In a recent interview, I was asked some very interesting questions, something I never really thought about it much until now.
What do you enjoy more, playing or coaching, and why?
Even though I achieved improbable success as a player (1st woman to earn the Grandmaster title over the board play; Won 10 Olympiad medals: 5 Gold, 4 Silver, 1 Bronze; Played 56 Olympiad games on board 1 without ever losing a single game; 1st in history, male or female to win the Chess Triple Crown: World Blitz, Rapid, and Classical Championships, etc.), I have always enjoyed coaching immensely, starting with teaching my sisters Sofia and Judit. I guess this came from my parents who were both educators. After I won my 4th World Championships in 1996, I opened the Polgar Chess Center in Queens, NY, and trained thousands of kids. A number of the youngsters who played in my club became Grandmasters, including one you may have heard of, Fabiano Caruana. It lasted for 13 years until I moved to Texas.
When I received the offer to coach full time at a major university in Texas in 2007, then in St. Louis with Webster University in 2012, I gladly made the transition. I fully enjoy doing chess improvement research, and coaching. It is even more fulfilling when I have serious students who are eager to learn and want to get better.
Another aspect of chess I truly enjoy is organizing. Since the 90’s, I have personally organized over 700 rated chess tournaments, including the NY City Mayor’s Cup and SPICE Cup, which were highest rated elite round robin invitational tournaments in the United States until the Sinquefield Cup surpassed them. I also organized countless scholastic events where my foundation has awarded over $5 million in chess scholarships, cash, and prizes since 2003.
Why do you think SPICE is so successful and what makes it so unique?
It is kind of an interesting history. Over my 4+ decades in chess, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time and chat with many chess greats such as Botvinnik, Tal, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov, etc. When I talked to them, I tried to pick their brains about their training regiments and learning techniques. I took some of the best elements from each of these great World Champions, added with my many years of personal experience, modernized them, and that is the birth of the SPICE system.
What is so different is many chess players and coaches are extremely stubborn. They have their set ways of doing things and they do not like changes. I, on the other hand, because of my upbringing by my parents, always want to find improvements. So when Botvinnik told me something great, I took mental notes and modified my method. When Fischer told me about his unique perspective, I incorporated it to what I do. I have no personal ego. Instead, I am thankful that many great World Champions shared their intimate knowledge with me. Even though I never officially trained with any of them, I learned a lot from all of their wisdom.
So at SPICE, I do not make all of my students follow one strict training guideline. After vigorous and objective assessments, I design a unique improvement plan for each player based on their styles, strengths and weaknesses. It takes a lot more time and it is more difficult to do this. But if my students are willing to learn, I am willing to invest my time and effort to help them.