2020 Cairns Cup Kicks Off With Two Wins

Humpy Koneru and Nana Dzagnidze got off to an early lead Friday at the first round of the 2020 Cairns Cup. Koneru won a brilliant positional game against the young American phenom Carissa Yip, while Dzagnidze defeated last year’s Champion, Valentina Gunina in a very sharp battle. The field for the 2020 Cairns Cup, one of the strongest in the history of women’s chess, provides viewers a number of intriguing plot lines to follow. One of the most interesting for American fans is the presence of Carissa Yip, who at 16 is the highest FIDE rated female player in the United States.
Carissa Yip (photo Lennart Ootes)
While Yip has played in three U.S. Women’s Championships and multiple GM norm events in recent months, an elite event like the Cairns Cup, garnering global attention and coverage, represents a new kind of challenge. She had her chances in her first round game against Humpy Koneru, but the world’s number 3 woman player showed her vast experience, grinding down the youngster in excellent positional style.

[pgn]

[Event "2nd Cairns Cup 2020"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2020.02.07"]
[Round "1.2"]
[White "Koneru, Humpy"]
[Black "Yip, Carissa"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E73"]
[WhiteElo "2580"]
[BlackElo "2412"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "79"]
[EventDate "2020.02.07"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Be3 $5 e5 7. d5 Na6 8. h4
Nc5 9. Qc2 c6 10. h5 cxd5 11. cxd5 Qa5 12. Bd2 (12. h6 Bh8 13. f3 Bd7 {1/2-1/2
(49) Eljanov,P (2676)-Demchenko,A (2679) Germany 2019}) 12... Bd7 (12... Nxh5
13. Bxh5 $6 gxh5 14. Rxh5 Qa6 {grabs control of the weakened light squares
around the White king}) 13. h6 Bh8 14. Nh3 Qc7 15. Ng5 Rac8 (15... Rfc8 $5 {
may seem risky as it underprotects f7. But a weakaness isn't a weakness if
White can't exploit it! If} 16. O-O Qd8 17. f4 exf4 18. Rxf4 b5 $1 {when Black
undermines the c3 knight and works to liberate her poor dark-squared bishop.})
16. Qd1 a5 {Securing the knight on c5.} 17. O-O Qd8 18. Rb1 (18. a3 a4 $1)
18... Ne8 19. b3 $6 {It's not entirely clear why Koneru played this move,
particularly in conjunction with 18. Rb1.} (19. b4 {seems thematic}) (19. a3 a4
20. Be3 f5 $132 (20... Nb3 $5)) 19... f6 $2 {A positional error from Yip, one
that Koneru exploits with style. Black's h8 bishop becomes a passive observer
of what follows.} (19... Bf6 $1 {activates the poor prelate:} 20. Nf3 Be7 21.
Be3 f5) 20. Ne6 $1 Nxe6 21. dxe6 Bxe6 22. Bc4 $1 {Playing for control of the
light squares.} Nc7 ({Black can't grab a pawn with} 22... Bxc4 23. bxc4 Rxc4 $2
{due to} (23... Rf7 24. Rb5 $16) 24. Qb3 $18) 23. Nb5 Qd7 24. Nxc7 Bxc4 25.
bxc4 Qxc7 26. Qb3 Qxc4 27. Bxa5 (27. Qxb7 {, threatening 28. Rfc1, may improve.
}) 27... Qxb3 28. Rxb3 {A fascinating position. White is down a pawn, but
Black's weaknesses on b7 and d6, coupled with the buried h8-bishop, give
Koneru all the play.} Rf7 29. Rfb1 Rb8 $6 {Holding on to the pawn is too
passive.} (29... f5 $1 {may have been Yip's last chance. After} 30. Rxb7 Bf6 $1
31. R7b6 fxe4 (31... Rd7 $6 32. Rb8) 32. Rxd6 e3) 30. Bd2 $1 {Now White will
play a2-a4-a5-a6 and attack the pawn once more.} f5 31. a4 fxe4 32. a5 Rbf8 {
A last-ditch effort for counterplay, but Black is still effectively down a
piece.} 33. Rxb7 Rxf2 34. Bb4 e3 35. Bxd6 Re8 36. Rb8 Rxb8 37. Rxb8+ Kf7 38.
Rxh8 Rb2 39. Kf1 Ke6 40. Bc5 1-0

