Chess Coach Profile: Laszalo Polgar
There is always, especially in the game of chess, the question “Are geniuses born, or made?” A good chess coach can propel you from a good ranking to a great one, but what if you’re just starting out? Will you ever be as good as those ‘born’ with a keen chess mind? Laszlo Polgar made it his mission to dispel the myth that geniuses are born, and prove that they are made. He did so by making his own chess genius, or rather three.
Genius’ are made, not born
Polgar is not a chess coach in the traditional sense, instead he is a Hungarian educational psychologist, and father to the “Polgar sisters”. In university Polgar studied intelligence, pouring through the hundreds of biographies of prodigies, and geniuses of history. He claims that in each case he had read, the genius had started studying intensively in their field at very early age. It did not seem to him that this intensive study was the result of a genius intelligence, but it instead gave form to a brilliant mind. He was so confident, that he suggested he could turn any healthy newborn into a genius mind, and his journey as a chess teacher began.
The Chess Coach Father
Polgar married and had three girls: Zsuzsa, Zsofia, & Judit. He took the birth of his first daughter as a chance to put his theory to the test. He decided he would be her teacher & chess coach. He homeschooled his daughter and had her study chess rigorously. He did the same with all three daughters; he taught them chess at the age of 3, and by the age of 5 they were better than him. His chess coaching included thousands of books crammed into their small apartment, as well as a wall of index cards with analytical data from past games, and opponent tournament histories. At the age of 4, his eldest daughter was beating veterans at a local chess club in Budapest, and quickly went on to dominate the girls-under-11 tournament with a perfect record.
The Chess Geniuses
In testament to his method, Zsuzsa, Zsofia, & Judit all went on take the chess world by storm. The least successful, Zsuzsa, went on to become the 6th best female player in the world! Judit and Zsofia rose to the top, becoming the first and second best female chess players in the world.
What this means for you
As Polgar would argue, genius and greatness are 99% hard work. Taking the right steps forward and continuing to apply yourself will pave the path to chess greatness. This chess coach may not have been an excellent chess player, nor was he even a registered player, but he shows us the power that proper chess coaching and a good work ethic can have.