Russian Grandmaster Valentina Gunina Crowned First Cairns Cup Champion

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Kiley Herndon

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Russian Grandmaster Valentina Gunina Crowned First Cairns Cup Champion

Inaugural Tournament Sparks Inspiration for Women’s Chess Around the World

SAINT LOUIS, February 19, 2019 - Russian Chess Grandmaster Valentina Gunina was named champion on Friday of the inaugural Cairns Cup, an elite tournament for the top female chess players worldwide. Gunina claimed the tournament victory in the final round with a draw against Russian Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk, earning the competitors $40,000 and $30,000 respectively. American Grandmaster Irina Krush edged out Indian Grandmaster Harika Dronavalli for a clear third place finish and $20,000 prize. Krush is a favorite in the upcoming U.S. Women’s Championship, starting March 18. 

Referring to the significance of this all-female, elite tournament Krush explained, “It's important that little girls will have a motivation to study so they could get into these events."

Gunina’s win was decided in the final round as her compatriot Kosteniuk sat just half a point behind her on the leaderboard. A former Women’s World Champion, Kosteniuk led throughout the first half of the tournament, but Gunina won four rounds back to back late in the tournament to put her in position for the Cairns Cup title and an eventual victory with 7/9 points.

The Cairns Cup solidified a special place in the Saint Louis Chess Club’s annual tournament schedule. The tournament will become a staple event in Saint Louis and, with one of the largest prize funds for an all-female chess tournament, the Saint Louis Chess Club hopes it encourages and promotes future events for women in chess around the world.

“We started the Cairns Cup in the hopes of creating a tournament that would showcase the best of women’s chess and inspire women worldwide to take up chess as a lifelong pursuit,” said Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield, co-founder of the Saint Louis Chess Club. “We end this inaugural Cairns Cup with an incredible champion in Valentina Gunina and an exciting future for women’s chess. We look forward to seeing the Cairns Cup provide unparalleled opportunities for today’s women and those in generations yet to come.” 

At the start of the historic event, Saint Louis Chess Club co-founders Rex and Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield announced a $100,000 gift to U.S. Women’s Chess to continue the promotion, retention and encouragement of girls and women in chess.

About The Saint Louis Chess Club

The Saint Louis Chess Club is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization committed to making chess an important part of our community. In addition to providing a forum for the community to play tournaments and casual games, the club also offers chess improvement classes, beginner lessons and special lectures.

Recognizing the cognitive and behavioral benefits of chess, the Saint Louis Chess Club is committed to supporting those chess programs that already exist in area schools while encouraging the development of new in-school and after-school programs. For more information, visit

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