The Best Female Chess Player Of All Time: Judit Polgar
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The Best Female Chess Player of All Time: Judit Polgar

The Best Female Chess Player of All Time: Judit Polgar

Judit Polgar is the best female chess player of all time. In this article, you will learn what she did to get to the top of the elite chess world.

There are many young girls out there who wish one day to be part of the best chess players. What has always discouraged them from going after this goal is the sad reality that there are not as many females at the top.

To be the best in elite chess is something hard, not only for a female like Judit Polgar. Meet here the Top 5 World Chess Champions According to Rating.

In the history of World Classical Champions, it is only dominated by males with not even a single female World Champion.

The divide has even led FIDE to create four titles for females, namely:

  • The lowest female title is: Women’s Candidate Master(Achieved after gaining a FIDE rating of 2000+)
  • The second-lowest female title is: Women’s Fide Master(Achieved after gaining a FIDE rating of 2100+)
  • The second highest female title is: Women’s International Master(Achieved after gaining a FIDE rating of 2200+ and 3 WIM norms)
  • The highest female title is: Women’s Grandmaster(Achieved after gaining a FIDE rating of 2300+ and 3 WGM norms)

To top it off, there are events and tournament sections mainly focused on females. This also means that there are Women’s World Championship tournaments.

While achieving some of these titles or winning women’s events are great achievements, there is a certain female chess player who did not like the idea.

The Savior

On the 23rd of July 1976, a certain female by the name of Judit Polgar was born in Budapest Hungary.

Judit Polgar had an optimistic father who believed that he could mend his children to be geniuses from an early age.

Judit alongside her older sisters Susan and Sofia were homeschooled with the primary subject every day being chess.

They would study the game every day for more than six hours with chess coaches whose names are:

  1. Grandmaster Pal Benko
  2. Grandmaster Alexander Chernin
  3. International Master Tibor Florian

Introduction to Tournaments

Judit Polgar got into the tournament scene at the age of six and, when she had reached nine years old, she was now rated 2000+ according to FIDE.

On her way to achieving this rating, she never played in any girls-only events. The reason behind not playing in any girls-only events is that she thought that they did not push as hard as she did.

This was the mentality all the three sisters had; it was implicated by their father as a way to remove the attitude of seeing males as better than females in chess.

In January 1989, at just the tender age of thirteen years, Judit Polgar was already the highest-rated female according to FIDE.

This record would last for 26 years until it was broken in 2015 by Hou Yifan who is considered to be the second-best female chess player of all time.

In the video lesson below, GM Igor Smirnov shows you one of the most super-cool and brilliant chess puzzles ever! The puzzle is really difficult:

Youngest Grandmaster in History

As she kept on winning matches and tournaments, her next target was to become a Grandmaster.

She achieved this record two years later at the age of fifteen years old. Setting the record for the youngest player to become a Grandmaster in history.

This record was once held by Bobby Fischer, a player who is part of the conversation when we are speaking about the Greatest Chess Player of All Time.

Her accomplishments were just too much considering that she was just fifteen years old, after more than a century of no females being able to compete with males. At the age of just fifteen, Judit Polgar was already on the same level as the best.

The level of chess which she had developed saw her competing in multiple tournaments. The majority of the results saw her either winning or finding herself as a runner-up in the majority of them.

Playing Against a Former World Champion

Her goal from the start was to become a World Champion. You can not become a World Champion without defeating some previous and current World Champions during your lifetime.

An exhibition match was set up, where she faced off against the tenth World Champion in Boris Spassky.

The first game ended in a draw, signifying that both players had come for a fight, but rather it is the second match that made headlines.

In the match, we saw both players playing the Ruy Lopez: Morphy Defense. This was a sign that both players were going into the match ready for a fight, as the opening offers both of them dynamic structures.

Judit Polgar stated that she noticed that the only way she could make it in chess was if she played attacking chess.

This is chess where she attacks an opponent’s king in an aggressive manner until she scores the win.

This is what we saw in this game, as 24.g5 saw her sacrificing a pawn in order to break Boris Spasky’s defensive structure.

While Boris did not immediately barge, we saw Judit Polgar pushing all the pawns. The pawns were supposed to be protecting her king due to the surrounding threats around it.

After 40 moves, Spassky resigned from the match. The resignation occurred because all his pawns were going to get captured with his king also misplaced.

