This picture was taken at the 2004 World Chess Olympiad in Calvia, Spain. My opponent is the legendary Women’s World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze of Georgia.

I was originally approached by the USCF in 2002 to help promote chess in America. I agreed. Since then, I made many comprehensive suggestions and proposals on how to properly promote chess in the United States, especially for young girls and boys. It was an eye opening unpleasant experience as I faced countless red tapes, bureaucracy and petty politics.

Very little was done to help promote our game for years. But when qualified and experienced people try to help, some other people take offense as their “power” and “territory” are challenged. So instead of doing what is best for US Chess and the USCF, people are working against each other which directly harm the USCF. I have faced countless insults, demeaning and rude remarks as well as attacks on both personal and professional level.

I am not the only one to face this. Other chess sponsors, supporters and enthusiasts face the same pattern of abuse and attack. I will give you one basic example. I have worked with UT Dallas, UT Brownsville, Texas A&M Kingsville and Texas Tech, etc. to try to get more chess scholarships for kids. Through this effort, the Susan Polgar Foundation has awarded approximately $400,000 in scholarships and chess prizes in the last few years.

Instead of recognizing the efforts of the Susan Polgar Foundation and these Universities, a current board member boasted that these scholarships are basically worthless because they are for schools that no kids would want to go to. The Susan Polgar Foundation has never been recognized by the USCF but there have been plenty of efforts to derail the foundation. This same person also insulted Mr. Erik Anderson and his foundation AF4C which has contributed more than $1,000,000 to the USCF for the US Championships.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Welcome to the USCF chess politics. This is the kind of destructive behavior and actions that haunted the USCF for years. But instead of getting rid of people like this, some embrace and protect them for political reasons.

After a while, I was so frustrated and disgusted with the USCF politics and decided to help chess on my own. This was how the Susan Polgar Foundation started and this was how we came up with our mission. We can do more for kids in efficient manner without any politics, red tapes or bureaucracy. We embrace all ideas that can help chess and the USCF. We embrace our partners, sponsors, and supporters, etc.

We appreciate all supports and donations, even for $5 or less. Every dollar will go toward helping kids and chess in the United States. The Susan Polgar Foundation pays no salary. All board members and supporters volunteer their time and efforts. I have seen children donating $2-$3 of their allowance to help. This means just as much to me as any other donation because it comes from the heart. I work night and day to fulfill the mission of my foundation because I believe in chess and all its benefits. Thank you for all your support and encouragement.

Below is an article that I wrote back in October 2002 for Since then, the Susan Polgar Foundation has accomplished just about everything I wrote about. After the incredible success of the Susan Polgar Foundation, I am ready to tackle the problems within the USCF. This is why I decided to run for the USCF Executive Board and I asked Dr. Mikhail Korenman, FM Paul Truong and NM Randy Bauer to join me in reforming the USCF and turning it into a respectable, productive, viable and successful organization.

Women’s Chess in America:

A Social Dilemma

Last month, I discussed my opinion about the differences in chess for men and women, especially in America. Now I would like to share with you my ideas of how to correct these problems and raise the bar for women’s chess in the United States.

1. Change the Image of Chess for Girls in America

Image is everything and right now, the image of girls playing chess in America is not too popular. We should start with the next generation, the young girls of America today. Change the image of chess in general for them. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with girls playing chess. “Chess is cool!”, “Chess is fun!”, “Chess is fantastic!”, “Let’s show the boys what girls are made of!”, “You can do it!”, “It is OK to be beautiful and smart at the same time!”. Those are the things we should tell our youngsters.

Let’s face it, until recently, this was the same problem for boys as well. Boys who play chess in America are considered nerds, geeks, social outcasts, etc. How many movies have we seen where this has been portrayed, where the school chess teams consist of the biggest losers, the most made fun of characters, the ones who button their collar buttons, the ones who have pen organizers in their pockets? All of a sudden, with the popularity of a movie like Harry Potter and with famous athletes such as Latrell Sprewell (New York Knicks superstar guard) and other celebrities stating that they enjoy chess, chess all of a sudden becomes “cool”.

If you think the social pressure for boys is tough, it is equally tough for girls, if not more so. If we want to build champions, we have to help them. If a hit movie from Hollywood and the admission of a New York Knicks player can change the image of chess for boys in America, we can do the same for our young girls. And why not start now?

2. More Chess Promotions for Girls by the Top Women Players

Our young girls need role models. They need someone to guide them, lead them, show them and set good examples for them. A few names that come to my mind are Irina Krush, Jennifer Shahade, Elina Groberman, etc., some of the top young female players in America today. There are many more. They are very valuable assets for the future of chess in America for the next generation. They are role models for younger girls.

