Customers and Nemeses

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Feb 16, 2010

The transitivity law does not hold for chess. That is, if player A usually beats player B, and player B usually beats player C, it does not imply that player A usually beats player C. In fact, sometimes it’s quite the opposite.

While playing against some opponents of similar rating is a walk in the park (we call such players “customers”), some of our rivals pose an insurmountable barrier for us. For some reason – be it chess style, psychology, or something  else – they act as relentless nemeses, beating us over and over again.


Garry Kasparov: "Chess is mental torture."

Kasparov is a remarkable example of taking this paradigm to a new level. Like a bloodthirsty hawk, he tried his best to win all the encounters against his competitors and completely destroy their ego. Did he succeed? Let’s take a look at some numbers from Megabase 2010.

Kasparov's results against some top chess players

Evgeny Bareev 15/18    +12    18 Games           83.33% (undefeated!)
Judit Polgar 14/17    +11    17 Games           82.35%
Michael Adams 17.5/24    +11    24 Games           79.92%
Boris Gelfand 16.5/21    +12    21 Games           78.57% (undefeated!)
Alexander Morosevich 8.5/11     +6      11 games   77.27% (undefeated!)
Alexei Shirov 24.5/32    +17    32 Games           76.56% (undefeated!)
Jan H Timman 40/58    +22    58 Games           68.97%
Nigel D Short 51/74    +28    74 Games           68.92%
Viktor Kortschnoj 27.5/40    +15    40 Games   68.75%
Veselin Topalov 27.5/42    +13    42 Games           65.48%
Viswanathan Anand 48.5/78    +19    78 Games   62.18%

This is outstanding: of these world champions and greatest GMs of all time only a few scored better than 30% against Garry!  As an illustration, this means that, roughly speaking, if World Champion Anand was to play Kasparov, he would be expected to score only 1 point out of 3! Sounds completely surreal, doesn’t it?


Nadia (left) and Tania (right) - the Kosintseva sisters

As long as you have a lot of people to play with, you can simply avoid competing against your nemeses. However, the closer you are to the top, the less choice you have. For me the most bitter rivals have always been the Kosintseva sisters. Sometimes I would be ahead of them in terms of rating and tournaments results, sometimes vice versa. But I personally have always scored poorly against them. The’09 Russian Superfinal was no exception. First I missed a win against Nadia in R4, then lost with White against Tania in R6. To give you the whole picture (this is in no way an excuse), I had to play that round with a strong fever, severe pain and after having hardly any sleep. In a few hours of game play, that took its toll.

P.S. Dethroning your bitter opponents feels very sweet. At Palma de Mallorca Interzonal, 1970 both Efim Geller and Bobby Fischer were leading the tournament. Efim had a +5 -2 =2 (!) score against Fischer, and decided to offer him a draw on move 7 with White. Fischer smiled and said: “Too early!”. Geller went red after losing the psychological battle, and simply blundered a pawn in a few moves. Thus Fischer taught us a lesson: that is the correct way of treating your nemeses! Wink

1962 Efim Geller vs Bobby Fischer Curacao .jpg

Geller vs. Fischer in Curacao, 1962


  • 3 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

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

    Account 1, Account 2, Account 3

  • 7 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    kelastick writes "a lot" to merely say, as predicted, "Last!" True the word "substance" was insubstantially replaced with "substantively." Yes, there is "no point" to pointing out that kelastick is wrong and refuses to discuss the chess in a chess article. Using the term "constructive criticism" in no way is the same as engaging in contructive criticism.  Claiming "pure principle" kelastick is not "defending sportsmanship," but is stubbornly unprincipled and unsporting. kelastick claims to have advanced a "thesis or behavior" while I execute a "rant or personal attack." This is unprincipled projection, accusing the other of what one does. To write comments to an article for the purpose of attacking the writer is simply not a nice thing to do. To expose the unprincipled and unsubstantiated criticism is easy, although a waste of time. A waste is terrible thing to mind.

  • 7 years ago


    Greenlaser, you miss the mark substantively. It's not about who's first or last. To your question, I think discussion is good and your posts ramble with no point.

    Strategyfish, compliments for adopting the new handle, and also compliments for seeing the connection between Natasha's inability to beat the sisters and her thesis.

    This commenting section is not a dedicated fan page. Rather, constructive criticism as opposed to blind fellowship drives us forward. I derive no benefit from posting here aside from pure principle. In this case, the principle I am defending is sportsmanship.

    Please distinguish the criticism of a thesis or behavior, i.e my comments, from a "rant" or personal attacks (see e.g. Greenlaser's posts).

    Best regards.

