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.
[pgn]

[Event "1st Cairns Cup 2019"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.02.14"]
[White "Gunina, V...."]
[Black "Abdumalik, Z...."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A34"]
[WhiteElo "2501"]
[BlackElo "2468"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "84"]
[EventDate "2019.02.05"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb4 6. Bc4 Nd3+ 7. Ke2 Nf4+ 8.
Kf1 Nd3 9. Qe2 Nxc1 10. Rxc1 e6 11. e5 Nc6 12. h4 Bd7 13. Rh3 h6 14. Kg1 Qb6
15. Bb3 O-O-O 16. Na4 Qa5 17. Qe3 c4 18. Bd1 Kb8 19. a3 Qb5 20. Rg3 f5 21. exf6
gxf6 22. Qf4+ e5 23. Qxf6 Be7 24. Qf7 Rhf8 25. Qh5 Bf5 26. Qxh6 e4 27. Nc3 Qc5
28. Ng5 Rh8 29. Ngxe4 Rxh6 30. Nxc5 Rxh4 {Gunina had under three minutes here,
while Abdumalik had just under eight.} 31. b4 {Holding the knight} Rdh8 (31...
cxb3 32. Nxb3 Bxa3 33. Ra1 Rdh8 {shoud also win.}) 32. Kf1 (32. f3 {fails to}
Rh1+ 33. Kf2 Bh4 34. Ne2 (34. N3e4) 34... Bd3 $1) 32... Bxc5 {Both players are
under two minutes.} ({If} 32... Nd4 33. Ne2 Rh1+ 34. Ng1 Bxc5 35. bxc5 Bd3+ 36.
Rxd3 cxd3 $19) (32... Rh1+ 33. Ke2 Re8 {looks like an easy win.} 34. N5e4 (34.
Re3 $4 Nd4#) 34... Bh4 $19) 33. bxc5 Bd3+ 34. Rxd3 cxd3 $2 (34... Rh1+ $1 35.
Ke2 Re8+ 36. Ne4 (36. Re3 $4 Nd4#) 36... Rxe4+ 37. Kf3 {"I don't think it's so
easy" (Caruana)}) 35. f3 {"and White goes on because [she] has two pawns for
the exchange." (Caruana)} Rc4 (35... Rh1+ 36. Kf2 Re8 37. Ne4 {(Caruana)}) 36.
Kf2 Rxc5 (36... Rh1 $2 37. Bb3) 37. Rb1 Rh1 38. Ke3 Ra5 39. a4 Rg5 40. g4 {
Played with 3 seconds on the clock!} Rh3 41. Ne4 $1 Rg7 (41... Rxg4 $2 42. Nf2)
42. g5 Rf7 {A very close shave for Gunina.} 1/2-1/2

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

[Event "1st Cairns Cup 2019"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.02.14"]
[White "Dzagnidze, N....."]
[Black "Kosteniuk, A....."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E20"]
[WhiteElo "2513"]
[BlackElo "2532"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "136"]
[EventDate "2019.02.05"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 Nc6 5. e4 d5 6. e5 Ng8 7. a3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3
dxc4 9. Rb1 a6 10. Nh3 Na5 11. Qa4+ {"I wanted to make weaknesses on the dark
squares." (Dzagnidze)} c6 12. Qc2 c5 13. dxc5 Qd5 14. Be3 Qxe5 15. Kf2 Ne7 16.
Qa4+ Nec6 17. Bxc4 Nxc4 18. Qxc4 {"I already liked my position..."} O-O 19.
Rhd1 Qc7 20. Rd6 {"...but I don't think that Rd6 was the right choice."
(Dzagnidze)} (20. Ng5) 20... Ne7 21. g4 {Trying to stop ...Nf5.} Nd5 22. Nf4
Nxe3 23. Kxe3 b5 (23... Bd7 {is an improvement according to Dzagnidze, as she
felt she had a lot of weaknesses.}) 24. Qd4 Bb7 25. Kd2 (25. Kf2) 25... Bxf3 $6
(25... Rac8 {"I think I'm so much better with no counterplay at all."
(Kosteniuk)}) 26. Rf1 {"After 25.Kd2 I'm not sure that 25...Bxf3 is a good
move here. Because after 26.Rf1 I already got some play." (Dzagnidze)} Bc6 27.
Qe5 Rad8 28. Nh5 f6 29. Qxe6+ Qf7 $6 {Offering the queen trade with White's
king in the center of the board surprised Dzagnidze and the commentators.} (
29... Kh8 {"Maybe she was scared of this Nh5 landing on g7 somehow but there's
nothing." (Dzagnidze) "I thought this was the best move... but I wanted to
play safe. If you trade queens with an extra pawn, at least you cannot lose."
(Kosteniuk)}) 30. Re1 Rxd6+ 31. cxd6 Qxe6 32. Rxe6 Rd8 33. Ke3 {"Here I
thought I was safe." (Dzagnidze)} Bd5 34. Re7 Bf7 35. Ra7 Bxh5 36. gxh5 Rxd6
37. h6 $1 {Kosteniuk missed this move.} gxh6 38. Ke4 Rc6 39. Kf5 Rxc3 ({
Kosteniuk recommended} 39... h5 {as an improvement after the game, preparing
the h6 square for the king. She gave the following line:} 40. h4 Kh8 41. Ra8+
Kg7 42. Ra7+ Kh6 {but Stockfish finds the draw with} 43. Rf7 $1) 40. Ra8+ Kf7
41. Ra7+ Kf8 42. Rxa6 Ke7 43. Re6+ Kd7 44. Rxf6 Rh3 45. Kg4 Rxh2 46. Rb6 h5+
47. Kf4 Rf2+ 48. Ke5 Rg2 49. Kf4 Rg4+ 50. Kf5 h6 51. Rxh6 Rc4 52. Ke5 h4 53.
Kd5 Ke7 54. Ke5 Kf7 55. Kf5 Ke7 56. Ke5 Kd7 57. Kd5 Kc7 58. a4 Rxa4 59. Kc5 Kd7
60. Kxb5 Rg4 61. Kc5 Ke7 62. Kd5 Kf7 63. Ke5 Kg7 64. Kf5 Ra4 65. Rg6+ Kh7 66.
Rg4 Ra5+ 67. Kf4 Rh5 68. Rg1 Ra5 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
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)
[pgn]

[Event "1st Cairns Cup 2019"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.02.15"]
[White "Kosteniuk, A..."]
[Black "Gunina, V..."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C65"]
[WhiteElo "2532"]
[BlackElo "2501"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "132"]
[EventDate "2019.02.05"]

