Endgame following Bishop’s Gambit: J. Polgar-Barua, 1993 Biel Interzonal

      Two days ago, I said the Bishop’s Gambit is the preference of Fischer and Polgar when they opt for 1. e4 e5 2. f4.

      I use those games to illustrate something about gambit play that a lot of cowards don’t understand: Often, you get the pawn back. And when you have that regained that pawn you sacrificed in the opening, you’re left with whatever interest you accrued during the term of the loan. Sometimes interest gained is a bit of extra time heading into the endgame, which becomes huge, because that’s when time matters most. (In other words, sometimes you play an opening pawn sacrifice, then regain the pawn. That levels the material imbalance, while you maintain advantages in time and space, and to elaborate on this, I spent seven hours talking about how other teachers talk about positional imbalances.)

      I say that if you want to “play bad chess well”, you have to like endgames, and it’s for just that reason. Sometimes the investment you make in the opening doesn’t show interest gained until late, so you’d better be able to play that phase better than your opponents do. Because you want to show them that this style of play works when you play the right way. You have to play tactics well, because it’s tactics that decide 99 percent of the games between amateurs. And you have to play endgames well, because … you have to play endgames well.

      If you want to be good, you must play endgames well. There is no avoiding them. You want to be the player who judges middlegames better, because you recognize which endings to head toward, and which endings to steer away from. Let your endgame savvy guide your middlegame play, and if you feel you must study openings, you can study openings with a view toward the types of endgames that arise.


      It’s odd for me to think that I need to take a few paragraphs to talk about who Judit Polgar is. Judit is the youngest of three sisters whose primary subject in Budapest homeschooling was chess. Their father was conducting an experiment in education M His premise was that geniuses could be made if their learning is specialized from the start, and it was very, very successful.

      Eldest sister Zsuzsa (we call her Susan, she directs the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech; b. 1969) was the highest-rated female in the world at 15, earned the grandmaster title at 22, and won the world championship in 1996.

      Judit, the youngest (b. 1976) surpassed Susan’s accomplishments, earning the GM title at 15 (breaking Fischer’s record as ‘youngest grandmaster’), and rising as high as #8 in the world ranks in 2005.

      In 1993, J. Polgar was the first female to qualify for an interzonal (the winners of which were named candidates to challenge the world champion). She finished tied for 2nd, narrowly missing the candidates’ matches; this game is from that event in Biel, Switzerland.

      The following year, she was invited to the annual Linares International Chess Tournament. At the time, these events in Spain were the world’s premier grandmaster tournaments. During her game against world champion Kasparov, he was caught on tape changing his mind about a knight move after releasing the piece, and moving it to a different square.

      If you’ve ever worked with kids playing chess, you know that even if a kid doesn’t know how the pieces move, the kid does know to have a cow about enforcing the touch move rule. We’re talking about the First Rule of Chess Decorum (“A player who takes back a move is no better than a common criminal, and should not be allowed into your home” is a quote I’ve attributed to Purdy, but I can’t provide a source … because I don’t know where any of my books are), and the world champion played against that rule.

      Polgar, who was 17, and playing against the top player in the world, decided not to disturb the peace (though she threw the referee a questioning look, and he did nothing). She and Kasparov had words after the game, things got awkward, neither played up to par for the remainder of the tournament, and there were ill feelings for about three years. It was a big deal, because at times, each was the most-talked-about chessplayer in the world.

      Now they’re both retired from chess, historic figures, living legends. Kasparov toils as a political activist. Polgar married a veterinarian, raises two children.