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Saturday, 08 Feb 2020 00:02
Cairns Cup 2020: Koneru and Dzagnidze start with victories


(Photo: Official site)

The first round of the super-tournament produced two decisive outcomes with Humpy Koneru and Nana Dzagnidze scoring victories over Carissa Yip and Valentina Gunina respectively.

The top-seed World Champion Ju Wenjun who had black pieces in her first-round game was tested by Mariya Musychuk in the Petroff Defense. White had a slight edge in the middlegame but it did not grow into anything substantial. After Ju gradually traded pieces and reached an equal endgame the opponents shook hands on the move 40.

The game between Humpy Koneru and Carissa Yip saw a rare line of King’s Indian Defense. Slightly confused by her young opponent’s opening choice, the Indian GM spent a lot of time on the first moves but Black was comfortably holding her own. It all changed when instead of the quite natural 19…Bf6, the youngster opted for the erroneous 19…f6?. Humpy reacted with an excellent positional pawn sacrifice 20. Ne6! to take control over the light squares. Although Carrissa had some drawing chances in an ensuing endgame, Humpy once again demonstrated her excellent technique and scored a full point.

Harika Dronavalli and Kateryna Lagno played the most erratic and topsy-turvy game of the round with the evaluation changing several times. Eventually, Kateryna ended up in a better endgame but being under tremendous time pressure preferred not to take chances. The draw was sealed on 37th move just three moves before reaching the first time control.


(Photo: Official site)

Nana Dzagnidze completely outplayed the winner of the inaugural Cairns Cup Valentina Gunina in the Trompowsky and by the move 20 obtained an overwhelming position. It looked like the rest would be smooth sailing for the Georgian, but the Russian, known for her ability to stir things up in desperate situations did it once again and was very close to saving a half-point.

After natural 31... Qh3+ 32. Kh1 and then not so obvious 32… Kf6! or Kf8! (with the idea of hiding the king on g7 and then bringing the rook to h8) White has to deliver perpetual check - for example, 33. cxb4 Rc2 34. Ra1 Rxf2 35. Qc6+ Kg7 36. Qc3+ Kg6 37. Qd3+ Kg7 38. Qc3+, etc.

Valentina missed this golden chance by playing 31...Qe6? and a few moves down the road it was all over for Black.

Alexandra Kosteniuk tried the Alapin variation against Irina Krush’s Sicilian but did not achieve much. After some exchanges, Black even emerged slightly better with some pressure on the opponent’s isolated pawn, but White’s position was too solid to break through. The longest game of the round ended in a draw.

Official site: https://www.uschesschamps.com/2020-cairns-cup/overview