2023 Cairns Cup - Day 3 Recap

8-time U.S. Women’s Champion GM Irina Krush joined GM Alexandra Kosteniuk in the lead after defeating GM Nana Dzagnidze in a nice endgame. The other games saw draws between Mammadzada - Kosteniuk, Zatonskih - Paehtz, and Koneru - Dronavalli, while GM Bella Khotenashvili scored her first win of the event against a struggling GM Zhansaya Abdumalik. 

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by an additional 30 minutes, with a 30 second increment starting from move 1.


The key matchup between IM Gunay Mammadzada and tournament leader Kosteniuk started out with a Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez, with Kosteniuk showing great preparation to gain a large advantage on the clock. She soon sacrificed a rook for some activity, which worked out nicely as Mammadzada failed to find a precise line that would secure an advantage, with the game quickly equalizing and eventually drawn.

After 22…c2, Black was a whole rook down but with full compensation due to the strength of the passed pawn.

Mammadzada - Kosteniuk | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

The draw by Kosteniuk brought her to 2.5/3, allowing GM Irina Krush to catch up after an excellent win in a same color bishop endgame against GM Nana Dzagnidze. Interestingly Krush employed a different Marshall Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4), sacrificing a pawn in the opening for a long-term initiative. Dzagnidze ended up giving back the pawn in order to equalize, but Irina continued to press and managed to trick her opponent to squeeze out the win.

After 41…Kd6? Krush found a winning path in 42.a6! Kc7 43.Ke4!, with White's king able to get in. Black had to play 41...Bg6! to hold the draw.

GM Irina Krush | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

Despite struggling in the first two rounds GM Bella Khotenashvili was able to score her first victory, outplaying Abdumalik in an equal rook and knight endgame:

After 47…Rd2!, Black’s rook was able to penetrate decisively.

GM Bella Khotenashvili | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

Landing in clear third place with 2.0/3 was IM Anna Zatonskih, who drew with GM Elisabeth Paehtz after not getting much out of a 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian. Also drawn was Koneru - Dronavalli, as the players quickly simplified the position in a well-known line in the Four Knights Italian.

IM Anna Zatonskih | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

Pairings for Round 4

The 2023 Cairns Cup continues Tuesday, June 6, with tournament action live starting at 1:20 PM CT with commentators Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, International Master Nazi Paikidze, and International Master Almira Skripchenko on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.