ANYONE WHO thinks chess isn't a physically demanding sport should talk to Susan Polgar. Over a 17-hour span at a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., mall last week the 36-year-old grandmaster played 1,131 games on more than 300 boards, walking more than nine miles in the process. "I had trained for several weeks, walking five to 10 miles a day and working out with weights, but I was still pretty tired after it was all over," says Polgar, who is the second-ranked female chess player in the world (behind her younger sister, Judith).
Though she seldom spent more than three or four seconds on one move, Polgar lost only three games and drew 16. (The boards were set up on two long rows of tables, and it took Polgar 20 minutes to make a complete round.) But Polgar--whose marathon set four world records, including most simultaneous games (326)--wasn't interested in beating up on novices. (Her 551 opponents ranged in age from four to 95 and came from 10 countries.) Polgar, who in 1986 became the first woman to qualify for the men's world championship, competed, she said, to bring attention to her sport. "Chess is worth promoting from every angle," she says. "It's just a matter of marketing it correctly." --Craig Lowell