A look at playing style of the nine-year-old who captivated New York crowd
This spring's fourth annual New York Open drew 975 players, who competed for prizes of $130,000, the largest guaranteed fund in chess history. Jan Smejkal of Czechoslovakia and Gyula Sax of Hungary, two world-class grandmasters, finished on top in the prestigious international section, with 7-2 scores. This was good for $12,500 each, and Smejkal annexed the title and an extra $1,000 by defeating Sax in a playoff match. There were six other sections scaling down from the international, and they ranged from those rated under 2400 to under 1400, which included previously unrated players.
Though the lion's share of the attention was naturally focused on the international, a good deal of thunder was stolen when a nine-year-old Hungarian girl began to make her presence felt in the bottom section. Judith Polgar had been accustomed to being overshadowed by her 16-year-old big sister, Susan, an international master (who, incidentally, was performing nobly in the top section, where she defeated six-time US champion Walter Browne, although she finished outside the winner's circle), and middle sister Sophia, 11, who tied for second and won $1,200 in the under-2000 section. But Judith made people sit up and take notice. I was among the incredulous crowd watching the prodigy play splendid, mature chess. Especially important was her air of composure and self-confidence despite the hordes of spectators. She chopped down the opposition, winning seven games before generously granting a last-round draw, when she was assured of the $1,000 first prize.
Today's game, taken from the event, is a fair specimen of her art and shows her outsmarting a wily veteran Yugoslav player. French Defense Polgar Simic
1. P-K4 P-K3
2. P-Q4 P-Q4
3. N-QB3 PxP
4. NxP N-Q2
5. N-KB3 KN-B3
6. B-Q3 B-K2
7. P-B3 P-B4
8 O-O O-O
9. Q-K2 PxP 10. NxP NxN 11. BxN N-B3 12. B-B3, a P-QR3 13. B-N5 Q-B2 14. KR-K1 B-Q2 15. QR-Q1 QR-Q1 16. Q-K5, b B-Q3 17. Q-K3 BxP ch 18. K-R1 B-Q3 19. BxN PxB 20. Q-R6 B-B3, c 21. BxB PxB 22. R-K4 P-KB4, d 23. R-R4 KR-K1 24. Q-N5 ch, e K-R1, f 25. RxP ch KxR 26. R-Q3 B-N6, g 27. RxB QxR 28. QxQ P-B4 29. N-B3 R-Q8 ch 30. K-R2 R-KR1 31. N-N5 ch K-N2 ch 32. N-R3 ch K-B1 33. Q-QN8 ch K-N2 34. Q-K5 ch K-N1 35. QxQBP R-Q7 36. K-N3 RxNP 37. Q-QB8 ch K-N2 83. QxRP R-Q1 39. N-N5 K-B3 40. N-R3 R-B7 41. Q-B4 P-K4 42. Q-R4 ch, h Resigns
A. Another way to go was 12. B-B2, eyeing the kingside. The text pressures the queenside and inhibits Black's development. Notable and worthy of emulation is the manner in which the disciplined Judith methodically develops all of her pieces.
B. Objectively best at this point is the simple 16. N-B5 (if 16 . . . PxN; 17. QxB), which yields White a clear advantage. The text, offering to exchange queens and apparently losing a pawn, seems to be a deep psychological ploy, bound to succeed when played by a coy nine-year-old.
C. To rescue his bishop, Black had to allow the doubling of his KB pawns. Worse luck, he now realizes he cannot retain his extra pawn. Apart from the game continuation, other variations leading to varying degrees of advantage for White are: 20 . . . BK4; 21. R-K4, P-B4; 22. R-R4, or 20 . . . P-B4; 21. NxBP, PxN; 22. RxB, or, . . . B-K2; 21. B-K4, P-B4; 22. BxBP, PxB; 23. RxB.
D. Forced, to meet the threat of 23. R-N4 ch and 24. Q-N7 mate.
E. A classy check which makes Black bounce, and much better than the rash 24. QxP ch, K-B1, when Black has some hope of defense based on escaping with his king or solidifying with a timely B-K4.
F. 24. . . . K-B1; 25. RxP, B-K4; 26. P-KB4 also wins for White, but text allows crushing rook sacrifice White had carefully prepared.
G. Black finds the only way to continue against the threat of 27. R-R3 mate for White, but now the queen and knight must ultimately prevail against the Black rooks.
H. Young Judith, who seemed to have lost interest after achieving a winning position, is again galvanized into action by the opportunity for a tactical shot. The check snares rook, finally forces Black to capitulate.