[/pgn]
Nana Dzagnidze was the other winner in Round 1, avenging her defeat in last year’s inaugural Cairns Cup at the hands of eventual champion Valentina Gunina. Here Gunina got a bit too creative in the opening, neglecting development with 9. … Qd6, and Dzagnidze soon was up a clear pawn. Gunina showed her trademark aggression, hurling pieces towards the White king, and it almost worked. But after a last oversight with 31. … Qe6 (in place of 31. … Qh3+) Gunina was soon forced to resign.

[pgn]

[Event "2nd Cairns Cup 2020"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2020.02.07"]
[Round "1.4"]
[White "Dzagnidze, Nana"]
[Black "Gunina, Valentina"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A45"]
[WhiteElo "2515"]
[BlackElo "2461"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "83"]
[EventDate "2020.02.07"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 d5 3. e3 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nd2 Bg4 6. Qa4 cxd4 7. exd4 a6 8.
Ngf3 b5 9. Qc2 Qd6 $6 {Black's pieces lack coordination.} 10. Bd3 Rc8 11. O-O
e6 (11... Nb4 12. Qb1 Nxd3 13. Qxd3 e6 14. a4 $1) 12. Qb1 Nd7 13. a4 $1 Qb8 14.
axb5 axb5 15. Bxh7 $1 Be7 (15... g6 $2 16. Bxg6 fxg6 $4 17. Qxg6#) 16. Bxe7
Kxe7 17. Bd3 {White is up a clean pawn with a better position to boot.} g5 18.
g3 Rcg8 $5 {True to her style, Gunina masses pieces for attack.} 19. Ra6 Bxf3
20. Nxf3 g4 21. Nd2 Qf8 22. Rd1 ({After} 22. Rxc6 {Gunina may have intended}
Rxh2 $5 23. Kxh2 Qh6+ 24. Kg1 Rh8 {but White has a miracle defense with} 25.
Bh7 $3 Rxh7 26. Qxh7 Qxh7 27. Ra1 {when White's two rooks are better than the
queen.}) 22... Ncb8 23. Ra8 Qh6 24. Nf1 b4 25. Bb5 Rc8 26. Qd3 e5 $5 {
Objectively poor, but Gunina fights for activity at all costs. And it almost
works!} (26... bxc3 27. bxc3 Nf6 28. c4 $1) 27. Bxd7 Nxd7 28. Rxc8 Rxc8 29.
dxe5 Nxe5 30. Qxd5 Nf3+ 31. Kg2 $2 (31. Kh1 $1 {and because there's no check,
Black lacks time to get her queen off the sixth rank, avoiding a piece trade.})
31... Qe6 (31... Qh3+ $1 32. Kh1 Kf6 $1 {and the king heads for relative
safety on g7. Incredibly Black has enough counterplay to survive here!}) 32.
Qb7+ (32. Qxe6+ Kxe6 33. cxb4 {is fine, but it seems wise to keep the queens
on with Gunina's king exposed.}) 32... Kf6 33. Qxb4 Kg7 34. Ne3 Ne5 35. Rd6 $1
Qe8 36. Nf5+ Kg8 37. Qf4 Ng6 38. Qxg4 Qe5 39. Ne7+ Qxe7 40. Qxc8+ Kg7 41. Qc6
Qe2 42. Rxg6+ 1-0

[/pgn]
Ju Wenjun arrives in Saint Louis fresh from her successful defense of her Women’s World Championship title. She eased into her new challenge with a first round draw against Mariya Muzychuk, defending her trademark Petroff Defense with ease.

