Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview with WGM Natalia Pogonina

Recently Russian Women's Grandmaster Natalia Pogonina agreed to give an interview to The Weak Square. So I took a few days off of work, learned the Russian language and flew to Russia to meet with her.

This interview may appear awkward at points because of the language barrier. I must openly admit I was not able to fully learn the Russian language in 4 days. Plus there are a few words in Russian that just do not quite translate to English perfectly. I hope you will excuse any imperfect translations.

Without further ado, yours truly is proud to present my interview with Natalia Pogonina.

(Translated from Russian)

WS: Natalia, hi. First of all, thank you so much for your time. We need to start with the obvious question. Just so we can go ahead and get it out of the way because the entire chess world wants to know this, are you attracted to 5'7" slightly overweight men?

NP: Height is by far not the most important dimension for a man (smiles)

WS: Right. Well let's move on then. What is your favorite "non chess" activity?

NP: Music and karaoke, dancing, reading books and writing poems, sports both practicing and watching, playing poker, spending time with my friends and answering 5’7” slightly overweight men’s questions.

WS: Well, I don't know all about that music, reading, poetry, friends rubbish-but I certainly respect your position on answering questions for 5'7" men. So moving on, what advice would you offer to an adult player who has hopes of reaching a master title one day?

NP: Practice consistently, every day. Find a balance between over-the-board play and studies.
People often make the mistake of preferring one to another. Environment matters – make sure you have chess friends who are of equal or slightly higher level than you, so that you could train, play, hang out together. Mind setting – make sure you can afford spending time, money and nerves on chess.

WS: Hrm, that sounds like too much work. I was hoping for something a little easier but that's cool. Which chess book has been the most influential in your playing career?

NP: I can't name one. I have a link of my ten favorite chess books on my blog.

WS: Wow that's impressive that you threw out that entire URL from memory. But I must admit I'm really disappointed that my favorite chess book didn't make your list, "How to Beat your Dad at Chess" which is clearly the finest treatise on chess ever written. Wouldn't you agree?


WS: Ahem... who is your favorite chess player, past or present?

NP: Favorite- Bobby Fischer, greatest player ever- Garry Kasparov.

WS: Who? Nevermind. Let's move on. Don't you think "Chess: The Musical" was kind of lame?

NP: I haven’t seen it yet, but may as well trust your judgment.

WS: And, BCS or Playoff system?

NP: No system is perfect, both are reasonable. Usually the system that allows your favorite team to win is the best.

WS: What is your favorite movie?

NP: Lots of them; "Forrest Gump", "Amelie", "Talk to her". I also like movies such as "Ice Age", "Shrek" and "Wall-E".

WS: You obviously forgot about the greatest movie of all time, "Krull".

NP: What?

WS: You know, Krull. With the Glaive? Nevermind. Next question, did you ever feel like fighting an opponent because you got so angry with them over a game?

NP: No, I prefer to kiss them to death on the spot instead.

WS: I'll try that next over the board game I have, I'm sure my opponent will appreciate it. Finally, this is actually a serious question. Any time I talk to someone who has made a name for themselves in chess I try to ask them this question because I think it's a good one. Was there ever a time you got so upset after a chess game you considered giving up chess permanently?

NP: I’m an optimist, so I try not to take my losses too hard. I treat each defeat just like a chess lesson. Of course, when everybody (including myself) is bugging you about a won endgame that you’ve somehow lost, it’s terrible. And I’ve also seen lots of amusing situations, for example a GM losing a symmetrical queen plus f,g,h pawns endgame versus an amateur and mumbling resentfully to himself: “Ok, I’m quitting chess!”

WS: Well stated! Well thanks again for your time. I know I flew to Russia to meet you but I only have time for ten questions because I have to be at work in the morning.

Final Thoughts: I am sure Ms. Pogonina has never met such a remarkable barrage of eloquent questions presented by such a charming and humble interviewer. Despite the cerebral nature of my questioning I thought the young lady handled them quite well. In all sincerity I did appreciate her time and energy in helping us out.

Please visit her site at www.pogonina.com

You can also follow her on twitter.

And you can also follow The Weak Square on Twitter because I. AM. AWESOME.

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