Queen of chess influences Utah’s young pawns: Grandmaster lauds benefits of chess

Chess is not just a board game, it’s an education, says Susan Polgar.

Polgar, the No. 1 ranked female chess player in the world, spoke about the benefits chess can have for young kids in the Union Saturday.

“There are both educational and social benefits,” she said. “They will learn concentration, focus and how to plan ahead.”

Polgar recommends teaching children chess starting as early as age five.

Leaving her family in New York, Polgar travels the United States to help spread this message and raise awareness about the game.

“Each of you needs to stand up and spread the word,” she told a crowd gathered in the Union. “Spread the word of the positive effects of chess.”

The message is exactly what Kevin Health, owner of the Mountain West Chess Association, thinks Utah needs.

“People in Utah are just playing chess,” he said. “They don’t know much about the outside world.”

Health believes the most important message Polgar brings is that anybody can play chess.

“Chess doesn’t require size, [and it doesn’t matter] how big or smart you are.”

In Corpus Christi, Texas, Polgar’s influence recently changed the entire community.

After Polgar’s visit, one man donated enough money to build a chess center. The center opened May 28 and is named the Susan Polgar South Texas Chess Center, said Paul Truong, Polgar’s business manager.

“All this happened because one coach wanted to do something in his community,” he said.

A five-time Olympic Champion and a four time Women’s World Champion, Polgar began playing chess at the age of four. She is the first woman ever to be given the title of grandmaster and in 1986 broke through the gender barrier by qualifying to play in the Men’s World Championships.

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