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Top Chess Player Judith Polgar talks at UCD

The newly formed UCD chess club invited brilliant Chess Player Judith Polgar to Dublin to give a talk and receive the James Joyce Award.

I met on a glorious afternoon, Ross Harris and I started our journey to Dublin UCD. Invited to the Judith Polgar lecture. A long drive with excellent company and conversation. Ross used his phone to give us directions to UCD – passing a beach and people sun bathing. Once at the University it was a question of finding the Room – not knowing which building this was in provided a challenge. The challenge was met with that helpful human – a couple of Students – one a genetics grad – both travelling in the Summer to Africa to teach computering and English – organised by a University Charity at UCD – we wished them well. They took us for a 20minute walk – it’s a big campus – to the Room – many thanks. Once in the Room, a lecture theatre – we sat and were surrounded by chess enthusiasts young and old. From Ulster it was nice to see fellow player Chris Armstrong arrive. We all sat together.

The event started with Mariana Verdes the Organiser of the new UCD chess club – who had invited Judith to this event prior to the chess club forming! – a very forward and imaginative idea.  Mariana Verdes – the story of the clubs formation :

These are more notes than an article - and I apologise for any errors - or changes in emphasis.

Judith begun her talk with Fisher v Spassky – a male dominated chess World. She started playing when 5 years old – learning the language of Chess – an international language. Can speak it fluently. Photo of a young Judith playing a simultaneous. At 9 years she was playing Blindfold chess with Sisters and beating her father. Chess is about patterns – a couple of photos – one with pebbles on the board another with shadows. Pattern recognition. In 1988 represented Hungry with sisters at Olympiad – won. Garry Kasparov was watching Judiths game – she was flattered by the attention of a great player. Then a video of an interview of Kasparov “ Judith is a good player .. but still hard to imagine women playing at the top level” – hearing this seemed unbelieveable. Latter he would change this view. 1994 saw the first game against Kasparov – Judith was the youngest GM – beating Fishers record – Photo of top Chess players each had been in top ten. Beat each player by player – (audience gave a round of applause) gaining respect – a slow process. Then in 2002 beat Kasparov. The lead up to this was 2001 two games – both draws – Linares. Enjoy the journey – the road – its hardwork. Home schooled. List of things to get success included Practice , perseverance , passion. … Self citrisim – must analyse ones games to improve.

Article on the event:


Then went to questions

Question on selection of Girls for All Girls team v mixed team should it be the choice of the player?

How much balance between talent and hardwork – Kasparov said he was lucky his talent was for hardwork. – Talent is lost without hardwork. We do use computers to analyse games but should do it manually so don’t loose skill of analysis. Computers becoming more like people and people playing more like Computers – computers have made the game different. Improves the game.

Is it bad to get a rating when you are younger as you focus on your rating?

Good for measuring your standing – but mustn’t play for it – play for the game love it and enjoy it.

What do you recommend to youngster to improve their game? Memory v intuition?

I prefer own analysis – mustn’t use computers too  much for analysis. Think for yourself. Play out games.

Chess hasn’t been recognised in Ireland – its not a sport or anything else. How do we change minds?

Invite the minister of Education to events like this…. Spain is putting chess into their Curriculum. Two ways of doing chess – chess coaches in schools and chess clubs or Chess in the Curriculum. Need to understand these. Educational chess – integrated into the curriculum- ie values of pieces for calculating maths sums. Making maths playful and fun. Once in curriculum then chess coaches and clubs can take it further for those who wish to improve.

Does the visualisation change from computer to board?

Chess computing has come a long way – chess base now has millions of games – top players use only computers – its all visualised the same in the head. But the if you analyse on computer too fast – you miss the understanding of the positions. So must slow to gain understanding.

You have faced many challenges – how did you handle them – for instance the touch move incident with Kasparov?

I was 17 and playing kasparov – with the White pieces – and Kasparov had outplayed me. On move 36 – he moved a blundered knight move but he replaced the piece and paused for thought – their were cameras filming the match and an Arbitor was watching. Nobody said anything and he made an alternative move with the Knight. No objections were made and the scoresheets were signed. The film crew went to Madrid – latter the film was seen. Was it a mistake to say nothing? Should Kasparov have said something?

What advice would you give to the Parents of chess players?

Parents will have to sacrifice a lot for their children to play chess. Both time and money. Need to trust their chess coaches. If you disagree – change your chess coach. Key years are 8-14.

What is the future for modern chess? With growth in China and India and large US junior chess. But not yet broken into the TV world and top players finding it a struggle to make a living. What is the future?

In the early 90’s tournaments playing and players  were not seen by public. Kasparov changed this and brought chess to the audience – since we have  on TV analysis of games, after game comments and professional commentaries. Sponsors support. Internet has given access to chess – other sports have managers – in chess very few. The time controls slow – on TV would need to speed it up to get money and public interest. Need professional marketing, organisers. – need commentators to talk at base level. – at an enjoyable level – build bridges between the different levels – had a tournament – in Paris on stage with headphones and the theatre was fully booked.

Is the pressure of competition good or bad?

Young players may cry if they loose – it is good to be passionate and to care. Loosing is a part of life – its still fun and if you don’t loose the taste of winning isn’t as good. Try again, try again until you win.

Chris Armstrong from the UCU asked – When Fisher replayed Spassky in 1992 – your family put up Fisher – what did you think of Fisher?

He didn’t play us on a 1:1 as he thought we may play in the future and then it wouldn’t be the first time. He had strange views on people. Not always a good idea to meet your heros.

As an intermediate player – how does one get to improve to a level of 2000?

You need to practice everyday. For more than 30mins. Find an opening that matches your style and look at the games of great players playing this opening – the location of their pieces. Solve problems everyday. Analyse your own games – your strengths and weaknesses. Physchologically move on after a mistake – don’t dwell on it.

Spassky balanced fun and chess – played tennis. How do you get the balance?

Spassky was a good advert for chess – playing fighting games and a good character for the public. Played him in Budapest – and enjoyed it.

Your father did the famous experiment – will you do the same with your family. Did you feel the pressure?

When I started playing both my sisters were already playing and I had success at an early age – at 9 in New York – enjoyed languages and travelling. My youngsters have attended school and enjoy lots of activities - its a little late to do the experiment.


The Historical and Litature society – joint organisers – their president awarded The James Joyce Award to Judith. This is for people who reach the top of their fields – Judith has done this and broken the glass ceiling at the same time.


Diana Mirza, a 16 year old from Limerick who was recently named the under-17 world chess champion, was also in attendance. She said Polgár had been an inspiration to her ever since she had won a book about Polgár and her sisters in a chess competition. Mirza also received a recognition award from the UCD Chess Society.


The event ended with very warm applause for Judith Polgar.

Many thanks to the UCD for organising such an inspirational event - thankyou...

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