Tan Zhongyi Wins 2024 Cairns Cup

No tiebreaks needed! Just like in the 2024 FIDE Women's Candidates two months ago, GM Tan Zhongyi basically had the victory in the bag before the last round of the 2024 Cairns Cup even started in St. Louis. 


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Tan Zhongyi with the Cairns Cup (Photo courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


In what was, for the most part, a tame affair by this tournament's standards, Tan won one game in each third of the event, and held with solid play in the rest. In some years, a 6/9 score might not be enough for clear first, but this year an abnormal number of draws kept most of her competitors' scores down, as well. 

Indeed, her seventh-round win over GM Elisabeth Paehtz practically put the tournament out of reach for most of her competitors, leaving her only needing a professional draw in round nine against GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (more on her in a moment) to clinch the $50,000 first prize. 

Today's annotations come from WGM Katerina Nemcova:



GM Anna Muzychuk claimed clear second, and the accompanying $40,000 prize, with a 5½/9 score due to her last-round win over IM Alice Lee.



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Anna Muzychuk's last-round victory clinched outright second place (Photo courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


Even with this win, the older Muzychuk sister needed Kosteniuk to upset Tan in order to claim a share of first, but she also had some "near misses" earlier in the event that came awful close to netting her that extra half-point she'd have needed to tie Tan:



With the draw, Kosteniuk found herself in a four-way tie for third place with a 5/9 score. Of her colleagues to reach the same score, GM Harika Dronavilla drew eight games (winning one), while GMs Mariya Muzychuk and Nana Dzagnidze each had two wins offset by a single loss.


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Mariya Muzychuk joined a logjam for third place with a fine victory in the seventh round over young Alice Lee (Photo courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


Below is Mariya's seventh-round victory, also over Lee (who, despite these losses, finished on a respectable 4/9 score with wins over IM Anna Zatonskih and Kosteniuk under her belt). 



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Kosteniuk (R) in her seventh-round victory over Anna Zatonskih (Photo courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


Kosteniuk, in contrast, played seven decisive games out of her nine rounds, with four wins and three losses after her quick draw against Tan. Below is her seventh-round victory over last year's champion.



The final standings were something of a "return to normal" after Zatonskih's upset win as the lowest-rated player last year. This year, Zatonskih finished with a disappointing 2/9 score, while Lee and Krush were tied for seventh with 4/9 scores. In contrast, the six highest-rated players all ended up finishing in the top six.




Tan Zhongyi and Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield (Photos courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC) and posing in front of the World Chess Hall of Fame (Photo courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)