Olympiad-2012: In the Middle

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Sep 25, 2012

Round 5 was the last one before the first rest day. We were paired with the co-leader, France (8 match points). I had a free day. When everyone left the hotel, the Internet finally started working fine. I managed to watch a movie online and then went to the playing hall myself to cheer up my teammates. At first we were under some pressure, but then important victories came on boards 3 and 4. Tatiana Kosintseva drew Elmira Skripchenko on board 1. The game between Sophie Milliet and Valentina Gunina was a real thriller. Valya messed up in the opening and had a lost position. Then her opponent failed to find the mating attack and even got a worse position. After the time control was reached the the position was objectively drawn, but Gunina started playing too ambitiously and lost. We won the match 2.5-1.5.


In a good mood before the match

The Chinese team convincingly beat India 3.5-0.5. Another good time to remind you that Humpy Koneru wasn’t participating in the Olympiad.

Every day there was press conferences with players, coaches and other interesting people. This time all the three Polgar sisters reunited:


At the Istanbul Olympiad there was a video broadcast from the playing hall with audio commentary. Additionally, many websites used to have their own online commentary. We also had a very detailed live report on both the Open and Women’s sections each day with pics and game updates. Check out Pogonina.com if you are interested in re-living those moments.

We decided to spend the rest day before a critical match vs. China by visiting the downtown of Istanbul – Sultanakhmet square. Valentina Gunina preferred to stay at the hotel, but we were joined by the captain of the men’s team Yuri Dokhoian. To become more familiar with the place, we didn’t take a taxi and traveled by subway and tram.


On our way

We had a nice meal at a local restaurant and went sight-seeing:


Can you guess the average rating of the people on the picture? :)

Then we took a walk on the wharf and returned home by about 5 p.m. Time to prepare for our match with the Chinese ladies!

The rest day flew by quickly and entertainingly. We had a one match point advantage over China, so we weren’t in a must-win situation. At the previous Olympiad we barely won the match, but at the World Championship’11 the powerful Chinese girls crushed our team 4-0. Naturally, we were rather motivated to do well this time.

The confrontation went tough for us. Tatiana Kosintseva quickly lost an opening duel against Hou Yifan. I messed up the moves and got an unclear position instead of a better one. The game ended in a draw. Sasha Kosteniuk had a slightly worse endgame, but managed to hold. Nadya won a piece, but it was not so easy to convert it. Kudos to her for winning the game. The match ended in a tie: 2-2.


Sergey Rublevsky is cunningly looking at the Chinese players


The Chinese ladies are having a friendly chat

Poland defeated Serbia and caught up with us on match points. An interesting endgame occurred on board 4:

Ukraine beat a solid team from Azerbaijan:

In round 6 we were playing Poland. Tatiana Kosintseva caught a cold and had a rest day.

Historically, matches against Poland have been a real challenge for us. I can't remember when the last time we won was. No one knows the reason behind this phenomenon. After the match with China it seemed like the road to gold was now pretty much open, but that was an illusion. Frankly speaking, judging by the positions we could have been destroyed by Poland. The only game where we had an advantage was Alexandra Kosteniuk vs. Ioland Zawadska. Ironically, Alexandra lost. Valentina Gunina and Nadezhda Kosintseva were on the ropes. I had an opposite-colored bishop endgame with rooks on board which should have been drawn. Then miracles started happening. Valya and Nadya escaped, while I succeeded in outplaying my opponent and scoring. The match was thus drawn. China attained an important victory over another rating favorite – Georgia and caught up with us.


Before the round

The Chinese team lost just one game in that match, on board 4:


Georgia-China: 1.5-2.5

After two such nerve-racking matches we were rather exhausted. Ukraine, another tough adversary…Alexandra Kosteniuk had a vacation after the painful loss.

My opponent caught me into her opening preparation and managed to trick me – I couldn’t work out some of the nuances over the board. This was my only loss at the Olympiad. Valya had a rather tense game that ended in a draw. Tania had a winning position against Kateryna Lahno, but was low on time. Nadya could have lost at some point, but then she managed to hold on and even outplay Natalia Zhukova in the endgame. She won! Meanwhile, Tania was having a marathon and kept missing one winning continuation after another. Her game was a pain to watch – it lasted 157 moves and ended in a draw.


«Look me in the eyes»

Another tie. We were clearly struggling and could have even lost.

