Gunina Wins Cairns Cup

GM Valentina Gunina is the clear winner of the 2019 Cairns Cup with 7/9 points. She drew a topsy-turvy game against runner-up GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who finished a half point behind at 6.5/9, to take home the first place prize of $40,000. Kosteniuk won $30,000 for her efforts.

Gunina’s path to the top wasn’t easy. She had to weather a close call in Round 8, where she nearly lost to the 19-year-old IM Zhansaya Abdumalik. Abdumalik was pressing throughout, but missed a key intermezzo on move 34 to allow Gunina a path to a draw.

Kosteniuk also drew in Round 8 against GM Nana Dzagnidze, although she was the one pressing for the win.

So the stage was set for the final round matchup between Gunina and Kosteniuk, teammates on the Russian National Team and good friends off the board. Both women had chances to win as the game progressed, but after a back-and-forth battle, the game was drawn, giving the worthy Gunina the crown.

Kosteniuk-Gunina (photo Lennart Ootes)

American GM Irina Krush rebounded from consecutive losses in Rounds 7 and 8 to defeat GM Harika Dronavalli and clinch clear third place. Krush’s score of 5.5/9 earned her $20,000.

Krush-Dronavalli (photo Austin Fuller)

The other American in the field, IM Anna Zatonskih, finished strong with a victory over GM Marie Sebag. Zatonskih, who concluded the event with a score of 3.5/9, set a clever trap on move 14 that Sebag overlooked.

Anna Zatonskih (photo Lennart Ootes)

Complete results for Round 9:

Final standings and prize distribution:

Congratulations to the players, commentators, and staff at the Saint Louis Chess Club for an outstanding event!


  1. Fantastic event all the way around. Fighting chess, gracious competitors, professional commentary (with fireside chats, and “Storytime with Yasser”), and plenty of enthusiastic fans commenting online.

    Already looking forward to the 2020 Cairns Cup!

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