She’s A Lady Made Of Steel And Honey

Chess Life - 1986 - Larry Parr

Hungarian woman grandmaster Maria Ivanka can be disconcerting. And, one suspects, she knows it. Call her a charming compound of steel and honey. For when this 36-year-old, well-coiffed, well-dressed, self-described "housewife" arrives at the chessboard (in high heels), she isn’t there for gay chitchat. She’s there to win. And since her arrival in America last year with husband and family, she had already defeated two male grandmasters.
The 1986 World Open was not, however, her tournament. Not only did she lose some games, she also lost a small dispute with tournament director Bill Goichberg over honoraria due players with grandmaster titles. Her "WGM" title did not qualify for the financial sweetener.

- Why are you visiting the United States? To make a chess tour?
- Oh, no. My husband, Andras Budinszky, is currently working on his doctorate in computer science at the University of Texas in Austin. This is actually our second trip to this country. We were also here from 1979 to 1982.

- What are your impressions of our country?
- I like America very much. My husband and I particularly enjoy Austin, which is not a big city. The people are so friendly, and you never feel lonely. Even with my accent, I feel completely at home. My job right now is to be a full-time housewife.

- In America the Swiss system tournament is dominant. Do you enjoy this type of chess competition?
- Swiss systems and round robins are two different kinds of chess. There are better quality games in the latter, but I find a high quality weekend tournament more consistent with my life as a housewife and mother of three sons.

- Chess brings both rewards and heartbreaks. What have been the best and the worst moments of your career?
- One day is very memorable, March 15, 1986. I had never defeated a male grandmaster over-the-board. But at this year’s National Open, I beat two on that day [Yehuda Gruenfeld and Leonid Shamkovich]. I also remember a 1982 tournament game in Dallas, Texas, when my son was only two months old. I played a long, final-round draw with Boris Kogan. I remember having to breast-feed during and after the game. Another pleasant memory is the three silver medals that I won in Olympiads as a member of the Hungarian women’s team. My worst experience occurred in the Tbilisi Interzonal of 1976. In the next-to-final round I played the Soviet WGM, Marta Litinskaya. I had a winning position, but I got into my usual time pressure and overlooked a mate in two. That loss cost me a place in the candidates’ matches, I felt terrible for years and suffered nightmares in which I could see the critical position.

- What is the biggest chess win of your life, a game which thrilled you in every way to win?
- It must be when I defeated the women’s world champion, Nona Gaprindashvili at Brnajcka Banja in the early 1970s.

- What subject would you like to talk about?
- My daily life is different from other grandmasters because I have not given up everything for the game. I can take chess seriously and still do other things. Chess had not dried up my spirit, and I am happy with my life.

- So you put your children before chess?
- Oh yes, definitely.

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