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Natalia Pogonina: Interview for Chess News

User Rating: / 0
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 28 November 2011

Natalia Pogonina: "Di Caprio... Pancakes... Sabonis"

Original interview (in Russian):


A. Maximov: Chess-News is on air, and right now we will have a chance to speak with Natalia Pogonina, the European Team Chess Champion and winner of the European Club Cup. Good evening, Natalia! If I am not mistaken, you are not just the only girl, but the only person in the whole world who holds two European titles simultaneously in 2011. Should we call you the Queen of Europe? How do you feel about it?

N. Pogonina: Good evening, Andrei! It was a pleasure to win such two tournaments. I love team play, so these victories were especially delightful.

A. Maximov: Can we say that playing for teams is more exciting for you as compared with regular events?

N. Pogonina: Not exactly. It's just that team tournaments have a special atmosphere. Sometimes you just all get in sync. This feeling of mutual support and of all being part of a single entity is very interesting to experience.

A. Maximov: Do you think such feelings are typical of all the chess players? Lately we have heard a "special" opinion presented by the officials of the Russian Fedeferation, namely, that some players of the men's team have an unprofessional attitude. You, as a team player, do you think it is possible? Or were our bosses exaggerating?

N. Pogonina: I can't speak on behalf of everyone. Maybe some of the players don't see anyhing special about playing for a team and treat it like any other tournament. It's hard for me to say what happened to our men's team. I don't think any of the players had an unprofessional approach. Guess the problem lies somewhere else.

A. Maximov: The officials are also blaming the coach. Of course, his role is important, but after all it's the chess players who are sitting over the board. How would you evaluate the impact on the team's success of a coach/players? Such questions often rise in soccer, where the role of a coach still remains a mystery. Everyone realizes it is important, but it's unclear to what extent.

N. Pogonina: This is a tough question. The answer is probably different for women's and men's chess. In women's chess the role of a coach is very important. Girls are usually more emotional, and they must feel that the coach believes in their potential. In the men's team the role of a coach is less dominant, but still vital. He should be able to ensure a good atmosphere in the team, decide on the roster for each round, help with opening preparation. When a few strong grandmasters form a team, it is important to make sure they are playing "one for all, and all for one", and that is the task of a coach. Therefore, his impact on the overall success is considerable. 

A. Maximov: I would also like to ask what you think about the changes regarding the coach of the women's team. According to your words, the team has lost a critical component of success.

N. Pogonina: When I found out that Yuri Dokhoian won't be our coach anymore, I was very disappointed. He has done a lot for our team, and the period of transition won't be easy. It is not yet clear how everything will turn out. It's nice that he will be replaced by Alexei Korotylev, because he knows how to go for victory. I am trying to think positive and hope that all the changes will benefit our team. At least, the men's team should gain a lot from this measure.

A. Maximov: But if we consider both the men's and the women's team, this step looks dubious. Who knows if Yuri will be as successful with the men's team as he was with the women's, and who knows if Alexei will lead the women's team to victory? Is it all-in play by the Russian Chess Federation? Have women's team interests been sacrificed for an ethereal gain by the men's team?

N. Pogonina
: Yes, it is a risky step. Everyone is aware that the men's team gets more attention than the women's. So, the main intention is to help them. If men start winning championships again, and women fail, the overall result will be considered an improvement. Unfortunately for us, women. Some time after the announcement about the upcoming changes I can look at the situation somewhat differently. For example, I liked that in an interview for Dokhoian said he would try to ensure a more intense cooperation between the women's and men's teams. If this happens, the outcome would benefit both teams. This way Yuri Rafaelovich won't abandon us and will try to help us in the future. Alexei Korotylev will have an easier time adapting to the role of a captain this way.

A. Maximov: If Dokhoian is so irreplaceable, maybe it makes sense to create a centralized coaching team? I.e. make Dokhoian the chief coach, and, for example, Riazantsev and Korotylev - heads of the men's and women's teams? This is typical for business, and could be appreciated by Levitov (Chairman of the Russian Chess Federation - What do you think?

N. Pogonina: As far as I remember, that is exactly the way the Russian Chess Federation is operating, and the chief coach is Bareev.

