Judit Polgár (born July 23, 1976) is a Hungarian chess grandmaster. She is by far the strongest female chess player in history. In 1991, she achieved the title of Grandmaster (GM) at the age of 15 years and 4 months. She was, at that time, the youngest person to do so.
Judit Polgár is Jewish, and from Budapest. Members of her family perished in the Holocaust.
She and her two older sisters, Grandmaster Susan and International Master Zsófia, were part of an educational experiment carried out by their father László Polgár, in an attempt to prove that children could make exceptional achievements if trained in a specialist subject from a very early age. “Geniuses are made, not born,” was László’s thesis. He and his wife Klara educated their three daughters at home, with chess as the specialist subject. However, chess was not taught to the exclusion of everything else, as was the case with Gata Kamsky. Their father also taught his three daughters the international language Esperanto.
The rest of Judit’s family eventually emigrated (Zsófia and her parents to Israel and later to Canada, Susan to New York), but she remained in Hungary and married Gusztáv Fonts, a veterinary surgeon from Budapest, whom she met through her dog.
Polgár is ranked number 22 in the world on the January 2008 FIDE rating list with an Elo rating of 2707, the only woman on FIDE’s Top 100 Players list, and has been ranked as high as number eight. Polgár has defeated almost all the world’s top players, including former World Champion Garry Kasparov (the highest-rated chess player of all time), former #1 Veselin Topalov, and current World Champion Viswanathan Anand.
Since Judit achieved her GM rating at age 15, others have surpassed her record, though none has held it as long as Judit.
Judit has always preferred men’s events, making it clear from the beginning that she wanted to become the true World Champion of Chess.
Trained in her early years by her sister Susan (who ultimately became Women’s World Champion herself) Judit was a prodigy from an early age. She first defeated an International Master (Dolfi Drimer) at age 10, and a Grandmaster (Vladimir Kovacevic) at age 11.
In 1994 she suffered a controversial defeat at the hands of then-world champion Garry Kasparov, the highest-rated chess player of all time. Kasparov changed his mind after making a losing move and then made another move instead. According to chess rules, once a player has released a piece s/he cannot make a different move, so Kasparov should have been made to play his original move. However, Polgár did not challenge this because she says there were no witnesses and an arbiter was not around. She was also unaware at the time that the re-move was caught on tape by a television crew. The tournament director was criticized for not forfeiting Kasparov when the videotape evidence was made available to him. However, she won a rapid chess game against Kasparov in 2002.
On the November 1995 FIDE ratings list, Polgár’s 2676 rating made her the number 10 ranked player in the world, the first woman ever to enter the world’s Top Ten.
In 2003, Judit scored one of her best results: an undefeated clear second place in the Category 19 Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, just a half-point behind Indian star Viswanathan Anand, and a full point ahead of world champion Vladimir Kramnik.
In 2004, Polgár took some time off from chess to give birth to her son, Olivér. She was consequently considered inactive and not listed on the January 2005 FIDE rating list. Her sister Susan reactivated her playing status during this period, and temporarily became ranked the world’s number one woman player again.
Polgár returned to chess at the prestigious Corus chess tournament on January 15, 2005, scoring 7/13. She was therefore re-listed in the April 2005 FIDE rating list, gaining a few rating points for her better-than-par performance at Corus. In May she also had a better-than-par performance at a strong tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, finishing third. This brought her to her highest ever rating, 2735, in the July 2005 FIDE list and enabled her to retain her spot as the eighth ranked player in the world.
In September 2005, Polgár became the first woman to play for a World Championship, at the FIDE World Chess Championship 2005. However, she had a rare disappointing performance, coming last out of the eight competitors. Nigel Short criticized her poor opening repertoire, and some speculated that taking a year off to have a baby may have left her rusty, despite her strong performances in two tournaments earlier in the year.
She did not play at the 2006 Linares tournament because she was pregnant again. On July 6, 2006, she gave birth to a girl, Hanna.
In October 2006, Judit scored another excellent result: tied for first place in the Essent Chess Tournament, Hoogeveen, Holland. She scored 4.5 out of 6 in a double round robin tournament that included two wins against the world’s top-rated player, Veselin Topalov.
In May-June 2007 she played in the Candidates Tournament for the FIDE World Chess Championship 2007. She was eliminated in the first round, losing 3.5-2.5 to Evgeny Bareev.
In January 2008 she competed in the Corus Wijk aan Zee tournament, scoring a respectable 6.0/13.