This was her first win ever against a former World Champion. She went on to win two more matches and clinch the exhibition match with a score of  5½–4½.

The prize pool saw both players fighting for 200 000 dollars. After winning, Judit Polgar collected 110 000 dollars, while Boris Spassky took home 90 000 dollars.

Into the Top 10

This was a sign of things to come, as years later, in 1994, she played in a strong tournament. The tournament had strong opposition including two former World Champions, Vishy Anand and Anatoly Karpov.

While she tied for 3rd in the event, the doubts were thrown out of the window and she was now a complete elite chess player.

She kept that consistency going and two years later, in 1996, she became the first-ever female to be in the FIDE top 10 rankings.

Her final peak ranking was number eight, and her next target was then World Champion Garry Kasparov.

Defeating Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov had the same attitude as Bobby Fischer, when it comes to females who play chess.

They both considered females to be weak and unable to match up to male chess players. When asked if he believes “Judit Polgar will ever dethrone him?”. He did not shy away from stating that “it was nearly impossible“.

Judit Polgar also had massive respect for Garry Kasparov. This left her in a psychological state, where she would lose the match even before playing because of fear.

This was mainly because Garry Kasparov had already broken a lot of records. These records include consecutive months as World Number one according to FIDE.

In total, Judit Polgar and Garry Kasparov have played a total of 17 matches in all formats. And in a non-surprising manner, Garry Kasparov is leading 13-2.

Surprisingly, Judit only has only one win on Garry, and this is probably her proudest moment when it comes to chess.

The game took place in 2002 in an event that was named Russia vs The Rest of the World, with the rapid format being used in the tournament.

In the match, we saw the Ruy Lopez: Berlin Defense being used. Surprisingly, Kasparov went for the l’Hermet Variation, which saw them exchanging queens and Black unable to castle.

At this stage, Kasparov had underestimated Judit for a long time, and this was a sign of more of the same treatment.

This variation can be considered to be a novelty opening when we are considering Kasparovs repertoire over the years.

23…f6. This move damaged the pawn structure surrounding the king, leaving it exposed in the long run, exactly what an aggressive Judit wanted.

The position kept on getting worse and worse as the match continued and, after 42 moves of playing, we finally saw a resignation from Garry.

In a press conference, he admitted that he had underestimated her and was not sure how strong she was at the time.

By the way, it’s not the first time Kasparov has wrongly underestimated his opponent. ☺ Look at here how Kasparov was unable to win a chess game against a 9-year-old girl child!

List of Victims

This symbolized the first time that a current World Chess Champion had been defeated by a woman in chess.

In total, Judit Polgar has defeated a total of eleven former and current World Champions namely:

  1. Magnus Carlsen
  2. Garry Kasparov
  3. Viswanathan Anand
  4. Vladimir Kramnik
  5. Anatoly Karpov
  6. Boris Spassky
  7. Veselin Topalov
  8. Vasily Smyslov
  9. Alexander Khalifman
  10. Ruslan Ponomariov
  11. Rustam Kasimdzhanov

All these players have held either the classical, rapid, or blitz World Title at some point in their lives.

While she never managed to win the World title, this is still an amazing achievement. This shows that she had the capabilities to become a World Champion at some point in time.

Retirement & Current Projects

Her retirement came in 2015, as she retired with a FIDE rating of 2675, which is still impressive until this day.

Her primary focus when it comes to chess is mainly coaching and creating the next stars who can be capable of achieving what she never could.

The Judit Polgar Chess Foundation is her main project and it finds them trying to create prodigies.

The main way they are doing this is by offering lessons to kids in the range of grade one to grade four.

This idea has been positively accepted by the Hungarian government as they have added it to their curriculum.

There is a low chance that we will get another player like Judit Polgar. While players like Hou Yifan have tried, female chess players still have a long way to go.


Just the same way males are in general not keen to be in traditionally female activities or groups.

This is the main reason why we see females not joining sports in high numbers like males because so many sports are male-dominated.

Females do not like the idea of being in situations or fields where they can not see themselves. This includes competition or any other fields.

But when it comes to chess, this is one of the sports that women get to compete directly with men.

Such females are mostly those who believe they can also show great performance in the field that men are also involved in.

Judit Polgar as one of them tried to prove a point until she resigned and focused on her projects.

Which still aim at bringing up young minds to become what she did not manage to before retiring as a chess player.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want GM Igor Smirnov to help you get better at chess, watch this Masterclass.

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