I was very flattered when I read Jennifer Shahade’s recent interview in Chess Life where she stated that the Polgar sisters were an inspiration to her. I would be happy to help them lead the way. In fact, I was in a way quite disappointed that I have not been asked to do more to promote chess for women in America in the past even though I have been living in the New York for a number of years. At this moment, I think we are going in the right direction under the leadership of Frank Niro, the Executive Director of the USCF. FM Paul Truong and I are thrilled to help him and USCF achieve this goal.

There are other women who are active and doing a good job in promoting chess in general such as Yvette Seirawan, Alexey Root, Shernaz Kennedy, etc., just to name a few. But we need more people like them. There should be no reason why American girls cannot compete at the same level as girls in Russia, China or other chess elite countries.

3. More Support from National and State Organizations

Our young girls need a lot more support. The Samford scholarship is awarded each year for the most promising junior. Has there ever been a single girl who received this? Frankly, if you compare the pure statistics among the top juniors in America, no girls deserve it. I understand that it is unfair to give it to promising girls when they don’t qualify and disregard the talented boys. But why not help both?


Why not have separate awards? In fact, why stop at just one junior per year? Why not have national training programs for our youngsters? It costs very little if it is done right without bureaucracy.

In addition, there can be similar programs and supports at the state level. I am sure if we put our efforts and work together, each state can find some sponsors to put up money for various activities for our young girls. It can be done if it is important for us. This has been long overdue. I think it is time to do something about it.

4. Separate Chess Training for Girls in Some Capacity

This is very important. When girls and boys reach a certain age, “distractions” will occur. In order to be a champion, the concentration level and commitment has to be maximized. By putting boys and girls together in all training sessions, it is harder to accomplish this.

In addition, there is the intimidation factor. The girls are not as good as the boys at the moment. Therefore, many girls would feel less intimidated if they are at least given a chance to catch up. This goes back to the first issue I stated. Due to the lack if social acceptance, a lot fewer girls are playing chess than boys and their level of play is also lower. Having some separate training programs will help build their confidence and give them a better chance to succeed. Once the acceptance and the level of play increase, we can slowly merge the programs in some capacity later.

5. More Opportunities for Girls

If we go strictly by ratings to receive invitations to special tournaments, then girls will have very little chance to compete to gain confidence and valuable experience. We can create special tournaments and give our top rated young girls a chance to compete and learn. It does not cost much if it is done right and it can bring tremendous results.

6. Financial Support and Incentives

Has anyone ever asked why for so many years women’s chess in the former Soviet Union and now in China is so much more superior to the U.S.? One of the answers is because they have financial support. It is hard if not impossible to make a living to pay the rent and be a champion at the same time.

I remember some years ago, a large sum of money was put up for the first computer program that could beat IM David Levy. Countries like England and France also had substantial incentives for the first player to achieve the grandmaster title. Has anyone checked the titled players list from England and France lately? I guess you can say it worked out quite well.

I am not saying we need an enormous dollar grant or incentive to accomplish this. But there should be some incentives out there for our youngsters. How many promising juniors (girls and boys) have given up chess when they reached a certain age because there was simply too little incentive for them to continue. I know many who did that. Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to become a GM so you can barely make $20,000 a year? Some say they play chess for the love of the game. It is a noble concept but the love of the game does not pay the rent or put food on the table for your family.

7. Patience

It took approximately a decade for China to see phenomenal results in women’s chess. Two of the last three Women’s World Champions (Xie Jun and Zhu Chen) are from China. Even with an incredible amount of support from a national system, it took time to make a difference. If we want to change chess for girls and women in America, we have to make a long term plan and stick with it. We need a true commitment and we need to be patient. You cannot build Rome in one day but it does not hurt to start now.

8. Stop the Politics

There is too much chess politics at every level, from local clubs, state or regional organizations, USCF to FIDE. Have we lost sight of our objectives? When was the last time that the US sent a Women’s Team to the Olympiad with a realistic chance of bringing home the Gold? I urge everyone to put off his or her differences and work together for the common good of chess in America, especially for our youngsters, the next generation. So what is my conclusion?

There is no reason why the United States cannot develop a successful chess program and system for women to compete with other chess elite countries. Look at how much grandmaster Yasser Seirawan has done for chess in America as well as for the world. He needs help. My goal is to help improve chess for women (and youth). I hope with the cooperation and support from the USCF and other various organizations, we together can make it happen.

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