2023 Cairns Cup - Day 9


by WGM Sabina Foisor

It was an intense and exciting final day of the event, with IM Anna Zatonskih facing her longtime-teammate and rival, GM Irina Krush. Despite already securing the event victory, Anna defended valiantly and managed to draw the longest game of the event on move 130, invoking the 50-moves rule. This draw sealed Anna's undefeated run in the tournament and solidified her as the champion. It was truly an inspiring performance, especially considering she started as the last seed based on ratings.

For her remarkable achievement, Anna won the grand prize of $45,000. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk had an important win on the final day, securing sole second place in the tournament. GMs Bella Khotenashvili and Irina Krush shared third place.


Round 9 Results

Final Standings


The first game to finish was the one between GMs Bella Khotenashvili and Harika Dronavalli. The players went for a theoretical line in the QGD (Queen's Gambit Declined). The game was balanced throughout, but in the end it petered out to a draw.

GM Bella Khotenashvili  shares 3rd place | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

GM Elisabeth Paehtz played the Anti-Marshal line in the Closed Ruy Lopez and the position was balanced for some of the game. Unfortunately for her, she started burning time and her position started getting worse. It was in this position that she played Nf1-e3.


 Position after 39. Ne3?? , a decisive blunder that gave Alexandra the chance to convert the game immediately after 39…d4!!

Kosteniuk finishes the tournament with 5/8 (or as she put it in the interview 6/9 :) ) and places sole 2nd.

 GM Alexandra Kosteniuk - full focus on  | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

The game between GM Nana Dzagnitze and IM Gunay Mammadzada was a back-and-forth battle, with Gunay initially having the advantage but eventually blundering into a losing position.

After 45. e4 , Gunay played 45…Rh6?? . Instead she could have gone for fxe4 46.Qxf6+ Rxf6 47.Rxf6 Kg7 with a decisive advantage

She blundered again on moves 47 and 48 and it was Dzagnidze that ended up victorious.

However, the most captivating game of the round was the one between Krush and Zatonskih. Despite already securing the tournament victory, Anna put up a strong fight. Krush had a chance to catch up with Kosteniuk and secure second place with a win, but she missed several winning opportunities in a rook and opposite color bishop endgame. Both players were under time pressure, and Anna could have saved the game with a clever move, but she missed the opportunity as well. Ultimately, the game ended in a draw.


This was probably the best missed opportunity for Irina to seal the deal. In this position she played 83. Bg5, instead 83.Bc3 would have won a piece as after 83…Rxe7 84.Rxa4 +-

 IM Anna Zatonskih - final round focus mode| Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

 GM Irina Krush  didn’t give up until the end | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

The event showcased intense and fighting chess, serving as an inspiration for the next generation of players to never give up and fight until the very end.

If you missed any of the 2023 Cairns Cup broadcast watch it on our YouTube channel here and watch our behind the scenes videos and interviews on our Instagram and Twitter channels. 

Tune back into the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels and on grandchesstour.org from July 5 - 9 for Grand Chess Tour:SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia