Cairns Cup 2024: Rounds 1-3 Recap with Annotations by WGM Tatev Abrahamyan

The fourth edition of the Cairns Cup began Thursday, June 13, at the Saint Louis Chess Club (SLCC), and it did not take long for the players to embrace the spirit of the event. Just like every previous edition, the first round saw multiple decisive games, with three players jutting out to an early lead this year.


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Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield and GM Nona Gaprindashvili ring the bell at the start of round one (Photo courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


Left: Kosteniuk got off to a hot start with a win against Elisabeth Paehtz. Center: Mariya Muzychuk outplayed Anna Zatonskih in a spectacularly sharp French. Right: World championship challenger Tan Zhongyi outplayed Alice Lee in an unusual opening.


First, former world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk got off to another hot start in pursuit of her first Cairns Cup. WGM Tatev Abrahamyan picks up the game at its critical moment:



Then, 2024 FIDE Women’s Candidates winner GM Tan Zhongyi scored a nice win against IM Alice Lee by employing an off-beat opening with the black pieces to take her opponent out of prep.



Finally, last year’s champion IM Anna Zatonskih returned to her trusty French Defense to create a dynamic game against GM Mariya Muzychuk, but Muzychuk sacrificed two (!!) Exchanges and Zatonskih was unable to withstand the pressure.



After such a bloody first round, it looked like we’d be ready for multiple decisive results in the ensuing rounds. Indeed, round two saw two more decisive results, but round three only saw winner, as did round four (see our next report).


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Harika Dronavalli joined the leaders with her second-round victory over Kosteniuk (photo courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


In round two, disaster struck as Zatonskih lost due to a one-move blunder against GM Nana Dzagnidze. Kosteniuk again featured in the two remaining decisive games, although it was GM Harika Dronavalli who wound up in the winners column in round two.



But Kosteniuk bounced back the next day, knocking Dzagnidze back in the standings as a result:



Kosteniuk discusses her third-round victory with Begim Tokhirjonova, who will provide annotations on rounds four through six later this week (photo courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


After three rounds, then, four players share the lead with a 2/3 score. Harika, Mariya Muzychuk, and Tan got there with the aforementioned wins (and two draws), while Kosteniuk easily had the most entertaining path.




Stay tuned later this week for a report on rounds four through six, with annotations by WGM Begim Tokhirjonova. Play resumes today with live coverage at 1:00 p.m. CDT for round five, and round six will be Wednesday, June 19, after a rest day on Tuesday.


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The tournament so far in one photograph: Kosteniuk is moving around the most! (Photo courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)