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The Challenge
The World vs Natalia Pogonina
C U R R E N T   P O S I T I O N

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   Chessgames Challenge
Can a group of chess amateurs team up to beat a grandmaster?  Find out in the Chessgames Challenge!  You can vote for the move you think is best, and discuss the game with other members on this page.

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[Natalia Pogonina]

[flip board] GAME OVER: 1/2-1/2 [flip board]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 c6 7.O-O O-O 8.Qc2 b6 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Bf4 Ba6 11.Nbd2 Rc8 12.Rac1 Nh5 13.Be3 Nhf6 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.b4 Bb7 17.Qb3 Ba8 18.c5 a5 19.a3 Rb8 20.Qc2 Bb7 21.e4 Qc7 22.Nf1 dxe4 23.Qxe4 Rfd8 24.Ne3 Ba6 25.Ng4 Bb5 26.Qc2 axb4 27.axb4 Be7 28.Ra1 h5 29.Ne3 Bf6 30.Ra3 bxc5 31.bxc5 Ra8 32.Rxa8 Rxa8 33.Bf1 Bxf1 34.Kxf1 e5 35.dxe5 Nxe5 36.Qe4 Nd7 37.Qf5 Ra7 38.Qxh5 g6 39.Qg4 Nxc5 40.h4 Ra4 41.Nc4 Qb7 42.Kg2 Qb3 43.Qc8+ Kg7 44.Nd6 Qxd1 45.Ne8+ Kf8 46.Nxf6+ Kg7 47.Ne8+ Kf8 48.Nf6+ Kg7 49.Ne8+ Kf8 50.Nc7+ Kg7 51.h5 Ra1 52.h6+ Kf6 53.Qh8+ Ke7 54.Qe8+ Kd6 55.Qd8+ Nd7 56.Ne8+ Kc5 57.Qe7+ Kb6 58.g4 Ra4 59.Qd8+ Ka6 60.Nf6 Rf4 61.Ne5 Rxf2 62.Kxf2 1/2-1/2
GAME OVER thank you for playingit is now 20:56:55

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Golden Executive: 3 days ago, <PZ> wrote at Pogonina´s web site:

"I tried quitting chess a couple of times, but it is harder than it sounds. After all, I love the game. Especially attractive to me is the analytical aspect - evaluating the position and finding the optimal move. A park player's joy of setting up a clever trap or swindling is not what appeals to me.

Meanwhile, it is sad to realize that modern technologies leave us less and less space for creativity. I remember the times when PCs were no match for top humans. Now we are not even in contention.

Correspondence chess is still alive though, as a <smart operator> using a chess engine is stronger than the engine itself. However, taking into account the trend, quite soon there would be no need in humans at all, and a win in correspondence chess will be achieved by the player who has the better PC."

I wonder what did he mean about <smart operator>?


Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: <GE: I wonder what did he mean about <smart operator>?>

Pogonina's husbend and manager Peter Zhdanov paraphrased Gary Kasparov talking about advanced chess (human player + computer):

"Weak human + machine + better process is superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process". (By process he understands human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer).

Commenting on the first free-style tournament Kasparov wrote: "The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants".

Spacebar Master is, by definition, <smart operator>.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Golden Executive: <cro777> Thanks for your reply. Reading your post quoting Kasparov, my brain immediately flashed: Did he lose the game vs IBM Deep Blue alone or vs the very first spacebar master (s) ? (rules did not allow humans “helping” engines). It is an old issue but still a mistery….What do you think ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: <Golden Executive> Solely the very first spacebar master knows the truth.
Premium Chessgames Member
  cormier: A Giri vs Kramnik, 2011
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<LIFE Master AJ>: Did anyone ever find a forced win ... at ANY point ... for the "World Team" here?>

I certainly never did, not even close. The closest I got was lines involving 58.Ng2 rather than the 58.g4 that we actually played. The attractiveness of 58.Ng2 from my perspective was that starting the analysis several moves earlier most of the engines, including Rybka, evaluated the position as advantageous for Black with the lines involving 58...Qh1+ 59.Kh3 Rg1, even though they really weren't if one went deeper. So my hope was that she would enter this line due her (presumed) limited computer capabilities compared to ours. But by sliding forward or even just following the game it would become obvious to everyone, Natalia included, that these were not advantageous lines for Black. And, of course, she probably didn't even need the computer to see that.

