2nd Cairns Cup 2020
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Feb. 6–17, 2020
1. GM Humpy Koneru IND 2580, 6.0/9
2. GM Ju Wenjun CHN 2583, 5.5/9
3–4. GM Mariya Muzychuk UKR 2552, Alexandra Kosteniuk RUS 2504, 5.0/9
5–6. GM Dronavalli Harika IND 2518, GM Kateryna Lagno RUS 2552, 4.5/9
7–9. GM Irina Krush USA 2422, FM Carissa Yip USA 2412, GM Nana Dzagnidze GEO 2515, 4.0/9
10. GM Valentina Gunina RUS 2461, 2.5/9
Average Rating 2510 Category 11
Time Control: 90 minutes for first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes play-to-finish with a 30-second increment starting from move one. No draw offers are allowed before move 30
I don’t usually write about women’s chess events but decided to make an exception of the Cairns Cup (by the way, “Cairns” is the maiden name of Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield, wife of Rex Sinquefield. the founder/owner of the Saint Louis Chess Center). Many years from now this event will be remembered for two things:
The return of Humpy Koneru. Humpy (born March 31, 1987) won the World Junior Girls Championship in 2001 and since then has been a powerhouse in womens’ chess. She attained the full Grandmaster Title (not only Woman Grandmaster, which is much lower-ranked) in the next year and after that won or placed highly in all her women’s events (she also regularly took part in men’s evenets) which includes winning the 10th Asian Women’s Individual Championship (2003) and the 2005 North Urals Cup, a round-robin tournament held in Krasnoturyinsk, Russia, featuring ten of the strongest female players in the world at the time. In October 2007 GM Humpy Koneru became the second woman player to exceed 2600 ELO after Judit Polgar.
Humpy played a world women’s championship match in 2011 against China’s Hou Yifan and lost 2.5-5.5. In 2014 she got married, soon had a baby and retired from chess. She returned to action to represent India in the 2018 Batumi Olympiad but was noticeably rusty. A few more tournaments later she started regaining her form and the victory here in the Cairns Cup, worth $45,000 (about P2.3 million) could be treated as a big announcement that once again GM Humpy Koneru is on the world championship hunt.
Koneru, Humpy (2580) — Gunina, Valentina (2461) [D48]
2nd Cairns Cup 2020 Saint Louis USA (8.2), 15.02.2020
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.0–0 a6 10.e4 c5 11.d5 c4 12.Bc2 Qc7 13.dxe6 fxe6
As most of our readers know this is the very sharp Meran variation of the Semi-Slav. In the main line (the position on the board now) White is ahead in development but once Black catches up he will be more than ok. White’s main ideas now are either 14.Ng5 or 14.Nd4, in both cases Black can get a good game, but he has to be careful.
Didn’t I say Black has to be careful? Really, Gunina deserved to lose this game for not only did she not know the correct continuation in the main line but the refutation was shown to us by none other than Humpy Koneru herself in a game against the 12th world champion, Anatoly Karpov!
By the way, the correct reply to either 14.Ng5 or 14.Nd4 is 14…Nc5.
Headed for h3.
[15…Bc5 16.Qh3! Ke7 (16…Nf8 17.e5! Nd5 18.Nxd5 exd5 (of course not 18…Qxd5? 19.Be4) 19.e6 Bc8 20.Re1 Ra7 21.Qh5+ g6 22.Qf3 Black’s position is under great pressure) 17.Nf3 b4 18.Ne2 Nxe4 19.Ned4 Qb6 (19…Qd5? 20.Bxe4 Qxe4 21.Re1 the pressure on the e-file is fatal) 20.Bxe4 Bxe4 21.Qg4 Bxd4 22.Qxe4 Bf6 23.Qxc4 I do not believe anyone would want to try and hold Black’s position. Gligoric, S. (2530)-Ljubojevic, L. (2605) Linares 1981 1–0 39.
In the Koneru-Karpov game Black tried 16…Nc5 17.Be3 Bc8 18.e5! hxg5 19.Qxh8 Bb7 20.f3 Nfd7 21.Bxg5 Nxe5 22.Rad1 Nf7 23.Bg6 Nd3 24.Qh5 White was already winning. Koneru, H. (2545)-Karpov, A. (2668) Cap d’Agde 2006 1–0 36.
17.Qxh8 Ne5 18.Bxg5 Nf7 19.Qh4 Be7 20.Rad1 Qc5 21.e5 Nxe5 22.Bxf6 Bxf6 23.Qh5+ Ke7 24.Be4 Bc6 25.Bxc6 Qxc6 26.Rfe1 Nd3 27.Nd5+ Kf8 28.Nxf6 gxf6 29.Qh8+ Kf7 30.Qh7+ Ke8 31.Re3 Nf4 32.Qg8+ Ke7 33.Qg7+ Ke8 34.Rd4 c3 35.bxc3
[35.bxc3 Nd5 36.Rh3 White mates]
The baptism of fire of Carissa Yip. Carissa (born Sept. 10, 2003) is only 16 years old but already among the top rated female players in the USA. Her father Percy Yip is from Hongkong while her mother Irene Cheng is from mainland China. She was taught the moves of chess at age six by her father and within six months was already beating him and after that she exponentially climbed from strength to strength culminating in her 2019 victory in the USA Girls’ Junior Championship. She also earned her Woman’s Grandmaster title (WGM) in that year.
