Susan Polgar on parents and early life

Susan Polgar with Paul Truong, Breaking Through: How the Polgar Sisters Changed the Game of Chess, 2005

— …my father is only two days older than my mother (5)

— 5-6:

As the borders of the SOviet Union were basically kept locked in those days, it was very fashionable to have pen pals abroad…During her college years, my mother also put an advert in one of the Hungarian youth magazines.  SHe was looking to correspond with young Hungarian males with similar interests…She received about 250 responses.  However, this was not the way my parents met.

Here is the recollection from my mother, Klara:

My family and Laszlo’s happened to know each other.  His mother was on a visit in Vilok and told my mother that Laszlo would like to come for a visit too.  My parents dictated an invitation letter to send to Laszlo: “Please come to visit.  I am looking forward to meeting you!”, which I had to sign.  However, the next day I wrote my own letter explaining to Laszlo that I did not actually write the first letter and would have never written to a guy first.  [Laszlo] wrote back with great pleasure.  We discovered that we were both educators.  After a while the other 30-40 pen pals dropped out and he remained the only one.

We met in person for the first time in 1965, during my visit to Budapest.  Laszlo was enthusiastically telling me about his dreams.  He told me he would like to have six children, not knowing yet that they would be with me.  He said he would teach them a lot with specific goals in mind and nurture them with great love.  I just listened and upon my retun to home, I told my parents that I met a very interesting person.  But I had a hard time imagining ever marrying him.”

While they mutually respected each other, at that point romantic intersts were one sided.  HOwever, they have continued to exchange letters, mostly about educational issues as they shared the same profession.

After about a year and a half, my mother felt that “Laszlo is the most special out of all the guys I ever met.”  Soon the subject changed and Laszlo wrote the first love letter…and at the end he proposed!

Klara: “Then Laszlo came to Vilok for a visit.  After the November 7th days parade (in 1966), we announced to my parnets that we were getting married.”

— 6:

According to my mother, I was a very active and intense child, who could not sit still for two minutes.  Therefore, she felt that it was a miracle when I was introduced to chess and, because of chess, started to calm down.  She could hardly believe her eyes when one dya, coming home from work, she saw my father and me sitting at the table patiently playing chess…

One day, as I was at home alone with my mother, I was in search for a new toy.  I opened one of the cabinets and I found a bunch of strange pieces that looked interesting!

I bombarded my Mom with questions: ‘What is this? What do you do with them? How do you play with it?’ She answered ‘It is a chess set.  You have to wait until Daddy comes home and he can teach you how to play’. My Mom did not know anything about chess at that time.  My father was jsut a hobby player.  Prior to my discovery of chess, he tried to teach my Mom but she showed no interest.  THe next day, my Dad gladly started his introduction to the royal game.

As a teacher by profession, he knew how to teach me….

8: When I was turning six, my parents had to make another serious decision as it was time for me to go to school.  HOwever, they felt that it would be a waste of time for me, because there was very little that I would learn in school as I was so much more advanced.  I already knew how to read and write, and in math I was many years ahead of my grade.  Both my parents as teachers were quite confident that they coudl help me with all my academic development.  Also they believed that for children well above (or below, for that matter) the average, school can be very harmful.  People have a hard time accepting the different.  So after a lot of thinking, they decided to apply for a permit to school me at home.  In those days, that was practically unprecedented in Hungary.

At high school age, numerous athletes in different sports were practically home-schooled, or else showed up for classes only randomly, in order to have more time to practice or to travel to competitions.

However, it was an original idea to keep a child at home from grade 1 to improve her chess skills.  My parents went through hell for this decision and had to overcome a lot of hurdles.



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