Friday, August 12, 2011

Special interview with Judit



Interview with my sister Judit by Lars Grahn in Ravenna, Italy

When I met Judit Polgar eleven years ago in Malmö, Sweden, she was about to get married to her boyfriend Gustav. I asked her if she thought it was possible to combine family life with a chess career at top level, and she told me that she would let me know when she had some experience of it.

Eleven years later we met again. She spent a couple of days in Italy as a guest of honour at the Lido Adriano Open. We were sitting on the hotel terrace overlooking the Adriatic Sea, and I had the impression that fashion houses had entered the chess world: Magnus Carlsen and G-Star, and Judit wearing a smart costume from the Airfield collection.

I reminded her of my question about combining family life and career. She remembered my concerns and smiled...

“Well, it is very difficult, that’s for sure. When my son Oliver was born – he is now six and a half – I was already very much looking forward to his arrival. I had been planning that for quite some time with my husband.

Very shortly after Oliver was born I was playing in the world championship in San Luís. I wanted to have everything, and chesswise it wasn’t really possible. I thought I could manage it, but 23 months later my daughter Hanna was born and then everything really kind of fell apart, even though I have had help with my children from day one from grandparents and nannies.

First of all, my priorities in life and in my mind definitely changed. I didn’t have the same interest in chess as I had before. Obviously I can’t blame my kids for the fact that I dropped my rating, that I fell from number ten to number fifty on the world rating list.

Now when they are older and we have got used to each other’s life styles and routines I see that I’m coming back, especially with my achievement in the European Championship. I’m very happy with my games. So I’m kind of back, but it would be an exaggeration to say that it’s possible to get back to the very top. In every sport – and chess is no exception – you have to work a lot, you have to compete a lot, you have to focus a thousand per cent. But when doing the right things in family matters, you mathematically have less time. Besides I have other interests, like writing books.

I’ve written a chess book for children, a work book based on first moves [in positions]. My sister Sofia has done the graphics. I’m interested in promoting chess amongst children. I implemented chess as a compulsory subject in the English-speaking kindergarten where my son and daughter go. It’s twice a week with the older children and once a week with the younger.

So I’m taking a different direction in the chess world. Even if I’m not as successful as before from a rating point of view, my life is somehow broader and I have other things coming up for the future. But I still enjoy chess: that’s why I compete, though not as much as eleven years ago. My next competition will probably be in July in Greece, the Greek Team Championships, only a few games. The World Team Championships will take place in China in July and I hope that our team will be able to travel there. Then it’s the World Cup in August”.

Eleven years ago you told me that you played 50-70 games a year.

Especially in 2000 I played quite a lot. I doubt that it will be 70 this year, but maybe close to 50. Maybe four or five tournaments, probably closer to 40 games than 50. But it’s not easy. It’s not only that I go away for weeks from my family, I obviously also have to do my daily training.

Full interview on chessbase here.