convinced it's almost impossible." It is interesting to see in our documentary how Kasparov is changing his initial opinion about the inability of women to play chess, and turns into one of the heroes we can look up to. The encounters between Polgar and Kasparov will be the spine of our story but the focus of the film is chess. We want to show how interesting and exciting chess can be, we want to talk about variations, analyses and invite the audience to the battle and the fight of this game.

AK: Another topic of film seems to be the gender conflict. How much do you emphasize this conflict?

PS: In 2002, Judit Polgar was finally able to beat Garry Kasparov in a game. This was not only a battle she won for herself, but also a victory for all women who play chess. We believe it is very important to understand this battle women had to fight and still have to fight. For example, back then the Hungarian Chess Federation did a lot to make things difficult for  Zsuzsa Polgar which harmed her career.

AK: Where did you get all the archived footage for the movie?

PS: The main source are news and family archives. Since the chess careers of the Polgar sisters had been planned very diligently by László Polgár, their whole progress, from young age on, has been recorded and saved. Furthermore, the BBC made a report about Judit Polgar, also calling her "Queen of Chess", and this is a big source of material too. The Hungarian Chess Federation was also very helpful in providing sources because they are very excited about this project. We also rely on people who might have unreleased footage from this era.

AK: How did you come in contact with the two stars of the series?

PS: We contacted Judit Polgar very early on, and though she was a bit sceptical at first, she  quickly saw our good intentions and gladly decided to be on board. We will contact Garry Kasparov as soon as the negotiations with Polgar are concluded.

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AK: Thank you very much for this interesting interview.

PS: Thank you being the first chess site reaching out to us!

Here is a collection of some great games between Judit Polgar and Garry Kasparov:

Judit Polgar vs Garry Kasparov:

 

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Garry Kasparov vs Judit Polgar

 

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Links:

 

 



Arne Kaehler, a creative thinker who is passionate about board games in general was born in Hamburg and learned how to play chess at a very young age. Through teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess content on YouTube, Arne was able to extend this passion onto others and has even made an online chess course for anyone who wants to learn how to play this game. Currently, Arne blogs for the English news page of ChessBase and focuses on creating promotional and entertaining articles.