1. e4 e5 {Not unknown in Gunina's practice, but certainly a departure from her
normal Caro-Kann. After the game she said she just wanted to play something
new against Kosteniuk, who knows her and her openings very well.} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.
Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 Nd7 7. Nc4 Qe7 8. a3 {A rare move in
this position, and it took Gunina out of book. "After 8.a3, I forgot
everything!"} a5 9. b3 O-O 10. Bb2 f6 11. O-O Nb6 12. Ne3 a4 13. b4 Bxe3 14.
fxe3 Bg4 15. Qe1 c5 16. Nh4 cxb4 17. axb4 Nc8 18. b5 Nd6 19. Ba3 Qd7 20. h3 Be6
21. c4 b6 22. Bb4 c5 23. bxc6 Qxc6 24. Ba3 Rfd8 25. Qg3 Kh8 26. Qf3 Kg8 {
Draw? Black is better, but a draw obviously suits the tournament leader.} (
26... Rd7 {followed by ...Rad8 makes quite a bit of sense.}) 27. Rad1 {Nyet!}
Nf7 28. Qg3 Kh8 29. Rf2 $6 (29. Be7 {was described by Kosteniuk as "very
tempting:"} Re8 (29... Rd7 $2 30. Rxf6 Rxe7 (30... gxf6 $4 31. Bxf6#) 31. Nf5
$18) 30. Rxf6 Qd7 (30... gxf6 $4 31. Bxf6#) 31. Rxe6 ({Kosteniuk analyzed} 31.
Rxf7 Bxf7 {and thought that} 32. Ba3 $1 {might be a good alternative} (32. Nf5
Bg6)) (31. Nf5 {fails to} Bxf5 32. Rxf7 Bg6 $19) 31... Qxe6 32. Nf5 Rg8 (32...
g6 $6 33. Qh4 Kg8 $13 (33... gxf5 $4 34. Bf6+ $18)) 33. Ba3 Ra7 {and Maurice
Ashley's point is well taken: this may 'objectively' be better for Black, but
it's "chaos on the board" and with time trouble looming, anything might happen!
}) (29. Rxf6 $2 {doesn't work because of} gxf6 30. Be7 Bxc4 $1) 29... Ra7 30.
Rfd2 Rad7 31. Nf3 b5 32. cxb5 Qxb5 (32... Qc3 $1 {is admittedly a computer
move, but it's a good one!} 33. Bb2 Qb3 {and ...a4-a3 is a powerful threat.})
33. d4 Bb3 34. Rc1 Qb7 35. Qg4 Nh6 36. Qh4 Bf7 $6 (36... Nf7 $13) 37. Rb2 Qa7 (
37... Bb3 {is worse:} 38. dxe5 fxe5 39. Nxe5 $16) 38. Rc6 {threatening Rxf6} ({
Another idea is} 38. Bc5 Qa8 (38... Qa5 $2 39. Bb6) 39. Rb6) ({Better is} 38.
Kh2 {"a calm, waiting move" (Kosteniuk) and if} Qa8 39. d5 {"I can enjoy my
position."}) 38... Ng8 39. Bc5 $2 {Attacking the queen, but cutting the
c6-rook off from its twin and freeing a path for the a-pawn! Now Black can
gain a tempo and begin pushing.} ({Kosteniuk said after the game that} 39. Qe1
{would have been better.}) 39... Qa8 40. Rbb6 a3 $1 {Gunina played this move
to make the time control and immediately sprinted off for a cup of coffee!} 41.
Ra6 a2 42. Qe1 (42. Rxa8 $2 Rxa8 {and promotion is unstoppable.}) 42... Rb7 43.
Nd2 Qb8 44. Rcb6 exd4 45. exd4 Rxb6 46. Rxb6 Qf4 (46... Qa8 {may improve:} 47.
Qa1 Rc8) 47. Ra6 f5 $2 (47... Rc8 {and d4-d5 just hangs a piece.}) 48. d5 $1 {
Cuts off the defense of the a-pawn.} fxe4 49. Rxa2 Bxd5 50. Ra7 Ra8 51. Rxa8
Bxa8 52. Nc4 Nf6 53. Bd4 e3 {Gunina acquiesces to the draw.} 54. Qxe3 Qxe3+ 55.
Nxe3 $11 Ne8 56. g4 Kg8 57. Kf2 Kf7 58. Kg3 Nf6 59. Nc4 Bd5 60. Ne5+ Ke6 61.
Kf4 h6 62. Nf3 Kf7 63. Bb2 g5+ 64. Ke3 Nxg4+ 65. hxg4 Bxf3 66. Kxf3 Kg6 {
A fantastic battle worthy of the top two finishers in the inaugural Cairns Cup!
} 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
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)
[pgn]

