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Natalia Pogonina Interviewed by R-Sport

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Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Interview by Anatoliy Samokhvalov, R-Sport

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Russian grandmaster Natalia Pogonina told R-Sport interviwer Anatoliy Samokhvalov about her expectations for the World Team Chess Championship which is starting on Sunday in Chengdu, China. Recently Natalia became the runner-up of the Women's World Chess Championship. The tournament was held in Sochi, Russia.

- Natalia you are currently between two world championships. Is this the proper time to be in top shape?

- I don't focus my attention on whether I am in my best form or not. If you try to peak at one event you are likely to fail at another one. After the tournament in China I have one more tournament coming up. Hence, I don't want to program myself in such a way. Of course, for any chess player the World Championship is the main event: more important than the Olympiad or than the World Team Championship. But I am trying to do my best at every competition!

- Don't you overburden yourself this way?

- It depends on the emotions. If you keep wasting them, you will get burned out. I approach my job carefully and calmly. There is no need to tell oneself: "Come on, you have to prove yourself at all costs!". Such slogans lead to fatigue and stress. 

- Were you affected by the fact that the championship (originally scheduled for autumn 2014) had been postponed? 

- Not really. I was told that the event will probably take place in sprint, so I wasn't planning to play anywhere else during this period.

- Were you expecting to travel to UAE? This was the original plan for the venue.

- To be honest, I wasn't expecting the tournament to take place there. There was no information about the preparation. Russian President Vladimir Putin basically saved us. If not for him, I have no idea who would host the championship. Even with men's events there are often problems finding sponsorship, for example, for the Grand Prix stages. With respect to women's chess fundraising is even more problematic.

- Looking into the eyes of the other finalist - Mariya Muzychuk - did you feel Hou Yifan looming through her? After all, she will be playing the champion for the title next.

- When playing a knock-out you think only about the current moment. There is no sense in getting carried away and daydreaming; you will lose concentration.

- The subconsciousness is tricky though...

- My subconsciousness is tuned on the present moment. Besides, I didn't expect to win gold. Reaching the final came as a surprise to me. For me in order to win it is more efficient to focus on the present instead of dreaming about something else.

- How did you perceive the rating favorites led by Humpy Koneru?

- In the context of the knockout system. Everyone has a chance there. I have already seen Humpy Koneru and even Hou Yifan eliminated, so there's nothing new to it. I didn't have any special concerns about some of my opponents having a higher rating. Basically, there are no favorites in a knockout event.

- And what about the other systems?

- In the long run the chess player is more likely to perform according to her ELO rating. Of course, in one given event the variation in performance can be quite large, but usually the result is close to the current rating of the player. However, in a two-game match anything can happen. You might get faced with obstacles which you have never expected before. Still, I am comfortable playing under any format.

- Can we say that  the knockout favors impudent people (in the sports sense of the word)?

- Attentive rather than impudent. Those who make fewer mistakes than others. This is a test of one's nervous system.

- Female chess players don't have stable nerves, do they?

- I would say that women are more emotional. By the way, I have seen men get nervous too, they are not made of iron. But women on the average are more emotional. Some of them are calmer than others. I would place myself in the middle of the range.

- Could you name some unpredictable players? The ones from whom you never know what to expect.

- I would rather offer the opposite example - Hou Yifan. She always emanates tranquility. It is clear that she has a fantastic nervous system.

- The coach of the Russian women's team Sergey Rublevsky referred to you as a "very decent positional player".

- I guess he knows better. For example, Mariya Muzychuk enjoys playing sharp, attacking chess. She is more aggressive while I am more positional, but in chess one should try to become universal. Having a definite style is a weakness.

- You won two Chess Olympiads, but did this surprising result at the WWCC make you more ambitious? 

- No. As the runner-up of the Women's World Championship I will have more interesting tournaments to play. Other than that I gained experience and had a good time. As to ambitions...Not really. I mean, nothing new.

- Did you discover any new capabilities within yourself?

- I feel like I need to improve my game, because the Grand Prix series implies regularly fighting at a very high level.

- What about new game skills? No?

- Well, why not. Internal ones, not chess skills.

- Did your gait become more confident? Higher heels? 

- This is an interesting allegory. I became stronger and started treating myself in a slightly different way. This is personal though. I encountered many new situations for myself, such as coming back three times in a match. 

- You keep traveling between Stavropol and Saratov. Wouldn't it make sense to move to Moscow and to lead a more active tournament life?

- I play enough tournaments as it is. The only bonus of living in Moscow is that it's easier to travel to tournaments. Since 1998 I have been working with Pavel Lobach in Saratov. There are many drawbacks to living in the capital. I am not fond of living in a megalopolis. I like being closer to the nature.

- Are there any clear leaders in the Russian team?

- I would single out Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Kosteniuk. They had the best score in our team at the previous Chess Olympiad. Now we also have Katya Lagno who is currently not playing. Hence, one can say that we have three leaders on our team.

- Do you think Ukraine would have won gold had Lagno played for their team at the 2014 Olympiad?

- In chess one can come up with many musings of this sort. And what if Anya Muzychuk kept playing for Slovenia instead of Ukraine? You never know. But Katya has contributed a lot to our team; boosted our confidence.

- How is your preparation for the World Team Chess Championship going?

- In a balanced way. We are studying openings, solving exercises, doing some physical training. I guess that most of the chess players are following pretty much the same routines.

- How does Rublevsky affect you in the professional sense? 

- Sergey is a very strong chess player and a distinguished coach. We won two Chess Olympiads under his guidance. What else can I say?

- Gold in Chengdu.

- We must try, avoiding thinking about unnecessary things.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 April 2015 )
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