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Anna Muzychuk With Black Beats Kosteniuk, Joins Five-Way Tie For Second
Don't count Anna Muzychuk out yet! A timely win has given her a chance of finishing equal first. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Anna Muzychuk With Black Beats Kosteniuk, Joins Five-Way Tie For Second

JackRodgers
| 8 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Anna Muzychuk and IM Alice Lee both won their respective games against GM Alexandra Kosteniuk and IM Anna Zatonskih respectively at the Cairns Cup 2024 on Friday. For Muzychuk, this means she is now one point shy of leader GM Tan Zhongyi heading into the final round.

Joining Muzychuk on 4.5/8 are four other players: Kosteniuk, who the others rely on to topple Tan in the final round, plus GMs Harika Dronavalli, Mariya Muzychuk, and Nana Dzagnidze. If results go Kosteniuk's way, the Cairns Cup could see a five-way tie for first place and a playoff would be required.

Round nine starts on Saturday, June 22, at 2 p.m. ET / 20:00 CEST / 11:30 p.m. IST.

Round 8 Results


Standings


Kosteniuk 0-1 Anna Muzychuk

After eight rounds of play, 15 decisive results have been recorded, and Kosteniuk has been involved in seven of them. Four wins, three losses, and one draw mark the "Chess Queen's" scorecard, and Friday's game is probably the one she would most like to put behind her.

Anna Muzychuk stares down Kosteniuk. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Following an Italian Game line played by Indian GMs Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa and Pentala Harikrishna in 2023, Muzychuk uncorked a knight tango that resulted in Kosteniuk sticking her knight on the b1-square.

As the center opened up, it became clear that Kosteniuk's pieces were not ready for the fight, and Muzychuk took control as her opponent's position fell apart. Our Game of the Day has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.


Harika 0.5-0.5 Tan

Tan has had a relatively smooth ride in this year's cup but had to run the gauntlet in round eight against a well-prepared Harika. Playing the Canal Attack against Tan's Sicilian Defense, Harika looked for attacking opportunities on both sides of the board and forced Tan to swap off pieces.

Harika heaped pressure on Tan for almost five hours. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

With plenty of time left on the clock, Tan was able to stabilize the position, but it remained difficult to defend despite the objective evaluation due to a knight and bishop imbalance. In the end, Tan handled the position handily and proved why she is the player to beat with one round to go.

Lee 1-0 Zatonskih

One of the positive signs for Lee in this tournament has been that no player under 2500 has managed to defeat her. With a score of 4/8, the 14-year-old has demonstrated that she belongs in fields featuring the top women's players in the world.

An in-form Anna Muzychuk stands between Lee and a 50-percent score.

For Zatonskih, the situation is a little more dire as the 2023 winner slumped to her fifth loss of the event. Playing with the black pieces against Lee's pet Catalan Opening, Zatonskih fell by the wayside after falling into passivity in a knight-less middlegame and never recovered.

Lee's latest win has pushed her live rating up by 10.8, which is all the more impressive because the prodigy has a K-factor of 10 (juniors below the 2300 FIDE-rating mark have K-factors of 40).

Lee is typically an emotive player so when she is calm you know you're in trouble. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Dzagnidze 0.5-0.5 Paehtz

If round eight was a competition to play an opening with the highest number of famous players attached to the name, then Dzagnidze-Paehtz would have been the winner. The King's Indian Defense: Fianchetto, Yugoslav, Kaválek-Bronstein, Larsen Defense was the battleground for these players and for Paehtz, it became another example of a golden opportunity gone missing.

Paehtz would have been in the mix for the lead had she converted each of her winning positions. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Paehtz's active play was rewarded with a free pawn on move 26, but when the players suddenly exchanged into a double-rook ending on move 41, the position suddenly seemed difficult to convert. With her time dwindling, Paehtz offered a rook trade to simplify the position, and this was snapped up by Dzagnidze. Immediately, the evaluation plummeted to close to equal.

When the game finally ended, all that remained were two kings and dreams of what could have been.

Dzagnidze may have felt that she was due for a reversal of fortunes after the tragedy that was her game against Lee. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Krush 0.5-0.5 Mariya Muzychuk

The shortest game of the day saw GM Irina Krush opt for the same setup she had played against Dzagnidze in round seven. However, this time, Black countered Krush's advance with the tactical 8...Bd6 bishop retreat.

The ploy paid off, and Mariya Muzychuk soon found herself in a comfortable position which she used to confirm a repetition on move 25, in turn, allowing her to rest ahead of her round-nine matchup with Dzagnidze. Speaking to WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova after the draw, Krush stated: "My opponent prepared for this game better than I did."

Tournaments at the Saint Louis Chess Club always seem to come down to the wire, and the Cairns Cup is no different. With five players trailing Tan by a full point, all eyes will be watching Tan-Kosteniuk to see if playoffs will be required. Tune in on Saturday for what promises to be an action-packed final round.

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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