[Event "1st Cairns Cup 2019"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.02.15"]
[White "Krush, I.."]
[Black "Harika, D.."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E94"]
[WhiteElo "2435"]
[BlackElo "2471"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "119"]
[EventDate "2019.02.05"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 O-O 5. Nf3 d6 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Na6 8. Be3
c6 9. d5 Ng4 10. Bg5 f6 11. Bh4 c5 12. Nd2 h5 13. a3 Bd7 14. Rb1 Qe7 (14... Qe8
15. b4 b6 16. Nb5 Qe7 17. Rb3 Rf7 18. f3 Nh6 19. Rb2 g5 20. Bf2 f5 21. exf5
Nxf5 22. Ne4 {1-0 (44) Sakaev,K (2647)-Miroshnichenko,E (2548) Panormo 2002})
15. b4 b6 16. Nb5 Rfc8 17. Rb3 Nh6 18. f3 Nf7 19. Bf2 Bh6 20. Rb2 Bg5 21. Qe1
Nc7 22. bxc5 bxc5 23. Nb3 Ne8 24. Qa5 f5 25. Bd3 a6 26. Nc3 Qd8 27. Rfb1 Rab8
28. Ne2 h4 29. h3 Rb6 30. Nbc1 Rxb2 31. Qxd8 Bxd8 32. Rxb2 Ra8 33. Nc3 g5 34.
exf5 Ng7 35. N1e2 Nxf5 36. Ne4 Nd4 37. N2c3 Bc8 38. Be3 Kg7 39. Kf2 Kh6 40. Rb1
Bc7 41. Bd2 Ra7 $2 42. Nxg5 $1 Nxg5 43. Ne4 Kg7 ({If} 43... Bd8 44. Nxd6 $1)
44. Bxg5 Nf5 45. Rb2 Kg6 46. Bxh4 Nxh4 47. Nxd6+ Bf5 48. Nxf5 Nxf5 49. g4 Kg5
50. Bxf5 Kf4 51. h4 Bd8 52. h5 Bg5 53. d6 a5 54. Rb8 Ra6 55. h6 Rxd6 56. h7 Bf6
57. Ke2 a4 58. Be4 Kg5 59. Rg8+ Kh4 60. g5 {A fine win to wrap up the
tournament and a solid third place finish for Krush.} 1-0

[/pgn]
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)
[pgn]

[Event "1st Cairns Cup 2019"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.02.15"]
[White "Zatonskih, A..."]
[Black "Sebag, M..."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D11"]
[WhiteElo "2428"]
[BlackElo "2476"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "2019.02.05"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qb3 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bg4 6. Nc3 Nbd7 7. e4 Bxf3 8.
gxf3 e5 9. Be3 exd4 10. Bxd4 Bd6 11. O-O-O Qc7 12. h4 Ne5 13. Qe2 Nh5 14. Kb1
$5 {It's a trap! Zatonskih revealed this in the Confessional Booth before she
played her 14th move, but it was missed by the production crew!} Ng6 $2 15. Nb5
$1 cxb5 16. Qxb5+ Kf8 (16... Qc6 17. Qxh5 {followed by Bb5 is also very strong.
}) 17. Qxh5 Be5 18. Rc1 Qe7 19. Bxe5 Nxe5 20. f4 Ng6 21. Qf5 Re8 22. h5 Nh4 23.
Qh3 Qxe4+ 24. Ka1 Qc6 25. Bd3 Qd5 26. Bc4 Qxh5 27. Qxh4 Qxh4 28. Rxh4 {White
is up a clean piece.} Rc8 29. Rhh1 Ke7 30. a3 h6 31. Kb1 Rhd8 32. Bb3 Kf6 33.
Rxc8 Rxc8 34. Rc1 Rxc1+ 35. Kxc1 Kf5 36. Bxf7 Kxf4 37. Kd2 b6 38. Ke2 g5 39. f3
a5 40. Be8 Ke5 41. Ke3 Kd5 42. Bf7+ Kc5 43. Ke4 a4 44. Kf5 Kd4 45. Be8 Ke3 46.
Kg4 Kd2 47. Bxa4 Kc1 48. Bc6 Kxb2 49. a4 1-0

[/pgn]
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!

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

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!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] week saw a dramatic finish to the inaugural Cairns Cup, which is set to become the premier Women’s event on the […]

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