Russian Top League: Mission Superfinal

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Jul 24, 2012

After the first six rounds we had a rest day. The Top League is a rather tense tournament, so playing 11 rounds non-stop would have been way too much. How does one spend the rest day? It depends. Some do sports, others go sightseeing, and some just relax in the hotel. It is essential to make the most of the free time and don’t lose the rhythm of the tournament. For example, dedicate some time to chess: prepare for the next game and/or solve tactics.  

The less rounds are left, the higher the drama. Even with such an excellent start as Baira Kovanova had (5.5/6) one isn't guaranteed anything. Those who did poorly in the beginning had to do their best to catch up. For instance, Evgenia Ovod started with just 1.5/4. Then she won 5 games in a row and didn’t lose anymore.


Evgenia Ovod (White) vs. Zoia Severiukhina

Baira Kovanova continued dominating the tournament by beating Ekaterina Timofeeva in round 7:


Ekaterina Timofeeva (ex Kharashuta) was playing in the Top League along with her husband GM Artem Timofeev

I had a bad position vs. Ekaterina Ubiennykh, but she played inaccurately, so I could have even won. I didn’t notice it in time trouble, and the game ended in a draw. Olga Girya defeated Irina Vasilevich and thus moved up to second place in the rankings.

Here is a fantastic chess combination by Ekaterina Ubiennykh – must-see:

Another interesting example from the same round:

In round 8 I had Black against Tatiana Shadrina. Thanks to my home prep, I got an advantage out of the opening and won.

In round 9 Baira Kovanova suffered a defeat – she lost to Evgenia Ovod. I prevailed against Olga Girya, although at some point my position was way too suspicious. Now I and Baira became co-leaders with 7/9.

Two game fragments from round 9:


Anastacia Bodnaruk vs. Ekaterina Kovalevskaya

The final two rounds were very important, as always. By that point the number of players who were in contention for the Superfinal was rather low. Baira regained sole leadership by beating Margarita Schepetkova, while I got tired and drew my game with Evgenia Ovod.

Dina Drozdova vs. Inna Ivakhinova was a short-lived action movie:

Before the final round the standings were the following:

  1. Baira Kovanova – 8/10
  2. Natalia Pogonina – 7.5/10
  3. Evgenia Ovod – 7/10

4-6. Ekaterina Ubiennykh, Anastacia Bodnaruk, Ekaterina Timofeeva – 6.5/10

7-9. Olga Girya, Tatiana Shadrina, Evgenia Sukhareva – 6/10

Baira and I had already secured the qualifying places in the Superfinal, so we could concentrate on fighting for the gold medal. The other participants had to struggle for survival.

Olga Girya won a critical game against last year’s Top League winner Elena Zaiatz.

This result earned her a spot in the Superfinal. Ekaterina Ubiennykh got bronze by beating Evgenia Sukhareva. With a draw against Ekaterina Timofeeva, Evgenia Ovod finished in 4th place and also qualified for the Superfinal. After a rather complicated defense I drew Anastacia Bodnaruk and got silver. Baira Kovanova won yet another game (vs. Tatiana Shadrina) and  became the winner with a fantastic result: 9 out of 11!

Here is an interesting tactical shot from the Ludmila Gubernatorova vs. Olga Iljushina game:

So much for the Top League-2012. The Superfinal will take place from August 3rd to 12th.


Baira Kovanova and your columnist during the Closing Ceremony

Last but not least, I would like to emphasize how fighting and exciting women’s chess is. In round 5 all the 16 games (!) were decisive. The most peaceful rounds were 3, 6 and 10 – still only 5 draws.

P.S. I was positively surprised by comments to the previous article when people wanted me to offer the full games instead of just the most interesting fragments. Here is a link - enjoy:

All the games (men and women)

The photos are courtesy of GM Dmitry Kryakvin,


  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Let’s stay in touch on social networks! Here are my official accounts:

    Account 1, Account 2, Account 3

  • 3 years ago

    IM dpruess

    the news from the Superfinal is even better than the news from the qualifying event:

  • 3 years ago


    Well done on your silver, Natalia, and I look forward to news from the Superfinal. Youre right about the "must see", it's beautiful, I love the position with WK on g3 and nothing B can throw at it. And the Dina Drozdova game, 9 Bxb5 is the sort of move an attacker will play on instinct.

    Tricky position at move 42 against Ovod, 42 Kc4 looks very tempting  (... Rf4 43 Rxh7+) but you saved the draw.

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    whao..! congrulations to everyone,especially to Kovanova :P

    nice games..thanks for sharing your experiences to us :)

  • 3 years ago

    IM Silman

    The fact is, Pogonina's articles offer insider news and insights into various events that I can't find anywhere else. To me, it's must-read stuff!

  • 3 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    @IM Silman Thanks a lot, Jeremy! Nice to see you reading my articles!

  • 3 years ago

    NM Bab3s

    @jaronmachete - I have a hard time believing that Black isn't going to play ...f6 and ...Kf7. White still has good compensation for a pawn after that, but maybe White can do better with Natalia's line.

  • 3 years ago


    Thank you

  • 3 years ago


    @bab3s:Or white could simply play bxc6 not Nd3.normal moves of black would be Qxc5 Ba3 Qxc6 Qxd4..and eventually white is in good position having a pin on N and king.And soon will have active rooks.

  • 3 years ago

    NM Bab3s

    @jaronmachete if Nd3 just ...Qe4. Then Qh3 Bd5 Ba3 and now probably ...Re8 and Black seems to be holding on.

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago

    IM Silman

    Excellent article. Extremely enjoyable. Thanks.

  • 3 years ago


    @bab3s:25...Qxe5?? 26.Nd3! and the bishop on c6 will fall.26...Qd6 27.Ba3 or Bf4 followed by bxc6.Black has no any development and will lost the game.

  • 3 years ago


    Thank you so much Nat. Keeping us up to date. I so much enjoyed the tactics!!

  • 3 years ago

    NM Bab3s

    To continue from my previous comment, 34. Qf6+ Nf5 (34...Kxg4 35. Qf4+ Kh5 36. Re5+ and the queen should be more powerful than Black's pieces) 35. Re5 Qd7 36. Rxf5+ Ke4 and I still cannot find a mate, but White can at least regain the sacrificed material by taking on h8.

  • 3 years ago


    Next target: beat Judith Polgar. 

  • 3 years ago

    NM Bab3s

    I wonder how White is supposed to win in the 25...Qxe5 variation of the Girya-Zaiatz game. After 28...fxe6 29. Nxe6+ Kf7 30. Qxg7+ (I can't find anything else appealing) Kxe6 31. Re1+ (31. Qxe7+ Kf5 looks like a rook down for White) Kf5 32. g4+ Kf4 33. Bc1+ Kf3, I can't find a mate.

  • 3 years ago


    Great article, great games, and you're correct, that was a must-see combination by EkaterinaSurprised

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