Russian Top League: Mission Survival

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Jul 17, 2012

Early summer was a very busy period for me in terms of tournament play. I took a short break after the World Women’s Blitz & Rapid Chess Championships and then headed to the Russian Top League in Tyumen, followed by a trip to St. Petersburg for the Russia vs. China match. My goals for the tournaments were to qualify for the Russian Superfinal and get an invitation to play for the Russian Olympic team this year. I might kill the plot of the story if I say it, but anyway: both of them were fulfilled. Wink

You might have noticed that I haven’t written columns at for a month. Now I am very happy to come back and share some of my impressions with you. This time we will talk about the Top League – a prestigious qualifier event.

The calendar of official Russian tournaments looks like a pyramid starting from city championships and headed by the Superfinal. The Top League is the final act of determining who will play in the round robin super tournament. The medalists of the previous year and the two highest-rated players are invited automatically, while everyone else has to take a shot at the remaining 5 spots. Since 2007 I was being invited to the Superfinal by rating/previous results, but this time I had to play in the qualifier held in Tyumen.

The Top League is a unique tournament in some way, especially the men’s section. This is a closed Swiss tournament which is stronger than most opens. This year there were 46 participants. Five of them had a FIDE rating over 2700, including the reigning European Chess Champion Dmitry Jakovenko. 32 of them were grandmasters. And, remember, only 5 qualifying spots.

The women’s division was also quite strong. Most of the leading players who didn’t have an invitation to the Superfinal were taking part, 32 in total. This year there were 11 rounds instead of 9 – a rather long distance. If you are interested in the details – participants, my statistics at the Top League, etc., you can check out this preview.

This article will be dedicated to the first part of the event, i.e., the first 6 rounds.

I started slowly by drawing two significantly lower-rated opponents. Notably, in both games I was even worse at certain points. However, the 11-round marathon allowed me to catch up later on. Then I won three games in a row. The game against Marina Romanko in round 5 was rather complicated: in the middlegame I played inaccurately and could have ended up in trouble. Then an objectively drawn queen endgame occurred, but I managed to win it in style.

In round 6 I had to play my friend Baira Kovanova. By that time she had a perfect score: 5/5! The game was drawn. After 6 rounds the standings were the following:

1. Baira Kovanova – 5.5/6

2-4. Olga Girya,Ekaterina Ubiennykh, Natalia Pogonina – 4.5/6

5-7. Ekaterina Timofeeva, Irina Vasilevich, Zoia Severiukhina – 4/6


Baira Kovanova was unstoppable like a tornado at this year's Top League

And here are a few interesting and instructive chess fragments for you to check out from rounds 1-6:


Ekaterina Ubiennykh played very actively, often sacrificing material


Daria Pustovoitova vs. Natalia Pogoninagiryashadrtopl.jpg

Tatiana Shadrina vs. Olga Girya

All the photos are courtesy of GM Dmitry Kryakvin,

To be continued...


  • 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

  • 4 years ago


    Amazing games; very intructive. Thanks for sharing your tournament experience.

  • 4 years ago


    nice article :) and congrulations :) 2nd place is very good ;)

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    thanks for that but , please can u show the entire game for us

  • 4 years ago



    Thank you for sharing your experience. Perhaps you could post the entire game instead of only portions of it?

  • 4 years ago


    thank you.

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks for the article, I always look forward to them. As I don't know the final outcome, I'm following your tournament pseudo-live. Well done so far and keep up the good work in the next 5 rounds Wink 

    Your 42 ... Rxf3! looks like it was a nasty surprise for Daria, but I think her position might have been fairly desperate already

  • 4 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    Congratulations on a splendid result in the higher league. SurprisedInnocent

  • 4 years ago


    I really enjoy your articles but I wish you would let the entire game be viewed.

  • 4 years ago


    thats why its more fun in chess!!!!

  • 4 years ago


     Beautiful chess as well as beautiful women.

  • 4 years ago


    sehr gut und kurz

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    Great games! 
    good luck for the Russian team! 

  • 4 years ago


    So many beauties....who was watching chess anyway ;)

  • 4 years ago


    Congrats Natalia. I'll be ordering some lessons soon:).

  • 4 years ago


    well done, hope you continue with some more great articles and great games :)

  • 4 years ago


    thanks and congratulations! good luck for more to come.

Back to Top

Post your reply: