The participants of the 2023 Cairns Cup in Saint Louis crossed the halfway mark. Ten of the world's top female players continue a battle for their share of the $180,000 prize fund. With four rounds to go, it is still wide open.
The start of the fifth day was marred by the unfortunate withdrawal of GM Humpy Koneru, who had to leave the tournament due to medical (non-COVID) issues. According to tournament regulations, Koneru's results in the event will be annulled and won't affect the final standings, but the games she played will still be FIDE-rated.
The round only saw one decisive outcome as Khotenashvili narrowly managed to escape Dzagnidze's mating attack to win her third game in a row, moving to clear second place in the standings with 3.0/5. Meanwhile, the tournament leader Zatonskih drew with Dronavalli, maintaining a half-point lead with 3.5/5 going into the rest day.
The surprise leader of the tournament, Anna Zatonskih, reached a typical Carlsbad structure against Harika Dronavalli but failed to achieve any kind of serious pull in the position, with the players eventually simplifying down into a drawn rook endgame.
IM Anna Zatonskih | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
The game of the round was undoubtedly Dzagnidze-Khotenashvili, which started as a quiet Reti Opening that at one point turned incredibly sharp, as Dzagnidze found a fantastic piece sacrifice and launched a mating attack against Khotenashvili's king. But Nana failed to find all the right moves to finish the attack as she blundered near the first time control, allowing Khotenashvili to consolidate and win thanks to her extra knight.
24.Kg2!! left the bishop on d5 hanging in order to play Qd4 & Rh1, with a devastating attack. But Dzagnidze later went wrong and ended up down a piece.
A hat trick and now clear second place for GM Bella Khotenashvili, who was on the verge of losing today. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
In Abdumalik-Kosteniuk, the players followed a familiar theoretical line in the Four Knights Scotch and drew without much drama.
GM Zhansaya Abdumalik | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
Meanwhile, in Krush-Paehtz, the 8-time U.S. Women's Champion played quite boldly out of the opening, which saw her king end up on c3 supporting a very early queenside expansion. However, Elisabeth responded well and eventually forced a repetition from a slightly more comfortable position.
After 12.b4, White's queenside expansion was impressive, but the lack of development gave Black time to generate good counterplay.
The 2023 Cairns Cup continues Friday, June 9, with tournament action live starting at 1:20 PM CT with commentators Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, International Master Nazi Paikidze, and International Master Almira Skripchenko on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club's YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.
Text: IM Kostya Kavutskiy
Photos: Crystal Fuller
Dates & Location:
June 3 - 13, 2023
World Chess Hall of Fame
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Photos and appropriate credits available on Flickr