Kosteniuk Topples Dzagnidze, Joins Leaders
Kosteniuk has scored two wins and conceded one loss. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Kosteniuk Topples Dzagnidze, Joins Leaders

| 9 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk has joined the leaders on 2/3 at the Cairns Cup 2024 following a fine victory over Georgia's GM Nana Dzagnidze in round three while the tournament's other leaders; GMs Harika Dronavalli, Mariya Muzychuk, and Tan Zhongyi drew their games. 

GM Elisabeth Paehtz pressed with Black against GM Irina Krush but the veteran weathered time trouble and swapped into an opposite-colored bishop endgame to secure her third draw.

Round three starts Sunday, June 16, at 2 p.m. ET / 20:00 CEST / 11:30 p.m. IST.

Round 3 Results


To set the scene for the third day of play, the chief arbiter and director of the Commission for Women's Chess WIM Anastasia Sorokina gave a tour of the Saint Louis Chess Club playing hall and expressed the importance of the Cairns Cup for women's chess. 

The $200,000 prize fund for the event is just one indicator that progress is being made and the $50,000 first prize is just shy of the $60,000 prize that Kosteniuk won for winning the 2008 women's world championship. Speaking of the "Chess Queen", she was the only player able to secure a full point in round three.

Kosteniuk 1-0 Dzagnidze

The crucial moment in Kosteniuk-Dzagnidze came unexpectedly early as memories and emotions from round two threatened to send Kosteniuk careening away from the move that ironically would give her a decisive advantage.

Kosteniuk battled emotion with calculation on Saturday. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Reminiscing on her knight hopping that left her "wanting to resign by move 15" against Harika, Kosteniuk thought twice about snapping up the hanging b-pawn on move 11 of the Sicilian Defense: Taimanov, Bastrikov Variation.

Seeing no other way to proceed without condemning her knight to the edge of the board, Kosteniuk played 11.Nxb4 and subsequently gambited a pawn for piece activity, unknowingly playing the top engine line and producing a sizeable advantage.

The resulting position allowed Kosteniuk to exert her influence with the bishop pair and trade into an endgame where Dzagnidze was down by a pawn with several weaknesses. Our Game of the Day has been analyzed by GM Dejan Bojkov below.

Zatonskih 0.5-0.5 Anna Muzychuk

Anna Muzychuk takes on the defending champion. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The 2023 Cairns Cup winner IM Anna Zatonskih was unable to make inroads with her Jobava London system on Saturday and GM Anna Muzychuk seemed to be the better-prepared player. Zatonskih did find a way to tempt Muzychuk into snapping up a poisoned pawn, but after a seven-minute think, she ignored Zatonskih's attempts.

Lee 0.5-0.5 Harika

The tournament's youngest participant IM Alice Lee ticked all the preparation boxes in her duel with Harika but shied away from complications as the position opened up. 

While a draw by repetition eventually transpired, Lee re-affirmed her ambitions in a post-match interview stating: "My goal is to win at some point."

Harika peered over Lee's shoulder while the latter took on the legendary GM Nona Gaprindashvili prior to the tournament's commencement. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Mariya Muzychuk 0.5-0.5 Tan

Former Women's World Champions Mariya Muzychuk and Tan Zhongyi made a draw. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the battle between two of the co-leaders, Tan surprised Muzychuk on move one by playing an opening she has only played three times and last played in 2017, the French Defense. Trying to catch Tan in a line she is less experienced in, Muzychuk tried the Alekhine-Maroczy Gambit but to no avail—Tan gave back two pawns in order to gain equality.

When the players repeated knight and king moves on move 28, it was the Chinese top seed who could have elected to play on against Muzychuk's sub-optimal pawn structure.

Tan is one of the favorites to win the event. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Krush 0.5-0.5 Paehtz

A great fight ended in a draw. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Krush kept her chances of winning the tournament alive as well as increased her chances of having to perform a hip hop dance at the conclusion of the Cairns Cup (Krush promised she would show her newly-acquired skills if she won the event) after an important hold against Paehtz in round three. Krush and Paehtz followed a Nimzo-Indian Defense line played by former U.S. prodigies GMs Awonder Liang and Jeffery Xiong in the 2016 Spice Cup and didn't diverge until move 19.  

An older photo of the culprits (R: Liang, L: Xiong) who inspired the Nimzo-Indian that transpired on Saturday.

The position was a textbook example of a good Nimzo-Indian for Black as White's pawn structure was left in tatters, but Krush was able to steady the ship and secure half a point.

All four of the leading players will take the white pieces in their round-four matchups with the greatest rating disparity being Tan-Zatonskih. However, Kosteniuk will also fancy her chances against the 14-year-old Lee. Will we finally see a sole leader emerge?

How to watch?

You can watch the round's broadcast on the Saint Louis Chess Club's YouTube or Twitch channels. The games can also be checked out on our dedicated 2024 Cairns Cup events page

The live broadcast was hosted by GM Yasser Seirawan, IM Jovanka Houska, and IM Nazi Paikidze.

The 2024 Cairns Cup is one of the strongest women's tournaments in the world. The event is a 10-player round-robin with a classical time control (120 minutes for the entire game, plus a 30-second increment per move). The 2024 Cairns Cup runs from June 13 to June 23 and features a $200,000 prize fund.

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