Then again, I was probably justifiably considered a ranking member of the Flat Earth Society.

Oct-22-11  master of defence: its great
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: <CIO: I'm still waiting for the in depth article by her husband>

I am a bit disappointed he didn't want any of my song parodies for an accompanying soundtrack.

Jul-31-12  The Last Straw: the first move was d4??!!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: "This is one of my most memorable and demanding games" (Natalia Pogonina).

In an interview at , answering the question "What is your most memorable game?", WGM Natalia Pogonina said:

"Two chess games against the World. The first one took place at in 2009. I had White and won. <The second was played at and I drew with the Black pieces>. A few thousand players from over 100 countries participated in those two matches, making the games by far my most memorable and demanding."

Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: Time to revisit this game and add some new analysis with the aid of much better engines than we had in 2010.

IMO, this game was <The World>'s poorest effort. Somehow, the cooperative analysis and reasoning that worked so well in our other games was often supplanted by blustering and bickering (or so it seemed to me). We settled for a draw -- and there's no shame in that -- but I felt that we failed to give GM Pogonina a good challenge.

Anyway, I'll start with our 17th move, which was very close:

click for larger view

We played <17.Qb3> here, narrowly beating 17.e5.

This was the final vote:
17.Qb3 119 votes (41.0%)
17.e4 112 votes (38.6%)
17.c5 50 votes (17.2%)
17.Qb2 2 votes (0.7%)

And here's some new analysis:

Stockfish_16090806_x64_modern @ 41 ply:
+0.34 17.e4 Re8 18.Qb2 Ba8 19.c5 Be7 20.Bf1
+0.31 17.Qb3 Be7 18.Ne1 Rc7 19.e3 Qb8 20.Nd3
+0.29 17.Qb1 Qe7 18.e4 g5 19.e5 Bg7 20.Rc3
+0.16 17.c5 a5 18.a3 Ra8 19.e4 Ba6 20.h4

So, I should say that there's nothing conclusive here about Qb3 vs e4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  izimbra: <YouRang: Time to revisit this game and add some new analysis with the aid of much better engines than we had in 2010.

IMO, this game was <The World>'s poorest effort. Somehow, the cooperative analysis and reasoning that worked so well in our other games was often supplanted by blustering and bickering (or so it seemed to me). We settled for a draw -- and there's no shame in that -- but I felt that we failed to give GM Pogonina a good challenge.

Anyway, I'll start with our 17th move, which was very close: >

That does look like a key position. Strategically, white has more space & the continuations could go either way - either black gets some exchanges in & frees pieces or white is able to push pawns & trap black with a long term space advantage that is likely to be fatal in ICCF style play. Are there any continuations which force a long term space advantage? If not, are there any with that property that black is likely to fall into? My vague recollection is that only the latter was true, but the team didn't see fit to prioritize tempting black to that type of mistake.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Boomie: <YouRang: Where did we go wrong?>

The Opening Explorer doesn't like 11. Nbd2. Opening Explorer

White has had few winning chances after that compared to the obviously good b3 or the flamboyant Ne5.

With only 17 games in the DB, we played ourselves out of the OE with Nbd2. That left us with engine play, which is notoriously deceiving in the openings.

Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: <YouRang: I'll start with our 17th move, which was very close>

click for larger view

(We played 17.Qb3 here, narrowly beating 17.e4)

At the 27th World Championship Final (2011) in correspondence chess White opted for 17.e4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: <izimbra> <Boomie> <cro777> I think that many of us came away from this game feeling that we had botched the opening. It will probably be a long time before a World Team opts for the Catalan again. But perhaps we just didn't play it well (I'm certainly no opening expert). I think we probably botched some moves later on also, which is why I thought I'd do a review.

I do recall that 11.Nbd2 was an earlier controversial move. I didn't start there only because I suspected that engine analysis would be less meaningful at such an early stage in the game.

