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Natalia Pogonina Interviewed by Russian Communal Standard Magazine

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Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 22 January 2013

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Chess is an ancient game that has captured the hearts of many people. Throughout history chess has been popular among thinkers, poets and rulers. Nowadays this is a game played by millions. While at first glance chess might seem to be dull and boring, in reality it is full of action and tension. By playing chess one gets to develop one's logical sense and improve the thinking process. A great benefit of chess is that by learning to plan our own actions and anticipate the activity of other people we gain an important real-life skill. Chess helps to become more successful, expand one's horizons, achieve new goals in one's career and personal life. Becoming more confident, stress resistant and stronger analytically are other advantages of studying chess.

Natalia Pogonina knows about this like few others do. Among her multiple prestigious titles are: Olympic team & individual chess champion (2012), Russian women's chess champion (2012), European Team Champion and runner-up at World Team Chess Championship (2011), winner of European Club Cup (2011). Natalia shares her thoughts in an exclusive interview for Russian Communal Standard Magazine.

- Natalia, can women compete on par with men in chess? For example, in tennis, swimming and many other sports men are just stronger physically...
- They can, but it's a rare phenomenon. Among the world's top-100 players there is just one lady. The main reason for this is probably gender discrimination. Very few parents encourage their daughters to attend chess clubs. Also, many coaches are reluctant to work with girls, because they treat them as the inferior sex chess-wise and believe that they will never become good players anyway. Additionally, after marriage and, especially, giving birth, it is typical of women to quit. Professional chess players have to travel from one tournament to another, and this is not an attractive lifestyle for most married women. Nonetheless, I hope that we will be seeing more strong female chess players in the future.

- How is "women's chess" different from "men's chess"?
- Men are less emotional and more pragmatic. Let's say there is a chance to a tie in a large open tournament. Quite a few male pros are likely to negotiate the outcomes of the final round and avoid taking risks. Women usually fight till the end; women's chess is very exciting and unpredictable.

- Male chess players are often sporting old sneakers, dirty baggy jeans with coffee stains...On the contrary, women are dressed stylishly and wear make-up. Should a chess player care about his appearance and outfit, or should he only care about his chess performance and look whatever way he wants to?
- In my opinion, it is important to be well-groomed and elegantly dressed. Of course, a lot depends on the status of the tournament. If it is an open event for amateurs, then there is no need to impose a strict dress-code. After all, they are paying their own money to compete. Some of the guys are coming to the playing venue right after their real job, being tired and barely catching their breath. Talking about super tournaments and official events, everyone is supposed to be dressed respectably. The spectators & the sponsors won't be happy if the players look like homeless people. Hence, most of the top grandmasters to care for their public image. Of course, there are exceptions, the nutty professor-type GMs, but when there are few of them, then it's not a problem. Just adds some spice to the game.

- Is it true that some Chinese players are using special balms in order to confuse the opponents? What other means can women use to throw their opponents off balance?
- The Chinese team is indeed well-known for applying certain balms that are mind-expanding. Also, they have special teas which increase a person's concentration. Women in general? They can try to catch a man off-guard at the board by wearing a sexy decollete, or surprise a woman by buying a new flashy blouse. Chess history knows a lot of behind-the-scene tricks: kicking under the table, muttering, inviting hypnotists. Some people are not very picky when their career success is at stake. Also, chess players are expected to be ready to take doping tests, which is kind of silly. The list of forbidden medicines is that same as for the other athletes, while it should have been entirely different. After all, the key component of a chess player's performance is how well one's brain is working. Much more important is the problem of cheating prevention, i.e., making sure that no one is getting human or computer assistance during the games.

- You, chess players, can foresee the moves of the opponent. And how can a regular person learn how to think strategically and plan ahead? Any quick tips?
- Chess is an excellent model of life and a good simulator of making decisions. It teaches us to carefully assess the situation, consider all the factors involved and come to the right conclusion. The game is beneficial for both kids and their parents. Therefore, it is not surprising that the number of schools which are including chess into the study plan is increasing, while private lessons are becoming more and more popular among adults. Of course, chess is not the only way of acquiring such skills. For example, studying exact sciences has a similar effect.

- Such long tournaments as the Olympiad that can last for weeks must be devastating. How do you stay in shape?
- I like soccer, volleyball, basketball, skating, jogging, dancing. Besides, going out for a walk is a good idea.

- There is a common belief that all the chess players were nerds at school and had only excellent marks. Also, they are supposed to be Math wizards. Is this the case with you?
- At school I did better in the humanities than in Math and didn't have all A-s. However, I have a college degree in Law with a GPA average of 5.0 (the highest possible in Russian universities -, which is a subject for good-natured jokes coming from my friends and relatives.

Natalia Pogonina is one of the few women in the history of chess who managed to break the 2500 FIDE rating threshold, which is traditionally associated with the playing strength of a GM 

- How many hours per day should one study to reach a professional level in chess?
- This is a tough question. There are different layers of professionalism in chess. If we are talking about someone who is a contender for the World Chess Champion title, then he is expected to work on chess full-time, about as much as people do at their regular job. Women are generally less organized and less willing to study independently. A lot depends on the person. By far not all of us have a strict schedule. Sometimes I study vigorously, and sometimes hardly do anything at all. There are also chess addicts, of course. To sum it all up, professional chess requires consistent concentration of one's physical and mental energies. Caissa doesn't tolerate unfaithfulness.

Interviewer: Veronika Fomicheva

Comments (4)
1. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 13:02 22 2013 .
Exelente entrevista de la maestra Natalia...exitos maestra para este 2013!!!
2. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 14:06 22 2013 .
Comments about your interviw
I am still baffeled that there is still separation of genders in the great game of chess. Shame!
3. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 21:43 17 2013 .
great submit, very informative. I ponder why the opposite specialists of this sector don't notice this. You should continue your writing. I am sure, you've a great readers' base already! ?????
4. Written by e8=N# on 12:28 14 2014 .
Forgive me if I am wrong but....
Don't women worldwide have the choice to compete in regular Open or championship sections of tournaments rather then limiting themselves to a "women's section"? I see this in the US and truly do not know if this is the case in other countries. :?

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 January 2013 )
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