5th Aquaprofit - Polgar Chess Day
5th Aquaprofit - Polgar Chess Day
By Diana Mihajlova
While the Women’s World Championship between Hou Yifan and Humpy Koneru was taking place in Tirana, in Budapest, three ladies synonymous with women’s chess were holding their annual chess event named ‘Chess Day’. On Saturday, 19 November, Judit, Susan and Sofia were greeted by a 2,000 strong audience that came to celebrate the chess legacy of the Polgar sisters.
While Susan, Sofia and Judit Polgar are necessarily connected to the term ‘women’s chess’, paradoxically, they have actually brought women’s chess ever closer to the men’s. It started with Susan narrowing the gap when she resisted the gender barrier and in 1986 qualified for the Men’s World Championship Cycle. It continued with Judit who completely closed the gap by persistently refusing to take part in ‘women only’ competitions. The ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ chess is an ongoing debate opened up by the Polgars with an intermediate compromise by creating a new term, 'Open', to indicate a mixed tournament where both men and women take part.
‘Women’s chess’ has never been the same, ever since the three little girls from Hungary started shaking chess competitions around the world.
Today, almost 30 years later, they are sophisticated women that have embraced married life and children, scattered on three continents – Susan in the USA, Sofia in Israel and Judit, ever faithful to her native Budapest.
Behind can be seen posters of the front pages of the chess book for children, ‘Chess Playground’. The first part was published last year and the second, more advanced sequel was added this year and launched at the 'Chess Day'. This book is aimed at kindergarten and pre-school kids and is a joint venture between Judit as writer and Sofia as illustrator.
The 'Chess Day' serves as an opportunity to bring the three sisters together and keep the myth alive. This year it was its fifth edition. It was created in 2007 by Tamas Nadasi, the CEO of ‘Aquaprofit’, an engineering, consulting and investment company, successful internationally. Mr Tamas Nadasi, a chess enthusiast, sponsors many chess events as well as the winning Hungarian national chess team, which in 2009 even enlisted Anand for a round.
‘Chess Day’ started with a pageantry of human chess pieces clad in costumes designed by the famous Hungarian designer, Marta Makany.
The first part of the day was filled with a jovial interaction with the audience, a book signing, chess classes in three levels with Susan, Sofia and Judit, a blind chess game by Judit against a VIP team, and blitz games against members from the audience chosen by lottery.
The morning activities included an 18-board simul against city mayors from all over Hungary. The winner, selected by a lottery draw, was awarded a public playground worth 4000 Euros, donated by a benefactor, Mr Peter Jovian. It was won by Mr Almádi István from Bodajk, a small town in Hungary.
A press conference attended by all national press and television channels, which went for a long time with an extended question-answer session with the audience.
During the conference, a surprise visitor turned up, albeit only on a large screen. Thanks to the internet, Gary Kasparov greeted the participants and guests and congratulated all on the event. He spoke about his efforts to make chess a compulsory subject in schools within the European Union, to which he is now joined by Judit Polgar as a member of the European Chess Committee for the promotion of Chess in Schools.
While the grown-ups were busy at the press conference, in the adjoining room, 120 children were taking part in a chess rapid tournament.
At one point, an agitated boy was trying hard to put across his point to the judges: he had won the game and not his opponent! Judges were scratching their heads trying to solve this complex matter - there appeared to be two winners in one game! Who is this young chap with the piercing look and determination, gesticulating with both hands as an old man? Why...it’s Oliver! Judit’s son has obviously inherited her strong will.
The children were treated to a playing hall and toys, for a deserving break from chess. A climbing house displayed a logo claiming that to take up chess is 'Egy jó döntés' - A Good Decision.
Fun was not lacking among the main protagonists either. A blitz game between Judit and Sofia, with pieces made of chocolate, sweetened the mood. Judit proved to be the greedier of the two.
Many visitors from the Hungarian chess, arts and cultural life paid visit to the event:
IM Peter Hardicsay, a chess trainer, engineer - economist and college sports professor, is also promoting another worthy project: making chess available in old people's homes as a way of improving their social and quality of life.
The main attraction of the event was the 100 board simultaneous exhibition split between the three sisters. It is regularly met with a lot of interest and many disappointed players who were not lucky enough to get through the waiting lists.
Winners are rare, however sometime some surprises lurk. Susan gallantly yielded a win to a young boy after several hours of battle.
It might come as a surprise to those who don’t know Judit well, but she has another great ability – she is also the driving force behind the organization of this worthy and very successful event, in a fruitful collaboration with its sponsor, Aquaprofit.
The 'Chess Day' is a lasting reminder about the fabulous Polgar sisters and their contribution to the noble game. But also an update about Judit Polgar's march towards ever greater success. Judit, unlike her sisters, continues to be an active chess player, keeping a prominent place among the top 50 (men!) on the FIDE rating list. She has 'only' reached the quarter finals of this year's World Cup, and was third at this year’s Individual European Championship (the Open) but she has not played her last move yet!
Photos by Diana Mihajlova and Timea Jaksa