Cairns Cup: Tan beats Zatonskih to grab the sole lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/17/2024 – Tan Zhongyi, the top seed in Saint Louis, grabbed the sole lead at the Cairns Cup after beating Anna Zatonskih’s French Defence in round 4. Second place is shared between Mariya Muzychuk and Harika Dronavalli, who both drew on Sunday. The second decisive game of the day saw Alice Lee getting the better of Alexandra Kosteniuk. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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A French Defence gone wrong

Defending champion Anna Zatonskih has been struggling at the Cairns Cup in Saint Louis. The 4-time US women’s champion stands in last place with ½/4 points after losing all her games with black and drawing Anna Muzychuk with the white pieces. In round 4, she was defeated by top seed Tan Zhongyi, who made the most of Zatonskih’s mishandling of a French Defence.

Zatonskih captured pawns on the a and b-files with her queen, allowing Tan to gain a big advantage in development.

After 13.Rb4, Zatonskih realized she needed to be very careful with a potential kingside attack and spent almost half an hour on her next two moves. There followed 13...Qd5 14.Re1 h6 15.Qd2 Nxc5 16.Re5

White is already in the driver’s seat, but her advantage became even bigger after 16...Qc6, when Black’s best chance was to give up her queen for a rook and a minor piece with 16...Nxd3 17.Rxd5 Nxb4 18.Rd8 Nc6.

The problem for Black is that, after the text, White can make use of her major pieces to break through decisively on the kingside — 17.Rg4 Nxd3 (17...f5 would have made things a bit harder for White) 18.Qxh6 g6

A French Defence gone wrong, indeed. White can choose how to win here, with 19.Rxg6+, as played by Tan, the best-looking alternative. Resignation came after 19...fxg6 20.Qxg6+.

Tan is now the sole leader in Saint Louis, as the only player with a +2 score (3/4 points). Second place is shared between Mariya Muzychuk and Harika Dronavalli, who both drew on Sunday. A half point behind the closest chasers are five players, all with a fifty-percent score — included in this group is 14-year-old Alice Lee, who got the better of Alexandra Kosteniuk in round 4.

Round 4 results

Elisabeth Paehtz, Mariya Muzychuk

Elisabeth Paehtz and Mariya Muzychuk signed a 58-move draw | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Kosteniuk 0 - 1 Lee

Alexandra Kosteniuk, Alice Lee

Alexandra Kosteniuk v. Alice Lee | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 4

All games


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.
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