Kosteniuk Doubles Down With Win Over Harika In Round-2 Bloodbath

Kosteniuk Doubles Down With Win Over Harika In Round-2 Bloodbath


The second round of the Cairns Cup 2023 again saw four out of five games finish decisively, with GM Alexandra Kosteniuk‘s victory over GM Harika Dronavalli the most notable as she pushed herself out to a 2/2 start.

GM Nana Dzagnidze as well as IMs Elisabeth Paehtz and Anna Zatonskih also impressed and won their respective games in the round full of swashbuckling tactical shots and even a stalemate trick missed by both players in GM Bela Khotenashvili-Zatonskih.

The Cairns Cup continues with round three on Monday, June 5, starting at 11:20 a.m. Pacific/20:20 CEST.

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You can review the games of the Cairns Cup 2023 on our Events Page

Kosteniuk vs. Harika

After defeating the tournament’s top seed in round one, Kosteniuk demonstrated impeccable technique to take down Harika, one of the tournament’s co-leaders, on the white side of the Sicilian Defense: Taimanov Variation in round two.

The players followed a theoretical line of the opening that saw them enter an opposite-colored bishop and rook ending. However, with plenty of pawns left on the board, there remained ample opportunity to play for a win. Kosteniuk would later admit that her decision to enter this endgame was an attempt to “play it safe” but noted that Harika had made some tactical missteps that allowed her to press.

Kosteniuk found all the right moves to gain an edge over Harika. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

With time dwindling on both players’ clocks, a brutal exchange sacrifice allowed Kosteniuk to steal the show, and her powerful dark-squared bishop was able to dominate Harika’s rook as her pawns cruised toward promotion. 

Annotations for our Game of the Day are provided by GM Dejan Bojkov.

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Paehtz vs. Mammadzada

Paehtz was back to her brilliant best on Sunday and convincingly won from the white side of the Sicilian Defense: Najdorf Variation against IM Gunay Mammadzada. After castling queenside and setting up a defensive fortress, Paehtz had free rein to rip through with kingside pawn breaks.

A beautiful bishop sacrifice was the nail in the coffin for Mammadzada who could do little to stop a rampant Paehtz. After a heartbreaking loss to Harika on Saturday, Paehtz would state about her round-two game: “Somehow, I could have won it quicker, but I just wanted to play it safe after yesterday.”

Paehtz in action against Mammadzada. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Khotenashvili vs. Zatonskih

Khotenashvili-Zatonskih was quite the enigma and featured a huge miss that would have seen Khotenashvili save the game from snowballing away from her. The opening transpired without much drama, and the players coasted into a queen and rook endgame that was slightly better for White. However, Khotenashvili erred with 37.c5?, a decision that would allow Zatonskih to win a pawn with tactics.

Zatonskih looked to be headed for a clean win before the unthinkable occurred. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Now playing down a pawn in a rook endgame, the Georgian GM clung on for dear life, but Zatonskih was able to gain connected passed pawns on the queenside. On the verge of defeat, Khotenashvili missed a spectacular stalemate that escaped Black’s vision in the time pressure.

Following the miss, Zatonskih converted with ease and moved to 1.5/2.

Dzagnidze vs. Abdumalik

One thing that was a recurring theme in the recently concluded fourth leg of the 2022-2023 FIDE Women’s Grand Prix was Dzagnidze’s penchant for aggressive positions. When the opportunity presented itself against GM Zhansaya Abdumalik in round two, Dzagnidze spent just six minutes on the decision to sacrifice the exchange and blast open Black’s kingside.

Unable to capture back the rook without facing dire consequences, Abdumalik instead opted to go down the exchange and tried to best to hold on. Alas, her pugnacious opponent could not be stopped.

Humpy vs. Krush

As the only player in the field to start with Black twice, GM Irina Krush was more than happy to split the point with GM Humpy Koneru in round two after a scintillating win over Abdumalik in the first round. Like in Kosteniuk-Harika, the pair traded into an opposite-colored bishop endgame. However, in this case, there was little that either could do to create weaknesses in their opponent’s position.

Abdumalik checks on her round-one opponent, Krush. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Krush will face Dzagnidze in round three, and this is expected to be a volatile encounter between two of the field’s more ambitious participants.

Results – Round 2


Humpy 1/2-1/2 Krush
Dzagnidze 1-0 Abdumalik
Khotenashvili 0-1 Zatonskih
Paehtz 1-0 Mammadzada
Kosteniuk 1-0 Harika

Standings – Round 2

Following a tumultuous round two, the players will look to reenergize themselves ahead of a high-octane third round. While Kosteniuk leads by half a point, Krush will look to press with her first white game of the event against Dzagnidze, while her Georgian opponent and Zatonskih will also attempt to close the gap.

Pairings – Round 3


Harika Humpy
Mammadzada Kosteniuk
Zatonskih Paehtz
Abdumalik Khotenashvili
Krush Dzagnidze

The Cairns Cup 2023 takes place June 3-13, 2023, at the Saint Louis Chess Club. The format is a 10-player round-robin. Fans can look forward to a chess tournament similar in style to the prestigious Sinquefield Cup with the 10 best female players from around the world competing in the World Chess Hall of Fame for a $180,000 prize fund.

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