Throwback Thursday: Judit Polgar’s best results

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/19/2020 – “There has long been a lively debate about who is the strongest player of all. [...] But there is no argument about the greatest female player: she is 21-year-old Judit Polgar of Hungary”, wrote Robert Byrne in his New York Times column of August 26, 1997. Polgar was recently awarded a Honorary Doctorate in Budapest, so we want to use this opportunity to recall a few of her remarkable achievements as a chess player.

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A true legend

Much has been written about Judit Polgar’s incredible rise to the top of the chess world — if you want to read a first-hand recount, do check out the trilogy authored by Judit herself, in which she not only retells her story but also structures the material instructively.

In 1991, when she obtained her grandmaster title at the age of 15 years and 4 four months, she broke the record previously established by Bobby Fischer as the youngest player to do so. By then, she was already known to be one of the greatest prodigies in the history of chess. And that was only the beginning of the story.

Just to give a general outlook of her achievements, we can mention that she was the youngest ever player to enter the Top 100 in the FIDE ratings list at the age of 12; she is the only woman to have crossed the 2700 rating barrier to date; she was the 8th highest-rated player in the world in 2005; and she was the number one rated woman player in the world from January 1989 until March 2015.

Last month, she was awarded a Honorary Doctorate by the University of Physical Education in Budapest. Judit stated afterwards:

As far as I can see, the competitive spirit, endurance and perfectness in chess is as important as in education and in the promotion of chess. It really makes me feel relaxed that other people recognise and acknowledge it.

We will now present three of her greatest tournament performances, a list that by no means intends to be fully representative of her career.  

Madrid 1994 (cat. XVI) - 7/9 for clear 1st place

During May 1994, Polgar obtained what was the greatest success of her career up to that point by winning the strong Torneo Magistral in Madrid. She obtained an undefeated 7 out of 9 in the single round-robin event, scoring wins over Ivan Sokolov, Alexei Shirov, Sergei Tiviakov, Pablo San Segundo and Evgeny Bareev.

The 17-year-old Hungarian ace started the event with three consecutive wins and went on to get a remarkable 2778 Tournament Rating Performance!

Rk. Name Score W L D
1. Judit Polgar 7.0 / 9 5 0 4
2. Ivan Sokolov 5.5 / 9 4 2 3
3. Miguel Illescas Cordoba 5.0 / 9 2 1 6
3. Gata Kamsky 5.0 / 9 1 0 8
3. Alexei Shirov 5.0 / 9 3 2 4
6. Valery Salov 4.5 / 9 2 2 5
6. Sergei Tiviakov 4.5 / 9 3 3 3
8. Jordi Magem Badals 3.5 / 9 3 5 1
9. Evgeny Bareev 2.5 / 9 0 4 5
9. Pablo San Segundo Carrillo 2.5 / 9 0 4 5

All Judit Polgar's games from the event


Japfa Classic 2000 (cat. XVI) - 6½/9 for clear 1st place

One of the strongest tournaments ever organized in Asia, the Japfa Classic was a 10-player single round-robin held in Bali, Indonesia. Polgar once again finished undefeated, with four wins and five draws. 

After eight rounds, four players were sharing the lead and were coincidentally paired against each other in the last day of action. Living legend Anatoly Karpov held then FIDE world champion Alexander Khalifman to a draw from an inferior knight endgame, while Polgar took down Brazilian star Gilberto Milos from the black side of a Sicilian to secure clear first place.

Rk. Name Score W L D
1. Judit Polgar 6.5 / 9 4 0 5
2. Anatoly Karpov 6.0 / 9 3 0 6
2. Alexander Khalifman 6.0 / 9 3 0 6
4. Gilberto Milos 5.5 / 9 3 1 5
5. Yasser Seirawan 5.0 / 9 1 0 8
6. Utut Adianto 4.0 / 9 2 3 4
6. Jan H Timman 4.0 / 9 1 2 6
8. Jaan Ehlvest 3.0 / 9 1 4 4
9. Zaw Win Lay 2.5 / 9 1 5 3
9. Ruben Gunawan 2.5 / 9 0 4 5

All Judit Polgar's games from the event + Khalifman v Karpov


Essent 2006 (cat. XX) - 4½/6 for shared 1st place

In the 10th edition of the tournament held in Hoogeveen, Holland, four players known for their uncompromising style were invited — Veselin Topalov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Judit Polgar and Ivan Sokolov. The result? Only two out of twelve games finished drawn! Also, a tense final round saw fortunes shifting in both games. In the end, ‘Shakh’ and Judit won in round six to share first place. Mamedyarov won the event on tiebreaks.

As reported in our website (Polgar was playing Topalov):

Judit Polgar, who had had good winning chances around move 28, suddenly drifted into a potentially lost position. At the same time Ivan Sokolov, who had collected just half a point in the event so far, seemed to have excellent winning chances. But then Topalov did not find the best line to proceed, and Sokolov blundered away a promising endgame.

Some video fragments from the last round can still be found on YouTube!

Rk. Name Score W L D
1. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 4.5 / 6 4 1 1
1. Judit Polgar 4.5 / 6 4 1 1
3. Veselin Topalov 2.5 / 6 2 3 1
4. Ivan Sokolov 0.5 / 6 0 5 1

All games from the event



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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