Cairns Cup: Alexandra Kosteniuk clinches second place

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/13/2023 – The ninth round of the Cairns Cup saw Alexandra Kosteniuk grabbing a third consecutive win to secure clear second place in the final standings. Kosteniuk defeated Elisabeth Paehtz with black, while Irina Krush, who was sharing second place with Kosteniuk before the final round, failed to get the better of tournament winner Anna Zatonskih in a tricky endgame. In the other decisive game of the day, Nana Dzagnidze defeated Gunay Mammadzada. | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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Krush almost beats the champion

Anna Zatonskih impressively won the third edition of the Cairns Cup with a round to spare, which meant the fight for second place became the focus of attention in the final round.

Three players entered the last day of action tied for second place, 1½ points behind Zatonskih: Alexandra Kosteniuk, Irina Krush and Bella Khotenashvili. After all was said and done, only Kosteniuk scored a full point, securing sole second place in the final standings.

Kosteniuk defeated Elisabeth Paehtz with black in what was her third consecutive win in Saint Louis. By the time the Swiss grandmaster had defeated her German colleague, Khotenashvili had already drawn her game against Harika Dronavalli, while Krush had an extra pawn in an endgame with rooks and bishops of opposite colours against the tournament winner.

In a game that reminded us of their long-standing rivalry for the top spot among women chess players in the United States, Krush and Zatonskih fought until move 130, with Krush missing a few difficult-to-find recourses to score a full point.

The draw meant Zatonskih finished the tournament undefeated, as she became the American player to get a GM norm at the oldest age ever, according to Todd Bryant on Twitter:

Krush thus tied for third place with Khotenashvili. The latter signed her first draw of the event in the final round. The Georgian grandmaster had won four games in a row in rounds 3-7 before losing the all-important confrontation against Kosteniuk in the penultimate round.

Bella Khotenashvili

Bella Khotenashvili | Photo: Bryan Adams

Krush ½ - ½ Zatonskih

Endgame analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih

Long-time rivals Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Results - Round 9

Final standings

Cairns Cup 2023

All games

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.