On the heels of last week’s Susan Polgar Girls’ Invitational chess tournament, the August issue of St. Louis Magazine has a full-length feature on Susan Polgar, founder of SPICE and coach of the Webster University chess team.
The profile traces her life in chess and obstacles that stood in her way as a female pioneer.
It also captures thoughts on the nature of competition, including this segment:
“What happens is, because you put in so much effort and a tournament is the culmination of years of preparation, it’s very tense,” she says. “At least in some sports, it’s over soon—you have two minutes to swim the relay and then you’re done. Here you need to maintain that tension and discipline for two weeks.
When I was preparing for world championships, I was doing physical exercise to develop not only endurance and fitness but self-confidence. Trust me, after two-thirds of that time on the treadmill, I was saying, ‘When is it over already?’ But to still accomplish that goal, day after day, even when I didn’t feel like going—overcoming that sensation of giving up was very important for me.”
On the chessboard, there’s at least the consolation that you’re not going to be tackled or hurled to the ice. “There’s no physical contact,” she concedes, “but that mental competition can be even more painful or draining. It’s actually horrible when you lose.” She still winces at the thought of her loss to a German grandmaster 15 years ago: “I missed getting checkmate in three moves, and it was a checkmate I’d been teaching my students three weeks earlier!”
Elsewhere, an archive of Polgar’s Aug. 2 interview with Wisconsin Public Radio on whether chess should be in the Olympics is now available for mp3 download here.
Category: Webster in the News