China left Poland no chances (3-1) and was in clear first. Here is the game from board 1:


A honorary guest used to make the first move each day on board one of the leading teams

It was time to change the situation dramatically. The captain was really irritated by the way things were going, and so he gave us a verbal beating to try to get us back into our senses. Normally that’s not the way to treat girls, but it worked. We performed almost excellently in the final three rounds. Check out part III next week to find out how our race for gold ended! Laughing

Photos by Russiachess.org and ChessOlympiadIstanbul.com


  • 4 years ago



    Eternity_08 - Wow, where did you find this pic - very rare indeed, although she's not looking into the camera

    I already wrote about chessolympiadinstambul.com. Photos and useful information are here.

  • 4 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    @edpratomo Excuse me, but it is obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about. When you miss a guaranteed win in a critical match at the #1 chess team event in the world, thus letting down your teammates, it feels really terrible. And it doesn't make much sense to criticize Tatiana for having an unhappy face after this happened.She is always very reserved and polite.

    Another indicator of lack of understanding is commenting on the endgame. When someone has a winning position all the way and then it's a theoretical draw, although with minimal winning chances, then most pros will keep playing. The only exception is when you are so tired that it doesn't make much sense to spend energy trying, because it might affect the subsequent games in a negative way.

  • 4 years ago


    Eternity_08 - Wow, where did you find this pic - very rare indeed, although she's not looking into the camera Laughing

  • 4 years ago


    very beautiful lady chessers

  • 4 years ago


    edpratomo, look how mans shake hands to each other. They do it like they shake hands to someone who`s hand maybe is in something like excrement.

    tabbycat, compare your statement with the next photo.

  • 4 years ago


    well the team captain didn't seem to agree with the futile attempt by tatiana and approached her and told her to stop the ridiculous show before it reached 50 moves regulation. 

    Lahno showed great sportmanship by kept playing calmly. Tatiana may be is a very good chess player, but definitely has low sportmanship in her. Look at how she shook hand Lahno. 

  • 4 years ago


    Always great articles by you.

  • 4 years ago


    Great article, Great minds! Smile

  • 4 years ago


    Some great insights into the Russian women's team's road to the top! It would've been fun could the honorary guests actually choose the first move and some of them had played something like a2-a4 :-O

  • 4 years ago


    If it's easy for you to defend bishop vs rook, and you are asked to do it, then, I'm sorry, I guess you're going to have to do it. Shouldn't be a big deal to do so, if it's easy for you. Just make sure you keep paying attention, or you might make a blunder you wouldn't otherwise make.

  • 4 years ago


    Jbirchley: she never smiles in photos Frown

  • 4 years ago


    Oh Tatiana, I can just imagine the pain of not winning that marathon :(

  • 4 years ago


    I am sure Tatiana did the right thing that she continued to play for victory even with almost 0% probability to win. It was drawish total result on other boards and she was near victory all the game with wonderful performance but did not manage to find it (it was hidden in a long sequence of moves). I suppose she understood (if she really knew about results) that she could bring victory to team and even had in such game according qualification but Ekateryna Lahno defended so well that winning ways were not on the surface.

  • 4 years ago


    nice article and great games:)

  • 4 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    @Edpratomo First of all, she could have won a couple of times. Secondly, in team events one must try to take all the chances. Thirdly, Tatiana offered a draw way earlier than she could have done if she wanted to. Hence, I don't see any disrespect on her behalf.

    @Merhco Maybe, but I decided to cover the Olympiad in three parts. Four or five could have also been an option, but it's hard for the readers to follow such "soap operas". Smile

  • 4 years ago


    Natalia, why Tatiana keeps playing an obviously drawn endgame against Lahno? i watched they were playing in the almost empty hall, only making moves without making progress. 157 moves for god sake. wasn't that a show of disrespect against Lahno? 

  • 4 years ago


    I am a fan of the way that you present your articles in the form of a story with additional details of the Olympiad other than the Chess (which is of-course fantastic). Will look forward to part III. 

    @ Eternity_08: Was trying to work those out myself so thanks for posting Smile

  • 4 years ago


    157 move game disaster for white 

    Think it might be better with so many games to splitthe blog

  • 4 years ago


    nice article!

  • 4 years ago


    Very interesting report! I watched some games on chessolympiadinstambul.com. Houdini on this site showed very huge advantage of Tatiana Kosintseva vs Kateryna Lahno. I remember two moments which let Tatiana to win forcedly: 62. Rxf5 and last one 112. h7. Of course, it was difficult to check this opportinities exactly with time shortage.

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