  • 7 years ago


    Kelastic: Your evolving complaints are difficult to address.

    If her point was to extrapolate her inability to beat the sisters into a thesis, and I agree that she is making a connection, she would be undermining that point by adding the variable of a health concern.

    If her point is to offer an excuse for a loss, she would have just shown us a win.

    In term of quality writing, perhaps you could organize your entire history of rants into a cohesive statement, offer specific examples related to your critiques, and explore the likely counterpoints you are likely to elicit. When done, post it on your blog for all to enjoy and comment on.

    In the interum, consider ceasing your hijack of Natalia's article comment section, as you have quite rudely taken over the area as though it were your blog. In the future, you ought to consider making respectful reviews that do not disrupt the comments related to the chess. This is not, after all,

    It is also quite simple to correct yourself should you slip up, simply apologize, thank the author for their efforts and post you full review elsewhere, linking back to the original and suggesting the reader determine for themselves.

    Good luck in your future endeavors.


  • 7 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    kelastick wrote, "greenlaser: You write a lot (and your effort shows, good job), and then suggest discussion is not a good thing. Instead of spending so much time trying to refute the internal logic of my claim, why don't you take issue with its substance: chess professionals should behave like athletes, display sportsmanship and not write two articles excusing a loss with physical strain."

    You repeat that I write a lot and suggest that I suggest discussion is not good. If discussion is always good, why criticize writing a lot? If you see that I use the "internal logic" of your claim, how can you not see that does dispute your substance? What you say is your claim's substance is what I do not agree with. You do not argue with my claims, but repeat that yours has substance.  Since everyone's stated position on this article will not change with more discussion, that is why more discussion will not achieve anything. In the puzzles on this site people like to write "first." You best tactic now would be to not add remarks longer than "last," since that is all your remarks will be taken to mean.

  • 7 years ago


    dsarkar: I had little doubt that you would confuse which of the three effects of my article was unintended, namely the promotion and hits on this article. Feel free to apologize once more.

    greenlaser: You write a lot (and your effort shows, good job), and then suggest discussion is not a good thing. Instead of spending so much time trying to refute the internal logic of my claim, why don't you take issue with its substance: chess professionals should behave like athletes, display sportsmanship and not write two articles excusing a loss with physical strain. 

    lazybugger: Do you have a picture of her over your bed next to Angela Merkel? And then people wonder why I say "suck-ups".

    strategyfish: Your comment is fishy and makes little sense.  Her motivation was to extrapolate her feeling that she can't beat the two sisters into a general thesis about chess, which is thin but fine. However, the "evidence", i.e. Kasparov's wins, is ill-chosen, as Kasparov is / was simply the best player.

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks Natalia!

    I think it is safe to say that most of us are looking for something different from your articles than trollstick! I enjoy them. Thanks again! Cool


    @ Kelastick: If you were correct about Natalia's motivations for including the information about her health, don't you think it would have occurred to her to simply present a different game instead?   Undecided                                                     

  • 7 years ago


    OMG you people are getting so worked up over such a small thing! You're adults. Act like it. :D

  • 7 years ago


    Thank you, Natalia, for one more entertaining and informing article!

    Don't worry about stupid attacks.

    Only a chunk who as an adult still lives in Mamas basement, would with such abjects comments attack a gorgeous woman and successful chess-pro as you are!

  • 7 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    The latest diatribe from Kelastick does not demonstrate a learning curve. The claim that his contribution "illicited profanity from the author" is another example of the lack of substance to his statements. The one time the author replied there was no use of profanity. The word "arrogant" was used, and that is not profane. Notice "illicit" and "elicit" are two different words. The wrong one was used by Kelastick (he likes to see his name). The same sentence in which the claim of profanity was advanced included using the term "lightweights" to describe those who disagree with Kelastick. One particular critic was named. Is that profane? Another wrinkle is to charge "the author" with being a professional, self-promoting, and making money. True or not, there is nothing wrong with these things. We all produce and distribute goods and services demanded by others. The boundary between altruism and selfishness is blurred by the people who produce and thereby enrich all of us. The continuation of this exchange is not enriching this site and is clearly selfish on the part of Kelastick. To continue this can be for no other reason than to demonstrate the belief that there is a prize for the last comment. Continuing cannot be to change anyone's mind or to discuss chess.

  • 7 years ago


    Mr. "heavyweight" kelastik,

    if we take a poll I think very few readers will swallow your "story" that you are trying to "promote" this article - you sound more like a slippery person, who, lacking the courage to apologize, is concocting a cock-and-bull story of trying to "promote" this article - as if you have done a grand job! Even donkeys would laugh at this (if they could)!

