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Three Budapest Sisters May Get Rooked Attempting to Challenge Male Chess World

November 16, 1986|PATRICIA KOZA | United Press International

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Three sisters from Budapest are threatening to demolish male domination of the chess world.

Zsuzsa Polgar, 17, and her sisters, Zsofi, 12, and Judit, 10, began playing chess at age 3. Since they began competing internationally, they have racked up spectacular wins in Argentina, Puerto Rico and New York.

"Zsuzsa Polgar is certainly one of the two strongest women players in the world," said Stewart Reuben, events chairman of the British Chess Federation in London. "I doubt if there is anybody better than her in the world--male or female--who is 17.

"And the other two girls are very strong for their age irrespective of their sex."

Judit May Be Best

Judit may be the best yet. She scored seven straight victories in her section in her first international competition, this year's New York Open, the most lucrative tournament in chess. First prize was $85,000.

"Judit is probably better than Bobby Fischer," said her father, Laszlo Polgar, comparing her to the man regarded as the greatest modern player. Her U.S. rating is 2,203, higher than Fisher's at the same age.

However, pursuing their art has meant one problem after another for the Polgar sisters, particularly for Zsuzsa Polgar. The reason: Their parents refuse to let them play in women-only tournaments, claiming that it's not challenging enough.

In response, the Hungarian Chess Federation refused to let Zsuzsa out of the country for three years, until 1985.

Incompetence Claimed

"The Hungarian Chess Federation seems totally incompetent with respect to Zsuzsa," Reuben said.

In one case, when she was willing to play on the women's side in the 1984 Olympiad in Thessalonika, the federation refused to allow her to be accompanied by one of her parents. The reason: It might threaten "team spirit."

"Women are able to achieve results similar, in the fields of intellectual activities, to that of men," her father wrote in a document describing the family.

"Chess is a form of intellectual activity, so this also applies to chess," he wrote. "Accordingly, we reject any kind of discrimination in this respect."

No Schooling

None of the children has ever been to school. They are taught at home by their father and mother, Klara. Both parents are teachers who believe that children should be stimulated at an early age.

Zsuzsa Polgar, for example, speaks Hungarian, English, Bulgarian, Esperanto, German, Russian and Spanish.

The sisters laugh and horse around like other kids and enjoy table tennis and a range of outdoor activities. But their lives are dominated by chess.

Chess Boards Everywhere

Chess boards are set up in every room except the kitchen in the four-room flat where they live in a Budapest high-rise. The girls play at least four hours a day with Hungarian grand masters.

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