Woman, 87, sets world record for simultaneous chess

Hungarian pensioner Brigitta Sinka, 87, playing simultaneous chess games in Budapest on Sunday. She beat the old record of 13,545 games set by 1920s Cuban grandmaster Jose Raul Capablanca.
Hungarian pensioner Brigitta Sinka, 87, playing simultaneous chess games in Budapest on Sunday. She beat the old record of 13,545 games set by 1920s Cuban grandmaster Jose Raul Capablanca.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BUDAPEST - After decades spent playing simultaneous chess, an 87-year-old Hungarian pensioner has clinched a world record by finally overtaking a total set by 1920s Cuban grandmaster Jose Raul Capablanca.

Almost 60 years since her first simultaneous games, on six boards side-by-side at a Chess Olympiad in 1957, Ms Brigitta Sinka on Sunday overtook the magic 13,545 number attributed to Mr Capablanca (1888-1942), one of the world's best players.

"I wanted to stop for a moment so everyone could reflect in memory of Capablanca," said Ms Sinka, a former top amateur, in a packed tent in a Budapest park where she played the record-breaking games.

"There were so many people waiting for me to move my pieces however, so I simply carried on," she added.

By late Sunday, she was already well over 13,600 games - clocking up over the week the final few hundred games needed to beat the old record - before calling it a day.

"We feel privileged to have been one of the many thousands," said Mr Jozsef Csabi, 37, who brought along his teenage son to play Ms Sinka.

Since the 1950s, Ms Sinka clocked up thousands of simultaneous games around Hungary playing at summer camps for schoolchildren hosted by her employer of many decades, a communist-era metal recycling firm.

In 2010, with her total around 9,000 games, a chess historian told her that he had spotted Mr Capablanca's total in a biography of the Cuban great.

"I was unaware of it before then, so I thought I'd have a go at beating it," she said.

Around a century ago, Mr Capablanca played high-speed simultaneous exhibition chess for money but his games, despite being counted, were undocumented.

Ms Sinka, however, has meticulously recorded in scrapbooks every game she has played - where, when, opponent, and result - each signed off by a witness.

She hopes the Guinness Records adjudicators will acknowledge her feat as an official world record.

Ms Sinka, who has undergone three heart operations in recent years, does not plan to stop anytime soon.

"I will keep going, as long as my health permits," she said, adding that she has already committed to playing in several school camps throughout the summer.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'Woman, 87, sets world record for simultaneous chess'. Print Edition | Subscribe