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Susan Polger- The Chess Champion who became the highest rated woman player at the age of 15

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Today we see the story of a Women’s World Champion who became the highest rated woman player at the age of 15, played Chess Olympiads for two different countries without losing a single game, became the youngest woman to become International Grandmaster till her own sister broke her record. By now, the readers must have guessed who I am talking about. Yes, it is Susan Polgar.

Susan Polgar was born on April 19, 1969, as Zsuzsanna Polgar to a Hungarian-Jewish family, László & Klara Polgar at Budapest, Hungary.

Zsuzsanna and her two younger sisters, International Master Sofia and International Grandmaster Judit were part of an educational experiment carried out by their father Lazzlo Polgar, who sought to prove that children could make exceptional achievements if trained in a specialized subject from a very early age. “Geniuses are made, not born,” was Laszlo’s thesis. Laszlo and Klara educated their three daughters at home, with Chess as the principal subject.

At age 4, Zsuzsanna Polgar won her first chess tournament, the Budapest Girls’ Under-11 Championship, with a 10–0 score. In 1981, at the age of 12, she won the World Uder 16 Girls’ Championship. In July 1984, at age 15, Polgar become the top-rated female chess player in the world. In 1986, aged 17, she narrowly missed qualifying for the Zonal Championship, the first step in the Men’s (Open) world championship cycle.

In January 1991, Zsuzsanna became the third woman awarded the title of International Grandmaster by FIDE, after Nona Gaprindashvilli and Maia Chiburdanidze. Zsuzsanna Polgar was the youngest woman to become a Grandmaster at the time, but this record was soon broken by her younger sister Judit in December 1991.

In 1992 Polgar won both the Women’s World Blitz and the Women’s World Rapid Championship. Prior to 1992, Polgar sisters usually avoided ‘women-only’ tournaments. However, in 1993 Zsuzsanna entered the Candidates’ cycle for the 1993 Women’s World Championship but was eliminated after the Candidates’ final match with Nana Ioseliani. 

In 1994, Zsuzsanna Polgar married computer consultant Jacob Shutzman, moved to New York and also changed her first name to suit better in her new country- from Zsuzsanna to Susan.

Susan became the Women’s World Champion at her second attempt in 1996 and was Women’s World Chess Champion from 1996 to 1999.

In 1999, Susan Polgar made a risky decision of refusing to defend her World  Championship Crown against Xie Jun of China due to FIDE’s choice of venue (China) and due to Prize Fund Swiss Frank 2,00,000 which she wanted enhanced, without offering any other options to FIDE. When Susan refused to play under these conditions, FIDE declared that she had forfeited the title. Susan Polgar sued FIDE in the Court of Abitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, for monetary damages and the restoration of her title. However, the Court granted her a limited relief of USD 25,000 as Attorney’s fees. Susan Polgar did not participate in subsequent Women’s World Championship cycles.

In 2002 Susan Polgar changed her National Federation from Hungary to the United States and played the top board for the United States women’s team at the 2004 Chess Olympiad, Mallorca, Spain. The team won the Silver medal, and Susan Polgar won an individual Gold medal for achieving the highest point total. Susan has a total of eleven Olympiad medals, four Gold, four Silver, and three Bronze.

Susan Polgar switched her federation affiliation back to Hungary in June 2019.

In 1997, Susan Polgar founded the Polgar Chess Center in Forest Hills, New York which was  closed in 2009. In 2002, she established the Susan Polgar Foundation.

Susan served as the Chairperson or co-chair of the FIDE Commission for Women’s Chess from 2008 until late 2018.

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Praveen Thipsay is one of the earliest Grandmasters and the first Indian to win the Commonwealth Chess Champion. He is a FIDE Senior Trainer who has been a coach to many promising Indian Chess players.

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