There are more books on chess than about any other game; indeed, I would not be surprised if there are more produced than on all other games combined. So any chessplayer, unless he has enormous amounts of both time and money, must be highly selective in his purchases. Sometimes, however, a book comes along which every chess enthusiast will want to buy. Among that select handful must surely be the first to be written by Judit Polgar, just published by Quality Chess. (www.qualitychess.co.uk)
It is called How I Beat Fischer's Record — a reference to the extraordinary fact that in 1992, at the age of 15 years and five months, this Hungarian Jewish girl beat Bobby Fischer's record as the youngest person ever to qualify as a grandmaster, a record which had lasted 34 years. It was probably inevitable that Fischer's benchmark would eventually be overhauled; but no one could have predicted it would be a girl who did it. In chess, the female really is the weaker sex — or at least was, until Judit Polgar came along.
In fact, 20 years after that remarkable breakthrough, she remains the only woman to have broken into the chess elite. Now 36, she is ranked 40th; but in 2005, when her playing strength was at its peak, she was eighth in the world rankings. There is no doubt that becoming a conscientious mother of two has taken a fraction of the edge out of her game — and at this level, it's all about the tiniest margins — but it remains the case that Judit is one of the greatest talents ever to have graced the chessboard.
The exciting news for chess enthusiasts in this country is that next month Polgar will make her first appearance in a UK tournament for 20 years. And what a tournament: in the London Chess Classic, beginning on December 8, Judit will not only be taking on Britain's best men, but also the reigning world champion Vishwanathan Anand, the world's number one ranked player Magnus Carlsen, the world number two Levon Aronian, and the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik (for ticket details, visit www.londonchessclassic.com).