The strongest Women’s tournament on U.S. soil, the Cairns Cup (February 6-16) reached its midway point on Sunday, February 10th with three players well ahead of the pack. Top seed, Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia emerged as the tournament leader with a massive 4.5/5 score.
Kosteniuk was relentless throughout the competition, scoring a particularly aesthetic victory against 19-year-old Zhansaya Abdumalik in round three.
In round five, Kosteniuk had a wild game against GM Bella Khotenashvili of Georgia. In time pressure, Alexandra allowed a draw by repetition in a position where she actually held more than enough compensation, but did not have the time to work out the complications. Instead Khotenashvili refused the silent draw offer, giving Kosteniuk an easy win.
GM Valentina Gunina, Photo Lennart Ootes
Valentina Gunina also pulled away from the pack in round five with an absolutely outstanding victory- one of the most spectacular games that I’ve called in the decade of working with GMs Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan at the Saint Louis Chess Club.
Can you find Valentina’s best move in this position?
How did Gunina finish off here?
Play through the game for the answers.
GM Irina Krush, Photo Lennart Ootes
GM Irina Krush, who calls Saint Louis a second home also joined the top of the cross table with a solid positional victory over the young Abdumalik.
At the opening ceremony, I announced a generous $100,000 gift from the STL Chess Club to our Women’s Programs. You can now find a video from the ceremony on the YouTube channel. I also recorded a series of “Fireside Chats” with GM Yasser Seirawan, including my favorite, a look into the lives of the first Women’s World Champions.
Monday, February 11th is a free day at the Cairns Cup. Tune in to uschesschamps.com on February 12th for round six, which is headlined by Krush-Kosteniuk.