Cairns Cup R1: Dzagnidze, Koneru Score
The first round of the Cairns Cup in St. Louis. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Cairns Cup R1: Dzagnidze, Koneru Score

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Nana Dzagnidze (Georgia) and GM Humpy Koneru (India) started with victories at the second Cairns Cup. The tournament took off on Friday at the Saint Louis Chess Club in St. Louis, U.S. 

You can follow the tournament here as part of our live portal. is offering a daily, live commentary broadcast with GM Robert Hess, IM Hans Niemann, GM Roeland Pruijssers and WFM Anna Cramling on The rounds start at 1 p.m. local time which is 11 a.m. Pacific and 20:00 Central European Time, with rounds on Feb. 7-11 and 13-16.

The official broadcast has WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Alejandro Ramirez, and there's a Russian-language broadcast with IM Almira Skripchenko and WGM Anastasiya Karlovich, on

2020 Cairns Cup Round 1 Results
The Cairns Cup round 1 results. Image: Spectrum Studios.

Koneru, who is playing her first Cairns Cup and is one of the favorites, started with a win against WGM Carissa Yip. The 16-year-old, the youngest female IM-elect in American history, surprised with her choice of the King's Indian Defense but learned a tough lesson as her experienced opponent exploited a positional error ruthlessly.

Here Yip went 19...f6? (19...Bf6 is more than fine for Black) allowing the typical pawn sacrifice 20. Ne6! Nxe6 21. dxe6 Bxe6 which was followed by the logical move 22. Bc4! to gain control over the light squares. Black cannot take another pawn as 22...Bxc4 23.bxc4 Rxc4 24.Qb3 is bad. In the remainder, Black's bishop on h8 was a mere bystander.

Last year's winner Valentina Gunina started badly. She was worse throughout the game against Dzagnidze, who finished fourth last year. The Georgian grandmaster had started with the Trompowsky and snatched a pawn on h7 with her bishop, correctly judging it was safe to do so.

Gunina kept on fighting and missed a draw close to the end of the game:

Attack was the best defense here. Instead of 31...Qe6?, Black draws with the active 31...Qh3+ 32. Kh1 Kf6!, and suddenly it's very difficult for White to do something about the threat of 33...Rh8, 34...Qxg2+ and 35...Rxh2 checkmate.  

Amazingly, the only way to hold for White is 33. cxb4! to clear the c3-square. Then, after 33...Rh8, White has 34. Qc6+ Kg7 35. Qc3+ to give perpetual!

Nana Dzagnidze 2020 Cairns Cup
Nana Dzagnidze. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The second round will be played on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. local time which is 11 a.m. Pacific and 20:00 Central European Time. The tournament is a 10-player round-robin with a prize fund of $180,000.

2020 Cairns Cup Round 1 Standings
The standings after the first round. Image: Spectrum Studios.

Round 1 games

2020 Cairns Cup Round 2 Pairings
The round 2 pairings. Image: Spectrum Studios.

Previous report:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

Company Contact and News Accreditation: 

Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
Address: PO Box 60400 Palo Alto, CA 94306

More from PeterDoggers
Arjun Erigaisi Briefly World #5 As Menorca Open Winner

Arjun Erigaisi Briefly World #5 As Menorca Open Winner

Isa Kasimi (Igors Rausis) 1961-2024

Isa Kasimi (Igors Rausis) 1961-2024