By Judy Woodward
Every month, the reference librarians at the Roseville Library receive dozens of questions from the public. Here is one of the more interesting queries we received recently:
Q. I’ve been watching “The Queen’s Gambit” on TV. Is that show based on a real person?
A. Unfortunately, the world has not yet seen an American female world champion chess player—much less one who made her way from a rural orphanage in Kentucky to the center of the chess world while acquiring a killer haircut and a to-die-for chic, 60s-era wardrobe along the way, as does the heroine of the TV series.
“The Queen’s Gambit” is fiction. To date, chess remains almost as masculine a pursuit as tackle football or college fraternity initiation rites.
The strongest female chess player ever is widely considered to be Hungarian Judit Polgar, who ranked 35th in the world about a decade ago.
In 2015, Polgar retired from competition and shortly thereafter she was named coach of the Hungarian national men’s chess team.
Like Beth Harmon in “The Queen’s Gambit,” Polgar began her chess career as a child, regularly beating men who were decades her senior. Unlike Harmon, she came from a supportive, chess loving family, who seem to have nurtured her talents without instilling self-destructive tendencies.
Polgar’s thoughts on the comparative strength of male and female players are not known. But as a married mother of two, she did remark once that she had no intention of giving up “everything” to become a world champion chess champion.
“I have my life,” she told a journalist in 2002. (Internet Resources.)
Judy Woodward, who lives in St. Anthony Park, is a reference librarian at the Roseville Library, 2180 N. Hamline Ave. The library’s general phone number is 651-724-6001.