After decades spent playing simultaneous chess, an 87-year-old Hungarian pensioner clinched a world record Sunday, 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, Brigitta Sinka overtook the magic 13,545 number attributed to Capablanca (1888-1942), one of the world’s best-ever players.
“I wanted to stop for a moment so everyone could reflect in memory of Capablanca,” Sinka, a former top amateur, told AFP 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 Jozsef Csabi, 37, who brought along his teenage son to play Sinka, or Auntie Bici (pronounced “Bitzi”) as she is widely known.
Since the 1950s, Sinka clocked up thousands of simultaneous games around Hungary playing at summer camps for schoolchildren hosted by her employer for 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 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 told AFP.
Around a century ago Capablanca played high-speed simultaneous exhibition chess for money but his games, despite being counted, were undocumented.
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.
Sinka, who has undergone three heart operations in recent years, doesn’t 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.