Overnight Leaders Beaten; Anna Zatonskih Sole Leader
Zatonskih outplayed overnight leader Kosteniuk in a strategic battle in the fourth round. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Overnight Leaders Beaten; Anna Zatonskih Sole Leader

| 6 | Chess Event Coverage

IM Anna Zatonskih outplayed joint overnight leader GM Alexandra Kosteniuk with admirable strategic play from the black side of a French Defense to jump into the sole lead with three points after the fourth round of the Cairns Cup 2023 on Tuesday. She was helped by GM Bella Khotenashvili, defeating the other overnight leader GM Irina Krush in an inspired attacking game of fluctuating fortunes.

Kosteniuk and Krush are joined by GM Nana Dzagnidze to closely follow the leader with 2.5 points apiece after the latter benefitted from unfortunate blunders by the top seed GM Humpy Koneru under time pressure.

Commentating on the round, IM Nazi Paikidze remarked, "It is hard to explain to non-chessplayers that your brain does not work as efficiently at the end of the game as it does in the beginning." This precisely can be attributed as the reason for how fortunes changed in two topsy-turvy games of the day, where Khotenashvili and Dzagnidze emerged as winners after benefiting from their opponents' unfortunate blunders in the fourth hour of play.

The Cairns Cup continues with round five on Wednesday, June 7, starting at 11:20 a.m. Pacific/20:20 CEST.

How to watch?
You can watch live games of the Cairns Cup 2023 on our Events Page. The rounds start each day at 11:20 a.m. Pacific/20:20 CEST.

Kosteniuk vs. Zatonskih

Kosteniuk opted for the rarely employed continuation 6.Na3 in the Advance variation of the French Defense. It seemed to have the desired effect when Zaronskih pondered for 23 minutes on her reply. Her subsequent strong play prompted IM Almira Skripchenko to remark that Zatonskih had probably been prepared in the opening by her husband, GM Daniel Fridman, especially after finding a similar game played by him in the past. But, Zatonskih revealed that she had concentrated on 3.Nc3 in her preparations and was on her own on the board.

Even though surprised in the opening, Zatonskih's play was marked by confidence, which enabled her to decide on 9...Bxa3, giving up the precious dark-squared bishop: "My development is very bad, I don't have (the) dark-squared bishop. But on the other hand, I have the wonderful c4-square, (I am) trying to exchange (the) light-squared bishop." Such commonsense over the board enabled her to conduct an admirable game subsequently:

Appearing for the post-game interview, Zatonskih was surprised when she realized that she was the sole leader. She also revealed her thoughts on her favorable score against Kosteniuk: "Somehow, I am having (a) very good score against Alexandra, I don't know why... She cannot play her best chess versus me, I don't know why."

Khotenashvili vs. Krush

The most interesting game of the day, where Khotenashvili started with the solid London System but infused life into the proceedings with a pawn sacrifice through 11.a5!? and a subsequent imaginative assault on the kingside. This fascinating game is our Game of the Day with analysis by GM Dejan Bojkov.

An exhausted Khotenashvili later confessed that she liked her 14.g4 and was confident of White's subsequent counterplay: "Probably for an engine it is not so bad for Black, but for humans it is not easy to play, I think.... Probably we made mistakes during time trouble!" 

Khotenashvili—an imaginative assault on the black king. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Harika vs. Mammadzada

Both the players seemed to have come to the game well prepared as they were playing fluently in the opening stages, and GM Harika Dronavalli initiated a pawn sacrifice on the 15th move against IM Gunay Mammadzada. Though Harika always seemed to have a slight advantage, the  players repeated moves and settled for a draw even though there seemed to be some life left on the board:

Harika vs. Mammadzada: a short and fascinating encounter. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Paehtz vs. Abdumalik

Being in the tournament situation of having started with three losses, GM Zhansaya Abdumalik employed her favorite Grunfeld Defense against GM Elisabeth Paehtz. Paehtz obviously came to the board with specific home preparation, which she unveiled quickly, creating a double-edged position by the 15th move. Deviating from Krush-Vaishali (Chennai Olympiad, 2022) with 16.Bg5, she seemed to have caught Abdumalik in decent preparation.

However,  Abdumalik seemed unfazed by any difficulties in her position and played sound tactical chess to force a draw by perpetual checks in just more than an hour of play:

Asked about how she managed to play this game in spite of the difficult start, Abdumalik confessed, "I am just trying to stay positive!"

Paehtz and Abdumalik in a cordial mood after the game. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Humpy vs. Dzagnidze

This was the heavyweight clash of the round, and it looked like a tough matchup indeed. Humpy seemed to be steadily building pressure on her opponent after an interesting concept in the opening. She was rewarded with a clearly advantageous position in the middlegame, but tragedy struck later when both were under mutual time pressure:

Koneru Humpy: tragic developments in time pressure. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Dzagnidze appeared for the post-game interview and analyzed the position pragmatically. She also revealed an interesting detail about the origin of her name: "My name Nana—my father gave me after (GM) Nana Alexandria, because at the time I was born, chess was... hugely popular in Georgia. We had this golden Georgian women team, (which) won several times the (Olympiad)... My father was a fan of them, and that's why he wanted me to become a chess player and a World Champion. From the beginning, it was decided that I should become (a) chess player!"

Nana Dzagnidze - destined to be a chess player. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Results - Round 4

White Black
Kosteniuk 0 - 1 Zatonskih
Khotenashvili 1 - 0 Krush
Harika 1/2 - 1/2 Mammadzada
Paehtz 1/2 - 1/2 Abdumalik
Humpy 0 - 1 Dzagnidze

Standings - Round 4

Pairings - Round 5

White Black
Zatonskih  -  Harika
Krush  -  Paehtz
Dzagnidze  -  Khotenashvili
Abdumalik  -  Kosteniuk
Mammadzada - Humpy

The Cairns Cup 2023 takes place June 3-13, 2023, at the Saint Louis Chess Club. The format is a 10-player round-robin. Fans can look forward to a chess tournament similar in style to the prestigious Sinquefield Cup with the 10 best female players from around the world competing in the World Chess Hall of Fame for a $180,000 prize fund.

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