Judit Polgár is widely recognized as the greatest female chess player of all time. At age 11, she beat her first Grandmaster. At 15, she became one, shattering Bobby Fischer’s previous record in the process. Today, Polgár is an exemplar of female success in a male-dominated field. In her talks, she stresses the importance of practice, perseverance, and passion—and of never taking your eye off the king.
Hungary’s Judit Polgár is internationally known as the best female chess player in history. A two-time Olympic champion, at the age of 15 she broke Bobby Fischer’s record and became the youngest Grandmaster on record. She was ranked the number one female chess player on the planet for over 25 years, an exceptional achievement and a Guinness World Record. In 2002, she also made history as the first woman ever to defeat the world’s number-one ranked chess player (a male) in competitive play.
“[Judit] showed that there are no inherent limitations to ... aptitude—an idea that many male players refused to accept until they had unceremoniously been crushed by a twelve-year-old with a ponytail.”— Garry Kasparov, Chess Grandmaster
Polgár was ranked in the Top 10 of the World Men’s Rating list in 2005. In August 2014 she won the silver medal at the Chess Olympiad before announcing her retirement from competitive chess. In 2015, at the European Championships, she led the Hungarian men’s team to a bronze medal as captain. She is the main organizer of the annual Global Chess Festival and author of prize-winning books for professional chess players and children alike, including How I Beat Fischer’s Record. Her passion, today, is to promote the game, inspire younger generations, and make a difference in education.
In November 2016, Polgár signed on to become a Planet 50-50 Champion in support of UN Women for her role in “breaking gender stereotypes and glass ceilings.” She and her team have also developed the award-winning Chess Palace educational program, which uses chess as an exceptional learning tool to facilitate the development of children and to enable deploying their talent through chess. The motto of her educational program: “Play your way to creative thinking.”
Finding Success in a Man’s World A Story of Talent, Grit, and Determination
In this keynote, Judit Polgár presents her remarkable life story—from child prodigy to record-shattering sensation to top female player in the world. She gives fascinating insights into her challenges, struggles, and triumphs—on and beyond the chessboard.
Polgár is, unequivocally, the best female chess player in history. But she has achieved much more than that: she peaked at number eight on the world men’s ranking list, and, all told, has defeated 11 world champions, including Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. She speaks about how she became the youngest Grandmaster in history—at just 15—breaking Bobby Fischer’s record. She speaks on leadership, on coaching the men’s team, and on promoting the game, worldwide. And she speaks on inspiring girls and women to succeed—especially in industries, sports, and fields normally dominated by men.
Nature or Nurture? Where Does Extraordinary Talent Come from—and Can We Teach It to Our Children?
At age 5, Judit Polgár defeated a family friend without glancing at the chessboard. After the game, the friend joked: “You are good at chess, but I'm a good cook.” Polgár replied: “Do you cook without looking at the stove?”
Is such extraordinary talent innate, or can it be cultivated? When we recognize potential in our children, should we encourage it, or let it thrive naturally? How can we help children strive for excellence while still embracing their creativity and independence?
Judit Polgár knows. In this talk, Polgár shares her life story and personal path to success, which started with her special home-schooled education. Her parents had the vision—even before their children were born—that they would become geniuses. And it worked. Her sisters, Susan and Sofia, became a Grandmaster and International Master, respectively. Judit became the youngest Grandmaster in history and the #1 female player of all time, claiming the top spot on FIDE’s women’s ladder for over 25 years. What does it take to climb to the top of your field, to excel, to truly become great? Ask Judit Polgár.