Ju Wenjun and Kosteniuk Share Cairns Lead

Play resumes Thursday after Wednesday’s lone rest day at the 2020 Cairns Cup … which, as it turns out, wasn’t so restful for the players!

World Champion Ju Wenjun is tied for the lead after five rounds with Alexandra Kosteniuk after both won in an all-action fifth round. Ju and Kosteniuk are both at 3.5 points, with Humpy Koneru and Nana Dzagnidze trailing by half a point.

Last year’s inaugural edition of the Cairns Cup was notable for its low draw rate, and the tradition continues in 2020. 15 games – fully 60% – have been decisive in the first five rounds. Here’s how things shook out in Rounds 4 and 5.

Round 4

courtesy STLCC

Ju and Kosteniuk’s ascent began in Round 4, where the two leaders both won their games. Ju defeated Valentina Gunina after Gunina’s kingside defense became compromised.

Kosteniuk handed Carissa Yip to her fourth consecutive loss, using her experience to better navigate a blocked position and take the full point.

The three remaining games – Muzychuk-Dzagnidze, Koneru-Lagno, and Dronavalli-Krush – were all drawn. For awhile it appeared that Krush might have something on the Black side of a Taimanov, but a slip on her 32nd move allowed Dronavalli to immediately equalize.

Round 5

courtesy STLCC

With the rest day looming, the players left nothing on the field, with all five games seeing decisive results. The all-American matchup between Irina Krush and Carissa Yip saw youth get the better of experience, somewhat against the run of play.

Ju Wenjun went pawn grabbing against Kateryna Lagno, but Lagno chose a quiet response, trusting perhaps in the power of the bishops in an equalish position. Slowly Ju took control of the game and used Lagno’s shattered kingside to weave threat after threat.

Kosteniuk defeated Mariya Muzychuk after essaying an off-beat idea against the Open Ruy Lopez.

Valentina Gunina won her second game in a row, taking down Dronavalli in a Closed Sicilian. Gunina has been struggling with jet lag in this tournament, but here she managed to resist sleep’s siren call long enough to force resignation!

Humpy Koneru won the longest game of the day, grinding down Nana Dzagnidze in 64 moves.

Round 6 Pairings

courtesy STLCC

Quick Links:

2020 Cairns Cup Website

Pairings and Results

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