A. Maximov: In my opinion, he is even more strongly biased towards men's chess. For example, did Evgeny Ilgizovich congratulate you on winning the European Team Championship? Did other officials do it? If have an unconfirmed information that everything was, to put it mildly, modest.

N. Pogonina: Bareev congratulated us at the tournament in Greece. Otherwise we didn't get any official congratulations. Our victory was shadowed by the men team's failure.

A. Maximov: Does it insult you? Or do you understand why it's like that?

N. Pogonina: I'm feeling uncomfortable. Yes, we won the European Championship thrice in a row, but does that make the result less important? It's a prestigeous title and a tough challenge. Our federation shouldn't be religiously focused only on the male players, or the number of female players will quickly start decreasing. For example, I don't understand why the First League has been abandoned recently. It is an important tournament, where a lot of chess players were competing, especially the younger ones. The regional events are not as balanced in terms of strength, so many girls now won't have the chance to face strong opponents. This was a good tournament. 

A. Maximov: Of course, it won't relieve your sorrows, but I would like to say that the team of Chess-News is always rooting for you to the same extent as for the men's team, and are genuinely happy about your victories. Maybe that is due to the fact that we are all men, or maybe we just love chess and equally treasure the victories of both our national teams.

N. Pogonina: Thank you! In fact, our team has many fans, so the most important congratulations come from them.

A. Maximov: The lack of attention towards women's chess is troublesome in terms of the rivalry between the Russian and the Chinese women's teams. Maybe that's the Russian nature: we don't keep what we have, and start crying about it only after it's lost (Russian proverb - How do you evaluate the chances in this competition? Don't you find the rate at which the Chinese team is progressing fearsome?

N. Pogonina: The Chinese are improving, and it's quite obvious. But we are not wasting our time either. New strong players are emerging, and I don't think we are inferior to the Chinese in any way. The more interesting will be the confrontation. Or maybe I'm just too much of an optimist.

A. Maximov: Natasha, how far do your ambitions as a chess player go? Simply to enjoy playing and make some money along the way, or...?

N. Pogonina: My goal is to keep improving, becoming stronger as a player. There is no ceiling, final goal.

A. Maximov: Is Hou Yifan a unique phenomenon?

N. Pogonina: Hou Yifan is a gifted and strong chess player. I think she has a bright future. However, I don't see her as, let's put it this way, the second Judit Polgar. Judit has a spectacular level, and I believe she still hasn't realized her potential to the fullest. Hou's level can be matched, there will be female chess players of this calibre. The question I am interested in is whether a woman will be able to reach Polgar's level.

A. Maximov: You have a small child, and that's a joy for any woman. But how do you think it will affect your chess career?

N. Pogonina: This is double-edged. On the one hand, now I have less time. On the other hand, communicating with him gives me a lot of positive energy. I think the latter is more important. Becoming a mother opens up hidden powers within a woman.

A. Maximov: OK, we will be waiting for you to reach 2600 in the nearest future. Now, back to the positive things. I was present at the European Club Cup in Rogaska Slatina. That's a great venue. Would you like to travel there and enjoy the place for a week or two, this time while not playing chess?

N. Pogonina: Yes, it's a beautiful place. I often find myself thinking that a certain venue is so great that I would enjoy it more if I didn't have to play in a tournament. Sometimes there is simply not enough time to take a look around and appreciate the surrounding beauty. Tournaments do take a lot of time. Thus I like rest days.

A. Maximov: Was your victory at the European Club Cup celebrated in any special way in Russia?

N. Pogonina: I received a lot of congratulations in Saratov. Naturally, the club trophy is less prestigeous than the European Championship one, but I am proud of both the results.

A. Maximov: Did you get invitations to play for a men's team? I believe that the level of one of the strongest female players in the world, which you definitely have, should allow you to compete in strong men's teams. And in terms of improving the atmosphere and team spirit girls must be a valuable asset.

N. Pogonina: I had an invitation to the Bulgarian league. Wanted to come, but was too busy at that moment. When I was a kid, I used to play in the "White rook" events where boys and girls compete for the same team. That was interesting.

