Russian Chess Queen Valentina Gunina wins Inaugural Cairns Cup

The fighting spirit continued until the final game

Final round results

Abdumalik, Zhansaya - Paehtz, Elisabeth 1-0
Khotenashvili, Bela - Dzagnidze, Nana 0-1
Kosteniuk, Alexandra - Gunina, Valentina ½-½
Krush, Irina - Harika, Dronavalli 1-0
Zatonskih, Anna - Sebag, Marie 1-0

Final standings

​1 Gunina, Valentina 7 27.5
2 Kosteniuk, Alexandra 6.5 25.75
3 Krush, Irina 5.5 25.5
4 Dzagnidze, Nana 5 18.5
5 Harika, Dronavalli 4.5 19.75
Abdumalik, Zhansaya 4.5 16.5
7 Zatonskih, Anna 3.5 12.75
8 Sebag, Marie 3 12.75
Khotenashvili, Bela 3 11.75
10 Paehtz, Elisabeth 2.5 10.75

Almost all the rounds of this event had a lot of excitement, so it wasn’t a surprise that the last one didn’t disappoint.  In the battle for first place, GM Gunina had an advantage most of the game against GM Kosteniuk, but Alexandra fought back and even had winning chances at some point before the game finally ended in a draw.  Krush completely dominated Harika to secure 3rd place, and Dzagnidze won an all-Georgian matchup to move into 4th. Here’s a breakdown of round 9 results and a summary of the games.

Gunina surprised Kosteniuk with a Berlin, not her usual opening of choice.  Valentina played the opening superbly, and soon secured an advantage with a passed a-pawn and better structure.  Alexandra kept her cool, however, and in the time pressure phase managed to outplay her opponent. White’s chances were better after she managed the d4 break, and it looked like Kosteniuk might have great chances for a win.  Unfortunately for her, just before she made time control, she blundered by moving her bishop from a3. This allowed Valentina to push her passed pawn to a2, and after that Black was once again winning. Gunina played a bit conservatively, even trading off her extra pawn to secure a dead drawn endgame, knowing it was enough to grab 1st.  Alexandra tried to the bitter end, but it was not to be, and GM Valentina Gunina was crowned Cairns Cup Champion. Kosteniuk’s tournament was still quite a strong one, and 2nd place is certainly no shabby result. 

GM Irina Krush - GM Harika Dronavalli 1-0

Irina outplayed Harika in a Na6 King’s Indian.  Black’s position soon became quite passive, and White was completely in control with a queenside initiative for very little counterplay.  Harika defended well for awhile, but it was clear her position would be very difficult to hold. Her blunder on move 41 sealed her fate, allowing Irina the powerful tactic with 42. Nxg5!  She soon stole two more pawns with another tactic, and while there were opposite bishops, it was simply too many pawns to offer Black any hope. The American GM took the pawn without too much difficulty, and secured 3rd place in the event.  Harika has to be disappointed to be knocked back to 50%, and will rue some of her missed chances in other games. 

GM Bela Khotenashvili - GM Nana Dzagnidze 0-1

A dry London system resulted in a position that was quite even.  Nana gained some space in the center, but it was unclear that it would lead anywhere.  Bela perhaps unwisely advanced her pawn to d5, where it eventually became a clear weakness.  Despite this, it was only the imprecise 30. C4 which caused her downfall, whereas Rb4 followed by c4 kept an eye on the a4 pawn and the game remained roughly balanced.  While Dzagnidze didn’t get to keep her pawn, the black kingside pawns were farther advanced than the white queenside pawns, and this advantage proved to be too much. Nana converted her advantage well, and by doing so she leapfrogged Harika into 4th place.  Bela had a lot of decisive and exciting games in the event, but her result was certainly below her standard. 

IM Zhansaya Abdumalik - IM Elisabeth Paehtz 1-0

These two duked it out in a Chigorin Ruy Lopez.  The position was locked early, and a maneuvering game commenced.  It looked even for quite awhile until Paehtz went for a Nc5-d3 idea, which is always risky in such positions, as the d3 pawn can become extremely weak.  This is what happened, and while the German avoided losing a pawn, she lost her d6 pawn and had serious issues with piece coordination. Zhansaya used her d-pawn, as well as the awkwardness of Elisabeth’s pieces, to create problems the German couldn’t solve.  She finished off the game with a nice tactic which creates a c-pawn that cannot be stopped. A nice way to finish the tournament for the Kazakh, who ends up on 50%, while Paehtz was not rewarded in this event despite playing plenty of interesting chess.

IM Anna Zatonskih - GM Marie Sebag 1-0

In a Qb3 slav, the game reached a double-edged but normal position.  Disaster struck for Marie when she opted for 14… Ng6, which positionally looks normal, but walks into the nasty move 15. Nb5.  Anna didn’t miss her chance. With an extra pawn and Black’s king floundering on f8, there wasn’t much to be cheerful about in Black’s position.  Soon thereafter, she trapped Marie’s knight on h4, then converted the ending without too many difficulties. The American concludes a tough tournament with a win, while Marie’s tournament will be one she’ll want to forget.  

Here are the final standings including the prize breakdown.  Gunina may have been the big winner, but it was quite a decent payday for all of the participants.  

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