The Cairns Cup is Carissa’s international debut in a strong closed tournament and she promptly lost her first four games. However, from the 5th round onwards she turned herself around and scored three wins and two draws from her final five games. This included a win over the current women’s world champion.
Ju, Wenjun (2583) — Yip, Carissa (2412) [C70]
2nd Cairns Cup 2020 Saint Louis USA (8.1), 15.02.2020
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 g6
This is the first time that Carissa has ever played this. In all of her previous games in the Ruy Lopez she had gone for the Breyer with 4…Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Nb8 etc. This line is a favorite of GM Victor Mikhalevsky, the Belarussian/Israeli player who is a well-known openings expert and who handles the 1.e4 e5 section of chesspublishing.com.
5.d4 exd4 6.c3 Bg7 7.cxd4 b5 8.Bb3 Nge7 9.d5 Na5 10.Bd2 Nxb3 11.Qxb3
White will follow-up with Bc3, killing the black bishop.
11…c5 12.Bc3 f6
Seems to be forced. Without his dark-squared bishop Black will have no prospects.
Wenjun took more than 20 minutes over this move. She was probably trying to make 13.d6 work, but it doesn’t: 13…Nc6 14.Qd5 b4 15.Bd2 Bb7 16.0–0 (16.Qxc5?! f5! 17.e5 Rc8 White has overextended) 16…Qb6 17.Be3 Nd4 18.Qc4 Ne6 19.Nbd2 0–0 Black is doing well.
13…d6 14.h4 0–0 15.Nbd2
Proceeding with 15.h5 gxh5!? 16.Rxh5 Qe8 17.Rh1 Qg6 it is White who has problems with king safety.
15…Qe8 16.0–0 Bd7 17.Qc2 Rc8 18.b3 h6 19.a4 Ra8 20.axb5 axb5 21.Rxa8 Qxa8 22.Ra1 Qb7 23.Qa2?
Ju Wenjun is on auto-pilot. It was imperative to play 23.b4! with the idea of 23…Ra8 24.Rxa8+ Qxa8 25.bxc5! dxc5 26.d6 Nc8 27.e5! with an attack on f6 and g6.
A good plan for White is 24.h5 g5 (24…gxh5 25.Nh4 followed by Nd2–f1–g3) 25.Nh2 followed byNd2–f1–e3 and Nh2–f1–g3 in preparation for putting one of them on f5.
24…b4 25.Bb2 Bb5
Carissa is playing purposefully. She deploys her bishop to foil the opposing knights maneuvers.
The immediate: 26.Nc4? then 26…Bxc4 27.bxc4 Re8 28.f3 If White plays 28…Nb6 It is now Black who is clearly better. The idea behind White’s 26.Nc2 is to bring it to e3 and then one of the knights goes to c4. Black is having none of that.
26…Bd3 27.Ne3 Qe7 28.Re1
[28.f3?! f5! 29.Bxg7 Qxg7 30.exf5 Nb6! 31.fxg6 Qd4! wins material]
Don’t fall for 28…Bxe4? 29.Nef1 and the bishop is lost.
29.Qa1 Ra8 30.Qc1 h5!
Relocating her dark-squared bishop to the c1–h6 diagonal.
31.Nec4 Nxc4 32.Nxc4 Ra2 33.g3 Kh7 34.Nd2 Bh6 35.f4 <D>
POSITION AFTER 35.F4
White’s pieces are all in defensive positions. How can Black put more pressure on it?
This move is important. In case of an immediate 35…Qd7 intending to put the queen on either g4 or h3 White has 36.Re3 and it is still a game.
Blocking the advance of the c5–pawn, but now …
Nothing works anymore.
37.Nd2 Qg4 38.Kf2 Bxf4! 39.gxf4 Qxf4+ 40.Kg2 Qxh4 41.Re3 Qg5+ 42.Rg3 (42.Kf3 Qg4+ 43.Kf2 Qf4+ 44.Nf3 Bxe4) 42…Bxe4+! everything comes crashing down;
37.Kg2 Qg4 38.Kf2 Bxc4 39.bxc4 Bxf4 40.gxf4 Qxh4+ 41.Kg2 Rxb2+ 42.Qxb2 Qxe1 Black wins.
37…Bxc4 38.bxc4 Qg4 39.Kh1 Bxf4! 40.gxf4 Qxh4+ 41.Kg1 Qg4+ 42.Kh1 Qxf4 43.Qb1
[43.Rb3 Qxc1+ 44.Bxc1 Ra1]
43…Rxb2 44.Qxb2 Qxe3 45.Qxf6 Qxe4+
White’s only hope now is perpetual check.
46.Kh2 b3 47.Qf7+ Kh6 48.Qf8+ Kg5 49.Qd8+ Kf5 50.Qd7+ Ke5 51.Qg7+ Kf4 52.Qf6+ Kg4 53.Qe6+ Qf5 54.Qxd6 Qf2+ 55.Kh1 Qf3+ 56.Kh2 Qh3+ 57.Kg1 Qg3+ 0–1
Former world champion Garry Kasparov has been following the 16-year-old Carissa’s career and remarked that before “She was a bit too primitive, just attacking — her vision of chess was more one-dimensional, but now she could look at the game from different perspectives, she could defend, she could play positionally.” Her comeback from four losses also impressed Garry: “Strong character — — that’s the sign of a big champion!”
Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.