Thanks for the link to the ICCF game featuring 17.e4. Perhaps it's a small consolation to the 17.Qb3 voters that 17.e4 didn't fare any better. :-)


As for this game, I'm currently looking at our next move that also had some controversy, although the vote wasn't as close:

click for larger view

We chose <18.c5> over 18.e4. My recollection is that I was among the e4 voters.

Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: The fact that the game played between two correspondence grandmasters at the highest level followed the same path until move 17 proves that we didn't play as badly as we use to think. Besides, Pogonina played very well.
Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: BTW, I earlier mentioned the disharmony on the team during this game.

The pre-game drama certainly didn't help. Our opponent's husband (Peter Zdhanov) joined the team (!) and couldn't be convinced that the team would see that as a serious conflict of interests.

For a long time, he refused to leave and even resorted to insulting the team for their attitude! Some of our players simply left the game, and ultimately we voted to resign on the first move, until Zdhanov finally departed.

I often wondered what our opponent was thinking. If he had remained, then surely any notably good moves on her part would (rightly or wrongly) fall under suspicion, and any result other than a loss would be badly tainted. Frankly, I don't know how she couldn't be professionally embarrassed by Zdhanov's behavior. Maybe she was.

Perhaps tensions were also raised because the time control was just 24 hours for each side to move. All other games gave at least 48 hours. Given that World team members are scattered around the globe, and that some of them like to sleep, 24 hours is hardly sufficient time for coordination.

Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: <cro777> I see that game was played in October of 2011 (a few months after this game finished).

I wonder if either player came across our game during their deliberations? :-D

Premium Chessgames Member
  Marmot PFL: The World play seems too tentative in this game, waiting for a mistake that never happened. When the pawn advance finally occurs black has no problems meeting it.

In later games (Akobian, Williams, Naiditsch) the World played more critical lines, taking advantage of it's extra time and computing power. It's practically impossible for one player, even a very strong one, to look at every line in detail for weeks on end.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: I still can't believe the team played 4. g3. Absolutely unbelievable.
Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: <YouRang> The game Acevedo - Badolati started on June 10, 2011.

In the opening they could have consulted the game Zhao Jun - Wang Hao from the first Danzhu tournament in China in 2010.

Zhao Jun - Wang Hao. Position after 13...Bxf6

click for larger view

The same position arose in our game after 15...Bxf6. We continued with 16.b4.

In the diagram position Zhao Jun opted for 14.e4.

Zhao Jun vs Wang Hao, 2010

Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: In the position we've been discussing

click for larger view

a grandmaster would play 16.e4. They usually follow the "be a center forward" strategy (center forward play). We were loyal to our "bayonet" strategy.

As far as the opening is concerned, 11.Nbd2 was not the best choice.

click for larger view

An immediate 11.Ne5 is more common, although after 11…Rc8 Black has a rather solid position. W So vs Karjakin, 2016

11.b3, which transposes into the Queen's Indian Defense, is another good option.

Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: Okay, my engine has been working on white's 18th move all day:

click for larger view

The team voted <18.c5> (I had voted for 18.e4, but I can't say I was "passionate" about it).

18.c5 159 votes (55.8%)
18.e4 105 votes (36.8%)
18.a4 7 votes (2.5%)
18.cxd5 6 votes (2.1%)
18.0-1 2 votes (0.7%)

Today's new analysis:

Stockfish_16090917_x64_modern @ 48 ply:
+0.35 18.e4 Be7 19.c5 a5 20.a3 axb4 21.axb4
+0.29 18.c5 a5 19.a3 Rb8 20.Qc3 Bb7 21.e4
+0.11 18.Qd3 c5 19.cxd5 exd5 20.dxc5 bxc5 21.bxc5

A slight nod to 18.e5, although not terribly conclusive. However, just structurally I didn't and still don't like 18.c5.


The game proceeded as the engine suggested for a few moves: <18.c5 a5 19.a3 Rb8>

click for larger view

Here, white deviated by shuffling the queen back to c2: <20.Qc2>, whereas the analysis above preferred 20.Qc3.

I'll let the engine sit on our 20th move for a while...

Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: Here are my results for move 20:

click for larger view

The vote:
20.Qc2 147 votes (62.3%)
20.Qd3 65 votes (27.5%)
20.e4 6 votes (2.5%)
20.Qc3 5 votes (2.1%)
20.Qa4 3 votes (1.3%)
20.e3 3 votes (1.3%)

The new analysis:
Stockfish_16090917_x64_modern @ 45 ply:
+0.27 20.Qc2 Bb7 21.e4 Ba6 22.Ra1 Be7 23.e5
+0.26 20.Qc3 Bb7 21.e4 Ba6 22.e5 Bg5 23.Ra1
+0.26 20.Qd3 Bb7 21.e4 Ra8 22.Bf1 axb4 23.axb4

So hardly any notable difference to be found.


The game continued: <20...Bb7 21.e4> (we *finally* played e4, but I think it was better earlier) <21...Qc7>. Here we came to another debatable move <22.Nf1>. I recall voting for 22.Bf1. I'll let the engine simmer on this today...

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<YouRang> I felt that we failed to give GM pogonina a good challenge> (part 1 of 2)

It seems to me, as <cro777> indicated in The World vs N Pogonina, 2010 (kibitz #27563), that Pogonina does not agree with you, or at least she didn't then, considering this and the other game she played against the team in 2009, to be "by far most memorable and demanding".

I think that this game can be divided into two phases, the opening and the middlegame (there really wasn't an endgame). I agree with you in that I don't think that the team played its best in the opening and did not seem to come out of it with much, if any, advantage. Possibly the Zdhanov distraction had something to do with it but I wouldn't know, I had not joined the team at that time. But I think that starting with 21.e4 and the slight opening of both the center and the q-side that the game became more interesting. Our 41.Nc4 really made the game double edged, as did our exchange sac with 44.Nd6 Qxd1 45.Ne8+ Kf8 46.Nxf6+, particularly since Black develops mating threats of her own.

click for larger view

At this point Stockfish 7 is of no help to determining our winning chances, evaluating the game's best continuation to be 46...Kg7 47.Ne8+ Kf8 48.Nf6+ and a draw by repetition. A pretty finish (from our perspective) would have been 46...Ke7 47.Qe8+ Kxf6 48.Qe5# but that obviously would not have happened with a grandmaster, not even in blitz under time pressure.

If you haven't see it, this might be a good time to check out <kingscrusher>'s video of the game,

So our 50.Nc7+ might have been considered "gutsy", except that Stockfish also evaluates it at [0.00], d=38 after 50...Kg7 51.h5 Ra1 52.h6+ Kf6 53.Qh8+ Ke7 54.Qe8+ Kd6 55.Qd8+ Nd7 56.Ne8+ Kc5 57.Qe7+ Kb6 58.g4 f5(1) 59.gxf5 gxf5 60.h7 Qf1+ 61.Kg3 Ra4 62.Qd8+ Kc5 63.Qg5 Rg4+ 64.Qxg4 fxg4 65.h8Q(2) gxf3 66.Qc3+ Kb5 67.Nd6+ Kb6 68.Nc4+(3) Kb7 69.Na5+ Kb6 70.Qxc6+ Kxa5 71.Qxd7 Qg1+ 72.Kxf3

click for larger view

And this is a tablebase draw after 72...Qh1+ 73.Kg4 Qg2+ 74. Kh5 Qf3+. The White king cannot escape the Black queen's checks on an open board.

(1) Up to here Stockfish followed our game (most of the moves are forced) but Pogonina chose 58...Ra4 instead of 58...f5. Sliding forward and restarting the analysis after 58.g4, lets see what Stockfish suggests at d=36.

click for larger view

1. [0.00]: 58...f5 59.gxf5 gxf5 60.h7 Qf1+ 61.Kg3 Ra4 62.Qg7 Rg4+ 63.Qxg4 fxg4 64.h8Q gxf3 65.Qd4+ Nc5 66.Nd6 Qd3 67.Qb4+ Kc7 68.Qxc5 Qxd6+ 69.Qxd6+ Kxd6

click for larger view

This line is similar to Stockfish's original Principal Variation but still results in a tablebase draw.

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