Russia has never had a shortage of strong players, and GM Valentina Gunina has been one of the top women representing the chess powerhouse for many years. Born in Murmansk, Russia (USSR) in 1989, she broke out by winning the 2000 European Girl’s U12 Championship. She continued her winning ways at the 2003 World Girl’s U14, 2004 European Girl’s U16, and 2007 World Girl’s U18 Championships. Following her junior success, she became a 3-time Women’s European Champion as well as a 3-time Russian Women’s Champion. Gunina also boasts success in faster time controls, winning the Women’s World Blitz in 2012 and Russian Women’s Rapid Championship in 2014. She will be returning to Saint Louis to defend her first place win in the inaugural 2019 Cairns Cup.
Gunina has been an important part of the Russian Women’s squad for many years. They won gold at the Olympiad in 2010, 2012, and 2014. One of Guninas biggest career highlights came at the 2016 London Chess Classic Super-Rapidplay. She took clear first ahead of 44 other GMs, and did it with an incredible 9/10. Her run included wins over top-tier GMs Smirin, Iturrizaga, Howell, and McShane.