Remembering GM Gábor Kállai, 21 February 1959 – 31 December 2021

by Diana Mihajlova
1/4/2022 – On the last day of 2021, one of the most distinguished personalities in the world of chess passed away. On 31 December 2021 the Hungarian Grandmaster Gábor Kállai died at the age of 62. Diana Mihajlova knew Kallai well and looks back to the achievements of the Hungarian Grandmaster who also worked as a trainer, author, organizer, arbiter, captain, journalist, radio and TV commentator. | Photo: Facebook page of the Hungarian Chess Federation

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From 2001 -2010 Kallai worked for the Hungarian Chess Federation, first as a director and later as a PR officer. In 2002, he captained the Hungarian national men’s team to a silver medal at the Chess Olympiad in Bled, where the Hungarians narrowly missed gold and finished only one point behind the winning Russian team.

Gabor Kallai in Budapest 2013 | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

Among Kallai’s students who had international success are the Americans Kayden Troff, Sam Sevian and Jeffrey Xiong, and many more associated with the Kasparov Chess Foundation of whose training program he was a member.

Kallai also worked with the Hungarian GM Zoltan Ribli, a three-time Hungarian Champion, a two-time World Championship Candidate and at his peak the world’s number ten.

Kallai’s most famous student, however, is Susan Polgar who became his pupil at the tender age of 4. Throughout many years their association intertwined both their personal and professional lives.

Kallai was a well of knowledge and liked to share anecdotes, not only on chess but on many subjects as he was a man of vast cultural erudition.  His wit, his sharp remarks and his disarming smile will be remembered by all that knew him.

During my long sojourn in Budapest I had the privilege of enjoying his company on many occasions. In 2013 one of our encounters led to the following interview:

Rest in peace, GM Gábor Kállai!

Gabor Kallai | Photo: Facebook page of the Hungarian Chess Federation


A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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