Third Cairns Cup Kicks Off Saturday in Saint Louis

The third Cairns Cup begins Saturday, June 3, hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club at the World Chess Hall of Fame. The ten-player Round Robin features eight players in the top 25 of FIDE’s June top players list as well as eight-time U.S. Champion GM Irina Krush and four-time U.S. Champion IM Anna Zatonskih.


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IM Anna Zatonskih at the start of the 2019 Cairns Cup (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


Besides the two Americans, the event boasts two players from Georgia (GMs Nana Dzagnidze and Bella Khotenashvili), two from India (2576-rated GM Humpy Koneru and GM Harika Dronavalli), and players from four other federations. These players include former world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who will be playing her third Cairns Cup, and second-timers GM Elisabeth Paehtz and GM Zhansaya Abdumalik.


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GM Bella Khotenashvili, representing Georgia, will be playing her second Cairns Cup (courtesy Austin Fuller/SLCC)


Interestingly, both Paehtz and Abdumalik are making their debut appearances as grandmasters, having first appeared as IMs in 2019. Finally, Azeri GM Gunay Mammadzada will be making her Cairns Cup debut. At age 22, she will also be the youngest player in this year’s field, and she is also the only player making her Cairns Cup debut.


Harika Humpy
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Indian GMs Harika Dronavalli and Humpy Koneru faced off in the final round of the 2020 Cairns Cup, and are both returning this year (courtesy Lennart Ootes)


Top-seeded Koneru will look to repeat as champion, and 2019 champion GM Valentina Gunina is not competing this year. Kosteniuk finished second in 2019 and tied for third in 2020, so should also be considered a favorite in this wide-open event.


Paehtz Kosteniuk
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GMs Elisabeth Paehtz (L) and Alexandra Kosteniuk in the first round of the 2019 Cairns Cup. Paehtz will be making her first appearance as a GM, and Kosteniuk has played in all three iterations (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


Named in honor of Saint Louis Chess Club co-founder Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield’s maiden name, the tournament is inspired by its aim to promote the game of chess to women. Running the event as Chief Arbiter will be IA Judit Sztaray.


Nana Krush
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Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield (L) next to GM Nana Dzagnidze before her 2019 match against GM Irina Krush (courtesy Austin Fuller/SLCC)


Boasting a $180,000 prize fund (with $45,000 for first and $35,000 for second), games will take place daily at 1:00 p.m. CT and will be broadcast with live commentary from GM Yasser Seirawan, IM Almira Skripchenko and IM Nazi Paikidze Saint Louis Chess Club’s Twitch.

Chess Life Online will also be providing in-depth coverage of the event, with key games annotated and explained by some of our country’s premier players. Look for articles after every third round, with WGM Tatev Abrahamyan covering the first leg, IM Paikidze (yes, she is pulling a double shift!) covering the middle, and WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova covering the last three rounds.

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