A. Maximov: Should you get an invitation now, would you agree?

N. Pogonina: Why not. That's a great experience.

A. Maximov: What do you think about the widely cited case of Navara and Moiseenko. Mens' opinions seem to differ.

N. Pogonina: O, that question again... I guess many people have been pondering it. I don't have a strict opinion. On the one hand, Navara acted as a gentleman from the perspective of not wanting to win "unfairly". He decided that he has twisted the course of the game by having touched the king. But then he had better offer a draw right away instead of playing for so long. On the other hand, this could be viewed as not trusting oneself and losing control over the course of the game, which doesn't look nice. Let's just forget about it; this issue is not worth going over and over again. 

A. Maximov: I can explain Navara's deed from the psychological point of view. If he had offered a draw in an unclear position, he wouldn't have returned the moral debt. The way it happened, he won, but sacrificed half a point back, thus returning the favor. Let's touch upon another far from pleasant subject. What can you say about the situation around the World Team Championship in Turkey? Do the conditions that make some federation issue threats that they won't be participating affect you, female players? Or are those private matters of the federations? Do you think it is normal that FIDE and the organizers make money this way by exploiting the players? Do chess grandmasters look like super-wealthy people who don't care how much to pay for the hotel? Or do they look like people who are easy to trick?

N. Pogonina: First of all, the schedule is not very convenient. The prestigeous Mind Sports Games end on the Moreover, the tournament is held during Christmas. This has provoked negative feedback from some of the teams. Additionally, the hotel prices were too high, but I think that has been fixed. Of course, when we are talking about national teams, the burden is carried by the federations, as they carry these expenses. But it doesn't justify boosting the prices. There is nothing good about trying to make money off chess players. Especially terrible is the situation around children's chess. When you see that a reguar room costs a certain amount of money, while a chess player has to pay way more for it, one feels uncomfortable. All the respectable sports federations have influential sponsors, while chess doesn't. Well, it's another subject that deserves a separate interview - what is going on in the chess world as of now.

A. Maximov: Now let me ask you a few blitz questions - that's a popular format these days.

N. Pogonina: Ok, go ahead!

A. Maximov: 2700 or becoming a Women's World Chess Champion?

N. Pogonina: 2700.

A. Maximov: ChessBase or ChessAssistant?

N. Pogonina: Both.

A. Maximov: Rybka or Houdini?

N. Pogonina: Houdini.

A. Maximov: Bezrukov or Di Caprio?

N. Pogonina: Di Caprio.

A. Maximov: Ice-cream or chocolate?

N. Pogonina: Chocolate.

A. Maximov: Carrot juice or red wine?

N. Pogonina: Neither.

A. Maximov: Pancakes or sushi?

N. Pogonina: Pancakes.

A. Maximov: Who is Arvidas Sabonis?

N. Pogonina: He is a well-known basketball player. I think, from Lithuania.

A. Maximov
: Chess-News or

N. Pogonina

At this point I wanted to say farewell to Natalia, but a question followed that allowed us to stay "on air" for a little longer, and reveal another interesting trait in the character of this wonderful girl and chess player.

N. Pogonina: Why Sabonis?

A. Maximov: And why not?

N. Pogonina: I was doubtful about Lithuania and Latvia, and the question came as a surprise. Otherwise, I am a fan of sports!

A. Maximov: Really? Then one more questions: Phelps or Emelyanenko?

N. Pogonina: Alexander Popov! I don't like Phelps that much, and don't know a lot about Emelyanenko, except for the fact that he is a great fighter who is currently going through a hard time. For example, how is he as a person?

A. Maximov: He has a great character. Loves chess and animals. He's a modest guy from Starii Oskol, if the term "modest" can be used to describe people of his occupation at all.

N. Pogonina: Interesting! Let's hope he will be victorious then.

A. Maximov: Natalia, thank you for the frank and interesting replies.

N. Pogonina: Thanks to you too. Good night!


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Comments (4)
1. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 12:18 28 2011 .
2. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 14:13 28 2011 .
Thanks for sharing this interview!
3. Written by on 14:13 28 2011 .
! . , , () (), - . , , ! !
4. Written by Natalia on 14:16 29 2011 .
, !  
- ! :)

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