2023 Cairns Cup - Day 4 Recap

The tournament blew wide open today after both leaders lost their games, with IM Anna Zatonskih defeating GM Alexandra Kosteniuk to take the sole lead and GM Bella Khotenashvili scoring a big victory over GM Irina Krush. Meanwhile Dronavalli - Mammadzada and Paehtz - Abdumalik was drawn, and Dzagnidze managed to swindle Koneru in a sharp time scramble.

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.


Despite getting a big lead on the clock out of the opening Kosteniuk started to struggle against Zatonskih in the early middlegame in an Advance French. Without finding a clear plan, Kosteniuk misplayed the position and was forced into a much worse endgame. Zatonskih then managed to take over the queenside, winning multiple pawns thanks to her superior position, eventually winning her the game.

After 15…Rc8, the position was double-edged, with White having an unopposed bishop in exchange for long-term structural weaknesses.

Despite being the lowest rated player in the field, IM Anna Zatonskih is currently in clear first with 3.0/4. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

The other co-leader going into today’s round, GM Irina Krush, got into trouble after Khotenashvili launched a powerful kingside attack starting with 14.g4. The attack led the Georgian No. 2 to sacrifice a piece which left Black’s king on the verge of getting mated. After both players missed chances in mutual time trouble the complications cleared and Khotenashvili was left in a winning rook and pawn endgame, which she gradually converted.

After 14.g4!, White’s kingside attack was quite difficult to deal with.

After two losses at the start GM Bella Khotenashvili has roared back with two straight wins. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Winning a dramatic game was Dzagnidze, who was lost against Koneru until the final moves of the first time control, when Koneru suddenly allowed huge counterplay in a heavy piece endgame against her king. 

With less than a minute left in this position Koneru played 38.f3?, and after 38…d3! 39.Qe3 Qc8!-+ was already lost. Instead, winning was 38.Re7! Qxg4 39.Re8++-

GM Nana Dzagnidze won her second game of the event to move to 2.5/4. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

The final games of the round, Dronavalli - Mammadzada and Paehtz - Abdumalik were both drawn after complications in the middlegame were resolved via three-fold repetition.

GM Elisabeth Paehtz of Germany | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Pairings for Round 5

The 2023 Cairns Cup continues Wednesday, June 7, 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.