With all this talk about Annika Sorenstam, I wanted to raise a toast to a woman who has really kicked booty in a male-dominated sport - or should I say game. Judit Polgar of Hungary.
Throughout the history of chess no woman had ever come close to challenging the top male players of the world until Judit Polgar emerged as one of the greatest prodigies ever in the late 80's.
Annika Sorenstam may play one
event with the men. Judit Polgar has never done anything else but play with men - and boys. Even though there is a World Championship for women, a Chess Olympiad for women, and several women's tournaments, Judit has always avoided them and exclusively played with the men.
At age 13, already the highest rated female player in the world(!), she won the U14 World Championship for Boys with 12.5 out of 13 points. Which is sensational - as there is normally already a substantial gender gap in playing level at that age. A few years earlier she had won the Boys' U12 World title as well, as the first girl ever of course.
She became a full-fledged Grandmaster (not the downgraded female version of the title) at 15 years and 4 months, beating none other than Bobby Fischer with two months to become the youngest Grandmaster ever at the time. Already at 11, she had earned the International Master title, earlier than both Fischer and Kasparov.
Judit Polgar is now 26 years old and ranked as number 10 in the world. Known for her fierce attacking style, she has been a consistent performer in the world elite for the last 10 years, though never seriously challenging for the World Championship.
She has beaten former world champion Boris Spassky in an exhibition match and has wins (individual games) against most top players of this era. She is the only woman to have won the US Open.
Currently, there are only three women rated above 2500 (Grandmaster minimum level). One is at 2501, the other is at 2550. Russia alone has 60 male players rated higher than that.
At 2715, Judit Polgar is not only above super-GM level (+2600), but at world class level (+2700). She may not have attracted as much publicity as Sorenstam, but in reality I think she has broken a lot more gender barriers.
Here is the current Top 20:
1 Kasparov, Garry g RUS 2830
2 Kramnik, Vladimir g RUS 2789
3 Anand, Viswanathan g IND 2764
4 Leko, Peter g HUN 2746
5 Shirov, Alexei g ESP 2735
6 Topalov, Veselin g BUL 2735
7 Bareev, Evgeny g RUS 2734
8 Adams, Michael g ENG 2723
9 Ponomariov, Ruslan g UKR 2718
10 Polgar, Judit (GM) wg HUN 2715
11 Svidler, Peter g RUS 2713
12 Ivanchuk, Vassily g UKR 2704
13 Akopian, Vladimir g ARM 2703
14 Khalifman, Alexander g RUS 2702
15 Grischuk, Alexander g RUS 2701
16 Gelfand, Boris g ISR 2700
17 Dreev, Alexey g RUS 2695
18 Short, Nigel D. g ENG 2686
19 Karpov, Anatoly g RUS 2686
20 Ye, Jiangchuan g CHN 2684
More on Judit: http://www.controltheweb.com/polgar/