Determined Zatonskih Extends Lead In Nearly All-Decisive Round

Determined Zatonskih Extends Lead In Nearly All-Decisive Round


IM Anna Zatonskih stretched her lead to a full point at the Cairns Cup 2023, defeating IM Gunay Mammadzada in round six. The American underdog has performed so well that she has chances to earn a GM norm, depending on her last two games. Curiously, all three of her wins have been with the black pieces while she’s drawn all her games with white. 

It was another round with almost all decisive games. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk outplayed GM Irina Krush in minor piece ending while GM Elisabeth Paehtz won a dynamic Dragon vs. GM Nana Dzagnidze. Even in the only draw of the round, GM Harika Dronavalli came close to beating GM Zhansaya Abdumalik.

The Cairns Cup continues with round seven on Saturday, June 10, starting at 11:20 a.m. Pacific/20:20 CEST.

How to watch?

You can watch live games of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix on our Events Page. The rounds start each day at 11:20 a.m. Pacific/20:20 CEST.

Harika vs. Abdumalik

Harika gained a substantial positional advantage in the queenless middlegame due to her center control and better coordinated pieces. But in the critical moment, the Indian grandmaster overlooked how to gain a material advantage. Can you spot her missed opportunity?

When her opponent allowed her to stay in the game, Abdumalik discovered the key defense to gain equality. Realizing that her advantage has vanished while Black’s advanced passer on a4 looked longing at the first rank, Harika decided to repeat the positon to draw.

Abdumalik found the strength to fight back today despite having such a tough tournament so far. Photo: Bryan Adams/St. Louis Chess Club.

Paehtz vs. Dzagnidze

Dzagnidze unleashed the lively Sicilian Dragon, which was a surprise to Paehtz, who decided to castle kingside to avoid the sharpest theory. In the middlegame, the German grandmaster conjured a powerful attacking idea that led to the win of material. Can you find it?

Paehtz explained her thought process behind the critical decision she faced on move 23, to win the exchange or drag her opponent’s king out for attacking chances:

“This is the dilemma when you have to make a decision. You can go for the tactic you want with Nxf6 where you need to prove your dynamic advantage or you go for the practical one where you just take some material and hope it will be enough.”

“According to one of my coaches, it’s always good to go for the practical choice. But actually according to my character it’s much more likely to play Nxf6. Somehow I decided that with Nc7 I’m an exchange up, and if nothing goes wrong, it’s fine.”

Dzagnidze tried to fight back in the exchange down ending but after an inaccurate change to the pawn structure, Paehtz’s rooks broke through to the seventh rank decisively.

Kosteniuk vs. Krush

These two fierce competitors have a heavily-decisive and dead even overall score against each other: nine victories each with four draws. Early in the opening, Kosteniuk aimed for uncharted territory in an Open Sicilian by retreating the queen to the peculiar d3-square. Commentator IM Almira Skripchenko explained the reason for the unusual queen retreat: “It simply doesn’t allow Irina’s beloved Rauzer.”

After the game, Kosteniuk offered more insight into her choice of opening: “Recently, I played in the PRO Chess League and Alexander Shimanov won with this opening against Magnus Carlsen. So I said, if it’s possible to win against Magnus, why not try it myself?”

If it’s possible to win against Magnus, why not try it myself?

-Alexandra Kosteniuk

After a balanced, fighting middlegame, Kosteniuk won a pawn in the ending. Though Krush still had decent drawing chances, Kosteniuk kept pressing and ultimately capitalized on her opponent’s inaccurate defense, discovering a winning opposite-color bishop ending. 

Mammadzada vs. Zatonskih

In the longest game of the round, Zatonskih fought with determination vs. Mammadzada to claim her third victory of the tournament. On move nine, she burned nearly an hour to calculate the accurate …b5!, securing an extra pawn. As the game progressed, the American international master characteristically guided play into an ending where she alone had winning chances. Though there were only pawns left on the kingside, Zatonskih ultimately converted her edge seamlessly. 

Zatonskih’s hard-fought victory is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Dejan Bojkov.

Results – Round 6


Paehtz  1 – 0  Dzagnidze
Kosteniuk 1 – 0 Krush
Mammadzada 0 – 1 Zatonskih
Harika 1/2 – 1/2 Abdumalik


Zatonskih has a bye in round seven, giving her closest competitors a chance to gain ground on her lead. Two of them, Paehtz and Khotenashvili, will face each other while Kosteniuk has the black pieces vs. Dzagnidze. 

Pairings – Round 7


Dzagnidze  –  Kosteniuk
Krush  –  Harika
Abdumalik  –  Mammadzada
Khotenashvili  –  Paehtz

All Games – Round 6

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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