Added on 2/10/2020

In his acclaimed weekly recap show, today GM Joel presents us with a magnificent collection of great games recently played by women chess players around the world.

The Gibraltar Masters attracts a lot of big names every year, but it is particularly strong in the participation of the world’s strongest female players.  Gibraltar offers huge prizes for the fairer sex, and with so many evenly matched players, it stands to reason that the winner will be decided in the last round.  That makes it rather surprising that Tan Zhongyi was able to claim that 20,000-pound prize for the second straight year.  She went into the last round with the lead but needed a rating upset over French GM Maxim Lagarde to secure the prize.  Her 7-3 score was only a half-point away from first place.  The last game involved a bit of good fortune at the critical stage of the game.  Let’s see how it was decided:

The brilliancy prize, a not too shabby 1,000 pounds, was awarded to Anna Muzychuk for her last round victory over Israeli grandmaster Ori Kobo.  The win still left Anna a point short of the top women’s prize, but it’s a heck of a game with several nice tactical points.  A beauty from a beauty.

The 2nd Cairns Cup got underway in St. Louis on Friday.  The tournament is a labor of love for Jeanne Sinquefield, wife of Rex Sinquefield and partner in the amazing contributions of the Saint Louis Chess Club.  The nine grandmaster field boasts most of the world’s top-rated players, including world champion Ju Wenjun.

The first round produced only two decisive games; in one, Humpy Koneru defeating the youngest participant, 16-year-old Carissa Yip.  The tournament will certainly be a learning experience for Carissa, but hopefully she will have some bright moments by the end.

The other game was for the most part one-sided, but featured a surprising moment where the tide could have been turned:

More blood was spilled in the second round.  The strangest game was contested between Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Kosteniuk, who have produced a winner in an astounding 80% of their encounters.  Gunina, last year’s champion, got the jump on her compatriot when Kosteniuk produced mysterious queen moves in the opening which set Gunina up for a combination.  Kosteniuk is one of the oldest players in the field, and has been slipping from her established level.  She also had a very disappointing result in Gibraltar, as did Gunina.  Alexandra is a strong fighter though, and some controversial decisions by Gunina reversed the chances.  Gunina absorbed another hard luck loss with her metaphorical flag hanging at the end of the game.

Irina Krush, the oldest player in the field at 36, finds herself ranked second from the bottom.  But she has had good success against elite women’s competition in the past, including third place in last year’s Cairns Cup.  She missed a golden opportunity to grab a full point against Ju Wenjun when the Chinese player, thankfully unaffected by the Coronavirus outbreak, made a bold/foolhardy decision with a risky tactic:

Mariya Muzychuk made a quick statement in her first visit to St. Louis.  Starting with two whites, she earned 1.5 against the two rating favorites, a draw with Ju and a shellacking of Koneru with an attack that was set up and executed with lightning speed.

Kataryna Lagno easily defeated Carissa Yip in the fourth decisive game of the round.  In round three, Nana Dzagnidze took advantage of Carissa for her second win and first place after three rounds.  Dronavali Harika got her first win over Kosteniuk, who was not able to parlay her previous good fortune.  Harika shares second place with Lagno and Muzychuk, who drew each other.  Gunina scored her first win over Krush, who spoiled an advantage she held for most of the game.