Cairns Cup: Kosteniuk Leads, Gunina Shines
Alexandra Kosteniuk only dropped half a point thus far. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Cairns Cup: Kosteniuk Leads, Gunina Shines

| 45 | Chess Event Coverage

With a score of 4.5/5 Alexandra Kosteniuk is the sole leader during the rest day at the Cairns Cup in St. Louis. Valentina Gunina scored a sparkling win in round five against Marie Sebag.

Three more rounds have been played in St. Louis since our last report, and Kosteniuk was a winner in all of these rounds. The Russian number two (behind Kateryna Lagno) scored two black wins in row vs Zhansaya Abdumalik and Sebag and then also won against Bela Khotenashvili.

Kosteniuk's round three game was full of nice little tactics that must have dazzled Abdumalik.

Abdumalik-Kosteniuk Cairns Cup 2019
Abdumalik resigns vs Kosteniuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Kosteniuk's win in round five was a very different story. After a somewhat strange opening where White lost the bishop pair but got a distant passed d-pawn, suddenly a very tactical phase began. Khotenashvili decided to avoid an early draw, and while the middlegame remained difficult, the players repeated three times but nobody claimed the draw! It was Kosteniuk who emerged victoriously from the complications.

Bela Khotenashvili Cairns Cup 2019
Bela Khotenashvili played for a win too long. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Both Irina Krush and Gunina have had a good three days as well, on which they both scored 2.5/3. Let's not wait any longer to look at Gunina's wonderful win on Sunday against a thus far struggling française.

"I already checked with the computer," said Gunina about her opening, "and it was showing minus one. But who cares!"

And about the game in general, she said: "I am still shocked. And I want to ask if in this tournament there is some special gift for a beautiful game!" she added, laughing. Commentator Yasser Seirawan promised her a box of chocolates straight away.

Gunina vs Sebag Cairns Cup 2019
Gunina playing 24.Bxh6! vs Sebag. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Cairns Cup.

Krush won all-American clash vs Anna Zatonskih in round four. It was an interesting and even battle until shortly before the time control, when Zatonskih made one big mistake:

Irina Krush Cairns Cup
Irina Krush, with Gunina only half a point behind the leader. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Monday is the only rest day in the tournament. Right now, it looks like the $40,000 first prize will go to either Kosteniuk, Krush or Gunina.

The Cairns Cup is a new, 10-player women only round robin that takes place February 6-15 in St. Louis. At stake is a $150,000 prize fund with the top three finishers receiving $40,000, $30,000, and $20,000, respectively.

Each round is streamed live daily at 1 p.m. Central Time (8 p.m. CET, 2 p.m. New York, 11 a.m. Pacific) with the expert commentary team of WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Maurice Ashley, as well as a Russian language broadcast with IM Almira Skripchenko and WGM Anastasiya Karlovich on On site there is live commentary with WGM Tatev Abrahamyan and IM Tania Sachdev at the Kingside Diner in St. Louis.

Replay the round five live broadcast of the Saint Louis Chess Club.

Cairns Cup 2019
Quite please, chess is being played! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Cairns Cup | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Rex Sinquefield. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Kosteniuk giant king Cairns Cup 2019
So far, Kosteniuk is the chess queen in St. Louis alongside its giant king. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Previous reports:

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!

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