[pgn]

[Event "2nd Cairns Cup 2020"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2020.02.07"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Muzychuk, Mariya"]
[Black "Ju, Wenjun"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2552"]
[BlackElo "2583"]
[PlyCount "79"]
[EventDate "2020.02.07"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be7 7. Be3 Nc6
8. Qd2 Be6 9. O-O-O Qd7 10. h3 h6 11. Kb1 O-O-O 12. Nd4 Nxd4 13. Bxd4 Rhg8 14.
Qe3 a6 15. c4 Kb8 16. Qc3 g6 17. Be2 Qc6 18. h4 h5 19. b3 Bg4 20. Bxg4 hxg4 21.
g3 Rde8 22. h5 gxh5 23. Rxh5 Qe4 24. Be3 Rg6 25. Re1 Bf6 26. Qd3 Kc8 27. Kc1
Kd7 28. Kd2 Qxd3+ 29. cxd3 c5 30. Reh1 Be5 31. Rh7 Re7 32. a4 Rge6 33. R7h6
Rxh6 34. Rxh6 f5 35. Rh5 Rf7 36. Rg5 Ke7 37. Ke2 Rf8 38. Rh5 Ke6 39. Rh6+ Ke7
40. Rh5 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
The longest game of the round was the matchup between Alexandra Kosteniuk and Irina Krush. Playing Black, the American conjured up a bit of pressure against Kosteniuk’s isolani, but neither side could make progress and the game was drawn in 51 moves.

[pgn]

[Event "2nd Cairns Cup 2020"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2020.02.07"]
[Round "1.5"]
[White "Kosteniuk, Alexandra"]
[Black "Krush, Irina"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B22"]
[WhiteElo "2504"]
[BlackElo "2422"]
[PlyCount "101"]
[EventDate "2020.02.07"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Be2 Nc6 7. O-O cxd4 8.
cxd4 Be7 9. Nc3 Qd6 10. Nb5 Qd8 11. Bf4 Nd5 12. Bg3 O-O 13. Rc1 Bd7 14. Nd6
Bxd6 15. Bxd6 Nce7 16. Qd2 a6 17. Ba3 Bb5 18. Bxb5 axb5 19. Ne5 Ra4 20. Qd1 Qe8
21. Bc5 b6 22. Bxe7 Qxe7 23. a3 Rfa8 24. Nc6 Qd6 25. Qf3 Rc4 26. Ne5 Rc7 27.
Rc6 Qe7 28. Qe2 b4 29. axb4 Qxb4 30. Rxc7 Nxc7 31. Qf3 Rf8 32. Nc6 Qd6 33. Rc1
Nd5 34. Rc4 f6 35. b4 Ra8 36. g3 Ra6 37. Ne5 Ra8 38. Nc6 h6 39. Rc1 Kh8 40. Qe4
Rc8 41. b5 Ra8 42. Kg2 Kg8 43. h4 Kh8 44. Rc2 Qd7 45. Kh2 Qd6 46. Qg6 Nc7 47.
Qf7 Rf8 48. Qh5 Ra8 49. Qf7 Rf8 50. Qh5 Ra8 51. Qf7 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
The game between Harika Dronavalli and Kateryna Lagno was the third draw of the round, the game ending in a position that perhaps looked more complex than it actually was.

[pgn]

[Event "2nd Cairns Cup 2020"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2020.02.07"]
[Round "1.3"]
[White "Lagno, Kateryna"]
[Black "Harika, Dronavalli"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B90"]
[WhiteElo "2552"]
[BlackElo "2518"]
[PlyCount "73"]
[EventDate "2020.02.07"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 Ng4 7. Bc1 Nf6 8. a4
g6 9. Be2 Bg7 10. O-O O-O 11. Be3 Nc6 12. Qd2 Bd7 13. f4 Rc8 14. Kh1 Re8 15.
Rad1 Qa5 16. Nb3 Qb4 17. e5 Ne4 18. Nxe4 Qxe4 19. a5 Qb4 20. Bf3 Be6 21. exd6
exd6 22. Bb6 Qxd2 23. Nxd2 d5 24. c3 Nb8 25. Nb3 Nd7 26. Bf2 Nf6 27. Nc5 Bg4
28. Rfe1 Bxf3 29. gxf3 Rxe1+ 30. Rxe1 Bf8 31. b4 Bxc5 32. Bxc5 Re8 33. Rd1 Nh5
34. f5 f6 35. fxg6 hxg6 36. Bd6 Re3 37. Rxd5 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
Round 2 starts today at 1pm CST, with coverage streamed around the world at uschesschamps.com.
Quick Links: 2020 Cairns Cup Website Pairings and Results Live coverage daily 1pm CST STLCC YouTube channel

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