Pogonina vs

Pogonina vs

| 37 | Amazing Games


Pogonina vs the World match took place from December 24, 2009 to March 28, 2010. During these three months a few thousand chess players from over 100 countries have been competing against top female grandmaster Natalia Pogonina. Among those who have revealed their identities were two IMs, two FMs, numerous NMs and CMs, as well as many strong correspondence players. Each side had one day per move. The World was offered a chance to discuss the course of the game at a special forum (not available to Natalia), come up with the best decision and vote. The move that received the most votes was automatically made. It’s important to mention that vote chess is perfectly suited for learning chess since more experienced players have a chance to teach and instruct their less experienced teammates along the way.

After scoring an impressive strategic win in 55 moves, Natalia Pogonina was kind enough to share her impressions of the game.

On the concept of vote chess

Vote chess seems to be an excellent opportunity for people to learn more about chess and decision-making. Team work is also an important part of it. Many chess players are individualists; they prefer working on their own. Meanwhile, this format allows them to feel themselves part of the team.

WGM Natalia Pogonina (FIDE 2501) challenged the World to a vote chess game

On correspondence chess, killer instinct and match expectancies

Correspondence chess is something totally new to me. I have never played it before, especially against consultants. My primary goal was to make the game instructive and memorable for all the participants, as well as enjoy it myself. Of course, I didn’t feel like losing, but there was no killer instinct or “must win” frenzy involved. The level of play from both sides is more important than the outcome.

Before the game some “well-wishers” tried to talk me out of playing by either telling me that “the World will be playing very badly and quickly lose” or “you will be dealing with professional correspondence players and their chess engine labs”. I waved these scary stories off – being optimistic helps a lot. In reality, neither of these scenarios came to life.

poll.png Natalia Pogonina vs. the World (expected result)
1 - 0
117 47.8%
0 - 1
68 27.8%
1/2 - 1/2
60 24.5%
Number of Voters  :  245
First Vote  :  Tuesday, 15 December 2009 20:50
Last Vote  :  Sunday, 28 March 2010 12:41

As the match went on, expectations shifted towards Natalia’s victory

On opening choice

The Opocensky variation of the Najdorf (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2) is a nice choice when you aim at outmaneuvering your opponents, playing a quiet positional game and accumulating small advantages one after one, trying to make use of even the slightest inaccuracies. There are always a few people willing to share computer lines with everyone else, no matter whether they want it or not. For this reason I didn’t want to get involved in sharp double-edged positions where precise calculation is required.

On time spent per move

Sometimes I was ready to reply in blitz mode; sometimes a more detailed analysis was required. Generally, it took me about half an hour a day.

On receiving advice and feeling that a win is coming

To keep the game fair, my chess friends did not offer me any advice. They just joked about the challenge trying to cheer me up, and sometimes made general statements like “You’re much better here, keep it up!”

My husband and baby (Nikolai is just 4 months old) were the ones who supported me the most. When Peter Zhdanov, who has been following the game quite closely, suggested a plan starting with 31.Rd3 and exploiting the weakness of the f7-square while marching with pawns on the queenside, I liked it. I knew that my position was better, but at this point it became clear that White will probably win this game unless something unexpected occurs. It was funny to learn after the game that leading chess engines don’t see this idea at all!

And after goes Qb7, we will be pushing that pawn. Understand, Mum?

On the level of opposition

My opponents have put up a tough resistance. In my opinion, Black has performed quite well, especially given the average rating of the team members. A strong GM could have played like that OTB. This statement is confirmed by the fact that two grandmasters (GM Julio Becerra and GM Nigel Davies) have previously tried to defeat with no luck (both games were drawn).

On dealing with the public

The game was quite enjoyable in terms of communicating with the other players. They contacted me on Twitter, at my website, at the public comments section at – everywhere! Some of them were there to ask for advice (“what did we do wrong?”), some wanted to teach me how to play (“why did you blunder on move X?”), others made jokes about my baby playing for me in the match, etc. The atmosphere around the match has been nice and friendly from the beginning to the end.

Future of vote chess

People seem to have enjoyed this game a lot. Some of them even asked for a rematch. I will do my best to offer them a chance to play against one of the world’s best players by talking one of my super GM friends into participating in the next vote chess game.


Final position of Pogonina vs the World (55.Rg3)

WGM Natalia Pogonina (2501) – the World [B92]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.O-O O-O 9.Re1 Be6 10.Bf3 Nbd7 11.a4 Qc7 12.Nd2 Rac8 13.Nf1 Nb6 14.Ne3 Nc4 15.Ned5 Nxd5 16.Nxd5 Bxd5 17.Qxd5 Nb6 18.Qb3 Nd7 19.Be3 Qc6 20.Red1 Rc7 21.c3 Nc5 22.Qc2 Ne6 23.a5 Ng5 24.Bxg5 Bxg5 25.Ra4 Qd7 26.Qb3 Rb8 27.Be2 Rc6 28.Rb4 Bd8 29.Qa4 Rbc8 30.h3 Qe7 31.Rd3 Qc7 32.Rf3 Bf6 33.Qb3 Rb8 34.Bc4 h6 35.g4 b5 36.axb6 Rcxb6 37.Rxb6 Rxb6 38.Qa2 Qb7 39.b4 Qa7 40.Kg2 Rb7 41.Qa4 Kf8 42.Qc6 Rd7 43.Bxa6 Qc7 44.Qd5 Bg5 45.Bb5 Rd8 46.Bc6 Bf4 47.c4 Bd2 48.b5 Ba5 49.Qe6 Kg8 50.Qf5 Bb6 51.Bd5 Rf8 52.g5 hxg5 53.Qxg5 Qd8 54.Qg6 51% percent of the players voted “resign”, but the rules required 60% or more, thus Qe7 (32%) was chosen. White announced mate in 4 with 55.Rg3


I'd like to thank everyone once again for playing against me in the Pogonina vs World game. I hope it has been a great experience for all of us! Meanwhile, I'd also like to thank Tryfon Gavriel (admin of aka knigscrusher on Youtube and Twitter) for his great commentary of the match. Here are two excellent videos prepared by him right after the end of the game:

P.S. I will publish a detailed analysis of the game after I return from the Russian Club Cup at Dagomys! Wink

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