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Your questions answered by Natalia Pogonina-45

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Written by Administrator   
Monday, 08 July 2013

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Every week (well, almost!) Grandmaster Natalia Pogonina chooses the 7 most popular and interesting questions addressed to her and answers them publicly. The rules are simple - send us your questions and see them featured in Natalia's Q&As column!

What would you do if chess was solved by computers?

A: I don't think it would seriously change my life. Nowadays chess databases have those symbols next to opening moves (=, +/=, etc.), showing the current theoretical evaluation of the position. Ok, let's say that instead we will have "this move draws, this move loses". It will not have much to do with human play anyway, because people tend to make mistakes. One can win from an inferior or even lost position sometimes. In other words, computers are just a learning tool now, which can be used for preparation and studying. Don't treat them as sparring partners. Play real people instead 

Moreover, I don't think it's going to happen in the foreseeable future.

Q2: Have you noticed any particular astrological star sign affinity for chess?

A: I don't really believe in astrology, although I have received a few offers to make my horoscope, so this topic must be popular. However, I have read an interesting article on the astrological star signs of top chess players. He had a break-down by star signs and elements. Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) was by far the leading element according to his research, followed by Fire (Aries, Leo, Saggitarius) and Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius). The relatively weakest team was Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn). Here's the article itself (in Russian). Anyway, my sign is Pisces, so I don't object to such a classification

Q3: What is your attitude towards using a chess engine when commentating on chess events?

A: Rather negative. This is very boring, especially for an unprepared audience. "Computer says...". Who cares what it says? We need emotions, ideas, insights. I love when commentators are trying to both get into the mind of the players & also teach the audience something along the way. If you don't think for yourself, you don't improve. Hence, it's better to turn your chess engine off while watching and to try to work out the best moves without any prompts. Commentating and analyzing are two different things. Finding out the objective evaluation is something that can be done after the game.

A common argument is: "I am weaker than the players, so I need an engine to find out what's reallly going on". This is not really true, because engines calculate lines at 3200+ strength. This is not what is going on in a top player's head! That's why amateurs are often shocked: "Wow, he had a position evaluated +3 and lost!". Sometimes the computer eval can be like +1, and any qualified commentator will tell you that it's technically lost. In other cases it can be +10, but the situation will be so tricky that the player will go astray.

Generally speaking, commentators should be of similar skill level to the players. In chess, unlike in many other sports, one has to be a strong player to understand what is going on. A fine example of this approach was inviting top GMs like Grischuk, Svidler and Rublevsky to commentate on Tal Memorial'2013.

Q4: Highest-rated players defeated by you as White and Black in classical chess?

A: I don't have much experience playing strong GMs in classical chess. In fact, I have never played anyone rated over 2700 and had just a few games against 2600+ GMs. By checking the database I found that with White my best win was against GM Godena (2535) and with Black - against GM Georgiev V. (2576). I need to work on my scalp collection, I know

Q5: How do you improve your chess life through marriage?

A: If you are a pro, then you probably have your own opinion and don't need anyone's advice. If you aren't, I don't think that chess will be the main factor for you when deciding whether to marry or not. Seriously speaking, I think it's highly individual. Ideally, one is supposed to become happier after marriage. However, there are many caveats: your priorities might change; your financial situation may worsen (especially if you have many kids); you will definitely have less free time. See what works best for you.

Q6: Why does Black score so well lately?

A: Black is ok. The main reason is that the players still feel obliged to play for a win as White. After reviewing a few drawish lines during preparation, they often decide to opt for a risky continuation, hoping to outplay their opponents. Then they start pressing at all costs over the board and tricking themselves into believing they still have an edge. If Black is patient and willing to capitalize on the opponent's mistakes, there is a fair chance of winning.

Q7: How do I get female students to join our universitys chess club & make sure they dont get intimidated by higher-rated guys there?

A: It's generally not so easy to persuade adults to join a chess club if they haven't played this game in their childhood. Frankly speaking, I don't have much experience here, because I have never managed a chess club. Anyway, here are a few ideas:

a) Make sure the coaches (if there are any) are not misogynists. Many chess players are reluctant to coach women due to considering them "inferior" chess-wise.

b) Emphasize gender equality everywhere - the club's website, posters, etc. Publish not only generic images of girls & boys, but also certain persons of both sexes.

c) Post images of both men's and women's World Chess Champions in the club. This way, girls won't be intimidated by the "all-male" gallery.

d) If possible, hold an interesting club presentation & invite a female grandmaster/master as a featured speaker.

e) After d), follow up by contacting leading world's female chess players and ask for interviews. Many of them are quite open to the public and won't refuse. Such interviews are usually inspiring for the girls. Especially if the players interviewed are attractive, popular and successful

f) Hold a "girls only" special championship. Advertise it as a contest for the smartest student of the university. Make something big out of it & get people excited and talking about it :) A good idea is to ask a few popular female players to with the participants good luck and publish the posters everywhere - that is a good attention-getter.

Previous episodes:

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Comments (3)
1. Written by O_o on 15:09 08 2013 .
2. Written by O_O on 19:42 08 2013 .
"Every week (well, almost!) :p
3. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 21:46 09 2013 .
Really cute picture! Kisses :) :) :)

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