Interview Done by Tim Noginsky
Hoffman Elementary School, Glenview, IL
Class of Ms. Strejc, 5th Grade
Who is She?
A small biography of Susan Polgar’s life:
Susan Polgar was born on April 19, 1969 as Zsuzsanna Polgar. She is a Hungarian- American Chess player, and one of the best female players of all time. She was born and brought up in Budapest, Hungary and has lived in New York for 13 years, in Texas for 5 years and now lives in St. Louis. She currently works at Webster University as the Director of SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) and as the Head Coach of the Webster Chess Team. She has two sisters- Judit and Sofia Polgar, both of whom are renowned chess players.
Contributions to Chess:
• Five time Olympic champion. She has never been defeated in an Olympiad competition.
• Four time World Champion. The first person to win the Triple Crown (World champion in blitz, rapid, and classical chess.)
• Holds the record for longest scoring streak in the Olympiad (56 games).
• First Woman to:
• Qualify for men’s World Championships (1986)
• Earn the Grandmaster Title (1991)
• Win the U.S. blitz championship (2003-2006)
• Receive the grandmaster of the year award (2003)
• She is also a chess author and coach who has written nine books and received the Chess Educator of the Year award in 2003.
In 2013, I went to one of Susan Polgar’s Chess tournaments. I learned some things about her but wanted to know more. Thus, when I received the assignment of interviewing any person in the world, I decided to interview Susan Polgar using email to try to find out more about her. She is an extremely accomplished chess player being one of the best in history. When I met her at the tournament she was very open and helping. She freely signed my books, pictures, and the notation sheet and answered all my questions in a detailed and descriptive way. Susan is a great person and that gave me another reason to interview her.
Zsuzsanna Polgar was born in Hungary. She was very close with her sisters, never fighting with them. They still are very close, considering that they live in different parts of the world. Susan was and still is a very goal oriented person. She liked making things into competitions when she was a child. Each goal and difficulty was like a level in a video game. When Polgar was very young, her parents helped her develop a goal- setting mindset. Polgar learned many languages at a very young age. The languages included Russian, Esperanto, and Spanish. Susan says that the ability has come at handy many times because it enables her to communicate with local people when visiting a foreign country. I think it also might have helped her when studying chess because there were many powerful chess players from many countries all around the world. She has also learned many valuable things using the languages, many from native people.
At about three, Polgar was labeled as a wunderkind by the media. Her most pleasant childhood memory was discovering the beauty of chess. From the things I have learned so far, she seems to love learning and doing educational activities. Her first major tournament that she won was the Budapest Finals. Susan Polgar was three at that time and played against kids three- four times her age. As she looks back, she said that she thought it was just cool to compete against older kids. At that age, I would not have acknowledged that this was a competition to become the ‘Budapest Chess Champion’. I would just look at it like a fun joke. I wonder how she thought of it. Like all children, Susan had her own share of failures. How she dealt with them was never giving up and always trying to find what she had done wrong.
Susan Polgar was a very busy kid. Her time was consumed by studying school subjects and chess. Even though she was very busy, Susan still found time to do her favorite activities like celebrating birthdays, spending time with the family, and traveling. I think I would have definitely popped from all the studying. Now that she looks back to her childhood she said, “Back then, at times I thought I was missing out on some things, but looking back today with more mature eyes, I would not have changed a thing”. Susan Polgar says that talent is very important but in most cases you have to work hard to achieve great things. The hard work definitely shows results. It made the Polgar Sisters into not only the best chess siblings of all time, but also very smart people that have accomplished great things. I think that everyone, chess lover or not, should learn lessons from Susan Polgar and apply them in their lives.
Susan says that life and chess are very similar: you make mistakes but you have to learn from your mistakes. She said that she was inspired by her love toward chess to pursue a career in the activity. In the interview, Polgar said that her secret for success was making small goals. When you accomplish one goal, it fuels you on to accomplish another one. I think it is a very good way of becoming successful in life because it is like a competition with yourself. Susan said that her passion toward chess also was a big factor to her success. She says, “You need to find your passion and work at it, whether it is chess or something else.” Susan is saying that passion toward an activity will motivate you to practice it and work to get better. Susan Polgar loves improving every day. It is a good lesson to learn from- even when you are good at many things, there is always room to improve.
Susan Polgar is a great chess player. She is most proud of breaking many gender barriers that stood in her way throughout her life. She considers becoming the first female Grandmaster her greatest achievement. At that time I think it was so astonishing for the whole world. Polgar is the first person to ever become World Champion in all three types of chess. I wanted to know which one was her favorite and she said that she loved all types of chess, Classical, Rapid, and Blitz. She was very happy to find out that she was a World Champion in three types of chess but instantly was thinking about her next goal. Susan Polgar has developed a way to deal with intense nervousness and pressure during tournaments. She concentrates on trying to play the position and not the player. Polgar says that Chess is good for children because it can help young people build important skills such as critical thinking, analytical, assessment, and problem solving skills, etc.
Right now Susan is the founder and director of Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, as well as the Susan Polgar Foundation, an association dedicated to giving scholarships to deserving young chess players. The association has given away over four million dollars in scholarships to young chess players around the world. She says that women’s chess has grown a lot in popularity since when she started playing Chess. Polgar also said that chess in general has shown an increase in population, partially because of the Internet. I’ve noticed that chess popularity for both genders has increased. Now, I’m wondering how the popularity will increase in about another decade. I asked Susan Polgar why she has committed herself to teaching. She said, “Both my parents were educators. It is in my blood. In addition to chess, I also teach my students life lessons.” Polgar loves spending time with her family and watching theatre, movies, and sports. She does not love a specific sport to watch but likes many sports such as figure skating and basketball. Her favorite genre of books is Improvement.
Looking through my interview I can clearly see one big question and answer. How to be famous and successful? The answer- Hard Work and Passion.
FYI: Tim got an A+ for this interview 🙂
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– GM Susan Polgar