    "chess professionals need to behave like athletes" This is called "divertion tactics"! Having realized that you have made a mistake of rash remarks but lacking the courage to apologize, or lacking the boldness to acknowledge the mistake made, you are now trying to paint a picture how a chess player should behave! Get some certificate of anything, show it to us, before we even consider that you have the capability of defining how others should behave! You definitely don't qualify as even a decent reader or commentator - let alone a decent chess player or person. So we are not at all interested in hearing what your opinion is about the behaviour of an ideal chess player!

    If I make a rash comment, I delete it or apologize. I think it is a manly thing to do - there is no shame in saying "I am sorry" or "I have made a mistake" - the whole world forgives and forgets! But continuing to argue in one's favor, giving a thousand arguments to justify one's error only lowers one's popularity and loses other's respect.

  • 7 years ago


    Mothman: my article serves three utilities, two intended, one unintended.

    One, it elevates the relevance of Natalia's article. Controversy is promotion. For all purposes, I could be a hired marketing executive.

    Two, it highlights a point I am making: chess professionals need to behave like athletes. Excuses of ill-health are unacceptable in most sports, and bad form throughout. Two articles, both excusing a loss with ill health are unacceptable.

    Three, it critiques a chess article in form and substance, which elsewhere would be less than shocking, but interestingly elicited profanity from the author (attacking me personally) as well as from a few other lightweights here, notably dsarkar (your comment, again, misses the mark intellectually - being sick is fine, excusing a loss with it isn't) and mickeyroesell (who confuses a conjecture with an opinion).

    Greenlaser, interesting comment re: importing notes.

    Kingsenemy, I'm with you on world peace, which has nothing to do with being exposed to rational criticism when making money off self-promotion.

  • 7 years ago


    Great article, Natalia! It's always good to know this thing happens to GMs and to the regular patzers like myself. I have opponents that I simply can't play against - I feel pressured even before the first move.

  • 7 years ago



    " excuse poor performance with physical strain - which applies to her opponents as much as to her."

    you are grossly misinformed. She was so sick that the doctor advised her to withdraw from the tournament, which she did.

    Better to be better informed before venturing into ANY criticism against ANYone. It paints a picture of you you will not be proud of.

  • 7 years ago


    What about Hannibal-Scipio?

  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago


    Great article! thanks.

    Question though.

    Are there also players known who have no nemeses?

  • 7 years ago


    I'm writing this response to anyone that feels it's proper to slam a person for trying to share information on this site.  I will not attack any individual that felt the need to attack Natalia and her "Customers & Nemeses" article.  She is sharing her views and experiences with us so we may see a different level of chess encounters within her life.  There truly isn't a reason to attack her writing style, English, or punctuation in her articles.  If you are really seeking the opportunity to help her articles, then just send a private direct message.  If you do write open replies that can be hurtful (FOR ALL TO READ) then what is your true purpose of doing so?  How do you help her or improve your life from this approach?  When we take the time to bring each other down then we all lose focus for the purpose of site and that is to learn from each other.

    I have a 50'' x 32'' world map in my office and whenever I play a person from any location their country or state receives a star!  It's really an amazing blessing that we have the opportunity to play people from around the world and share our chess skills. If we reflect on the different locations how well would we write an article in Russian, Spanish, African or Asian. etc..languages?  If you don't enjoy what someone writes then move on because there's no need to write hurtful remarks to others!!!  LIFE IS TRULY TOO SHORT!



  • 7 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    Here is something new. CHESS!! Imagine on a chess site and regarding a chess article. This is my method of using a chess article in the study of chess. After the event, 59th ch-RUS w 2009, ended, I downloaded the game database. I have it in ChessBase. I am now free to analyze any and all games myself. I also use annotated games to add notes to the database. Due to the articles by WGM Natalia_Pogonina on this site, I have her notes to her three wins in the event. These notes are well done compared with many other annotated games. When I add notes that are not mine, I include credit for the annotator for my personal information and in case I ever use them in discussing a game. I do not consider it a fault or something to criticize that each game was a win. This is a common practice for chess writers. Notice all the books with the title, "Player's Best Games." If more of us would study a chess article this way and then discuss the chess in an article when writing comments, I believe we would all be better off and better qualified as commenters.

  • 7 years ago



    I like the articles Natalia writes (this one included).  What I thought was funny was you writing a longer complaint than the article!  So I was saying "the pot calls the kettle black" because 1) you don't have your own article, 2) your post seemed to be the furthest thing from useful (something you're complaining about..)

Back to Top

Post your reply: