Go ahead - make my day
August 1, 2005 8:16 PM   Subscribe

As you're reading this, Grand Master Susan Polgar is on her way to breaking the Guinness World Record for playing simultaneous games of chess. She began at 10 a.m. today playing over 300 opponents. Going from board to board, by 5 p.m. she had already walked 5 miles. Polgar, with a fascinating backstory, broke the glass ceiling of male-dominated international chess in 1990 and cleared the way for her sister Judit, an even stronger player. As of early tonight, Susan had yet to lose a single game (she must win at lest 80% of them), but acknowledged that some players might get lucky: "At least I will make their day."
posted by soyjoy (20 comments total)
As you're reading this

Assuming, of course, that you read this by around 4 a.m. EST Tuesday.
posted by soyjoy at 8:17 PM on August 1, 2005

I just read an article about the Polgars the other day. You're right, their story is fascinating. Thanks for the post, soyjoy.
posted by LeeJay at 8:19 PM on August 1, 2005

posted by hackly_fracture at 9:00 PM on August 1, 2005

"That boy's playing four games of chess at once!"
posted by Citizen Premier at 9:33 PM on August 1, 2005

Citizen Premier: I think one of the reasons why chess rarely succeeds as a spectator sport is that few people ever really play to checkmate. Especially at the higher levels there is a mutual agreement that a position that will lead to a one-pawn advantage 8 moves down the line is a fatal one, so there is often no point in playing it out. The end result is that it is often difficult for novices to understand exactly why a grandmaster resigned from the transcript of the game.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:43 PM on August 1, 2005

Well, I didn't know that. I'm a pretty bad chess player myself, and have little interest in the game. I was simply quoting a scene from the Simpsons.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:27 PM on August 1, 2005

I know, I was just saying that chess would be a lot more fun if there actually was checkmate, usually delivered along with slam dunking the loosing king, and a victory dance on the board.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:34 PM on August 1, 2005

Give me any even number of Grandmasters to play simultaneously, a piece of paper and a pen, and I'll beat 50% of them. Easily.
posted by seanyboy at 4:45 AM on August 2, 2005

He will teach her discipline, critical thinking, logic, math, science, English, literature, history. She will learn to speak seven languages fluently and, in time, will grow up to be a mental heavyweight. An Einstein in a skirt.

Her dad was not the first, nor will he be the last, person to try this. What's remarkable to me is that she's turned out as well adjusted as she has. History is littered with tales of so called "manufactured geniuses" who ended up rejecting their parent and the world in favor of a less demanding life.
posted by anastasiav at 5:17 AM on August 2, 2005

seanyboy: In simultaneous events, the simultaneous player generally plays White on all boards. Second, quite a few grandmaster games end in draws, so you would beat less than 50% of them using that strategy anyway. Even in the article you link, he beat only 4 out of 9 players due to draws.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:33 AM on August 2, 2005

What happened to Josh Waitzkin?
posted by madman at 8:01 AM on August 2, 2005

John Stuart Mill's dad tried it, and he had a breakdown.

He, was, though, pretty smart.
posted by kenko at 8:44 AM on August 2, 2005

Great link, seanyboy. What a clever idea.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2005

seanyboy - As I recall, Harry Anderson recommended this same strategy in his book. You don't even need the pen & paper - just remember the last move.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:08 AM on August 2, 2005

Her dad was not the first, nor will he be the last, person to try this.

Nope - and though I applaud the effect that the Polgars have had on chess and gender, I have to admit I find the parenting to be somewhat appalling. It reminds me of Leopold Mozart, who was a proficient instrumentalist and composer and well-known music teacher. He seems to have decided the same thing ("I will raise a [musical] genius") and gone to great lengths - some say to the extent of ghost-writing many of the "prodigy's" early works - to prove himself right. After raising Wolfgang in a completely intensive, immersive musical environment and constantly impressing on him his responsibility to live up to expectations, Leopold dragged the boy around Europe (often resulting in health problems that may have eventually led to Wolfgang's untimely death) to cement both his reputation and his self-identity as a fantastical musical master. Within the last two years of his life, Leopold began again with the same project, this time using his grandson (Wolfgang's nephew), but he died before the child was two.

With this single-minded mania shaping his entire childhood, though, is it any surprise that Mozart turned out to be a "genius" of music? And when you strip away the prodigal aspect, are you left with anything in the music itself that's significantly, qualitatively different from the best of Haydn? Not in my book, you don't.
posted by soyjoy at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2005

There's a huge difference between saying "I will raise a music genius" (or a chess genius) and "I will raise a genius."

A huge difference between encouraging children to learn more and more about what they are interested in, and pushing them to be someone you want them to be.

I tried to find out more about Laszlo Polgar's ideas online, but without success (Everyone is more interested in his daughters and chess). I am very curious to see how much choice his children had.

I personally see nothing wrong with giving your kids the encouragement and resources to be this good at something.
posted by adzuki at 10:31 AM on August 2, 2005

What happened to Josh Waitzkin?

Apparently he's now some sort of a martial arts champion.

The interesting thing about the Polgars is that Laszlo Polgar is by all accounts a pretty weak chess player, yet he was able to train 3 world class players by himself.
posted by gyc at 11:39 AM on August 2, 2005

Former women's world chess champion Susan Polgar broke four international records this week after playing more than 1,100 games over 17 hours.

Polgar set a world record for the largest number of simultaneous games played when she had 326 games going at once on Monday afternoon. Of those matches, she had 309 wins, 14 draws and three losses.

Her chess marathon continued until 3 a.m. Tuesday, when she broke another record of 1,131 consecutive games played, said Barbara DeMaro, managing director of U.S. Chess Trust, an event sponsor.

Polgar, who has won the world title four times, also beat records for the highest number of games won and the highest percentage of wins, which was 96.93 percent.
posted by soyjoy at 1:59 PM on August 2, 2005

So these girls, they play chess?
posted by dhartung at 3:22 PM on August 2, 2005

History is littered with tales of so called "manufactured geniuses" who ended up rejecting their parent and the world in favor of a less demanding life.

I don't know why that makes me think of Todd Marinovich, but it always does..
posted by mrgrimm at 4:28 PM on August 2, 2005

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