Traveling with the Polgars

by Sam Sloan

In 1986, I traveled with the Polgar family or took them to tournaments all over the world, to places as far away as Albena, Bulgaria, Copenhagen, Puerto Rico and Rio Gallegos, Argentina (which is near the southern tip of Argentina). One reason I went with them to those places was to try to help them overcome the hurdles which were always being put in their way to stop them from playing chess.

Most people find this difficult to imagine, but the Polgars were hated and indeed despised all over the chess playing world, in spite of the fact that they were very sweet and nice people. For example, Laszlo Polgar is often compared with Rustam Kamsky, which is a highly inappropriate comparison, because Laszlo Polgar is a very gentile person, whereas Rustam Kamsky is simply a thug.

The reason that the Polgars were so greatly disliked was simply that they were girls who won chess games. More than that, every sundry and random person who found out about them and realized their potential suddenly wanted to take over their lives and control their activities. Since I was more or less their official spokesman while traveling with them (mainly because Laszlo Polgar speaks no languages other than Hungarian and Esperanto) I constantly had to field requests from those who wanted and indeed sought to force the Polgars to travel long distances to play in minor tournaments for little or no prize money or appearance fee.

The best example of this is the reports I keep reading that the Polgars "refused" to compete in tournaments against other women. This is absolutely untrue. The Polgars never refused to play against women. What they did refuse to do was to play in some minor tournament in some obscure location in a competition against opponents averaging 2150 at best and with little or no prize money available. No male international chess master would ever be asked, much less required, to play in such conditions. Yet, the Polgars were at various times blacklisted and banned from international competition precisely because they refused to play.

In the course of traveling with the Polgar family to all of these chess events, I collected original game scores of dozens of games they played. I also played several hundred five minute games against Zsofia and Judit Polgar each. That is the reason I made the comment that I was wondering if anyone had an interest in old Polgar games.

In 1986, I submitted several articles for publication about my travels with the Polgars. All of my articles were rejected. The chess world was not interested in reading anything favorable to the Polgars at that time. In July, 1986, I sent in an article to Chess Life which included a half-dozen Polgar games. It was returned with a rejection slip only a few days later. I also posted several articles on Leisure Link favorable to the Polgars. I was attacked by Glen Petersen (later the Editor of Chess Life) for what I wrote. Later, my submissions to Leisure Link were banned altogether by Dawn.

The article I submitted to Chess Life included a brilliant sacrificial game played by Judy Polgar in a tournament in Copenhagen when she was nine, which proved that she was a master player by that date. I tried many times to get that game published. Nobody would publish it. Of all the games that I submitted, none were ever published anywhere, except for Zsuzsa's game against Spiridonov from Albena, 1986, which has since been published in many places.

About two weeks ago, I posted a comment that I was wondering if anybody had an interest in seeing old games played by Judy Polgar when she was nine or ten years old. I regret having posted that comment, which I did in haste. In order to post these games now, I would have to spend many hours digging through old records to find the original score sheets, and then I would have to put them on ChessBase or Chess Assistant and so on. Anybody who has done this sort of work will realize that this is a laborious, difficult and time consuming task. I wonder if this is worth it, to appease a chess playing public that was so rejecting of the Polgar family at the time that these games were played.

Sam Sloan

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