Harika Forgoes Castling In Victory Over 'Chess Queen' Kosteniuk
Hakira surged to 1.5/2 when she defeated Kosteniuk. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Harika Forgoes Castling In Victory Over 'Chess Queen' Kosteniuk

| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

Four players—GMs Nana Dzagnidze, Harika Dronavalli, Mariya Muzychuk, and Tan Zhongyi—sit atop the standings on 1.5/2 at the Cairns Cup 2024 after Dzagnidze and Harika won their respective games against IM Anna Zatonskih and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk.

GM Irina Krush came close to winning against Tan but fell short in time trouble while GM Elisabeth Paehtz and IM Alice Lee both missed opportunities in a rollercoaster encounter.

Round three starts Saturday, June 15, at 2 p.m. ET / 20:00 CEST / 11:30 p.m. IST.

Round 2 Results

Two wins and three draws "mixed up" the standings in round two, according to GM Yasser Seirawan.


Tan 0.5-0.5 Krush

One thing that has become clear about Tan in recent years is her proclivity for playing for a win at all costs, a trait that backfired in round two against a similarly zealous eight-time U.S. women's champion.

Repeating a rare line in the Wing Attack Variation of the Kan Sicilian Defense, Tan began to lose control on move 14 after diverting from theory, and it became obvious that Krush had done her homework as she cashed in her advantage for a free pawn.

Krush once again came close to toppling a 2500 and is not to be underestimated with Black. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

As the game headed into its fifth hour, though, Krush fell into time pressure, and Tan stabilized the position and steered the game toward a draw despite the one-pawn deficit. 

While Krush has drawn her first two games, the fact that she has been winning against two of the tournament's top seeds bodes well for her in this event.

Dzagnidze 1-0 Zatonskih

Dzagnidze's round-two game was a far cry from the theoretical marathon that played out in the curtain-raiser. When Zatonskih blundered her e5-pawn with the erroneous 22...Bf8??, Dzagnidze could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that she wouldn't have to play another 126 moves. 

Now tied for first, Dzagnidze is understandably "happy" with her games and is looking forward to a showdown with her longtime rival Kosteniuk on Saturday.

Harika 1-0 Kosteniuk

The Game of the Day is the clash between Harika and Kosteniuk. The former's ambitious intent manifested itself in the decision to surrender castling rights on move eight in an English Opening: Symmetrical Variation that is not known for its flamboyance.

Castling? What even is castling? Harika had no interest in king safety and was out for blood on Friday. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The game, which featured outstanding preparation, a bishop and knight imbalance, as well as a clinical rook endgame conversion by Harika, has been analyzed by New Zealand Olympiad team captain GM Dejan Bojkov below.

Paehtz 0.5-0.5 Lee

Paehtz-Lee was the only game of the round where all three results looked likely at different points. Though the German Paehtz procured an advantage arising from her King's Indian Attack, when the clocks had dwindled, it was Lee who found herself up by a rook but unable to block a threefold repetition.

As the players realized the draw was afoot, commentator and IM Jovanka Houska summed up their feelings: "I'm not really sure who is more disappointed because Elisabeth was in full control and yet, at the end, it was Alice who was winning."

Both players carried a visible sense of disappointment on their faces after the game. However, they can take solace in knowing that they now have points on the board.

A picture says a 1,000 words. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Muzychuk 0.5-0.5 Muzychuk

The quickest game of the day by several hours was the matchup between the Muzychuks, Anna and Mariya. The pair are known for their unwillingness to ruin the other's tournament and after entering a sharp line of the Caro-Kann Defense: Advance, Botvinnik-Carls Defense that teased fireworks, the game came to an abrupt halt on move 19 when the sisters repeated moves for the third time.

No points for guessing the result of this game! Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Had they played on, the encounter could have spun out of control due to their awkwardly-placed kings.

A clear frontrunner is yet to announce themselves after two rounds; however, several tantalizing matchups on Saturday could help to change this. All eyes will be on (Mariya) Muzychuk-Tan as the co-leaders vie for pole position when another chapter will be added to the history between the Muzychuks and Tan (Tan defeated Mariya's sister Anna in the final of the Women's World Championship way back in 2017), while Harika will be looking to put the pressure on the 100-points-lower-rated Lee with the black pieces.

How to review?

You can review the round's broadcast on the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube or Twitch channels. The games can also be reviewed from our dedicated 2024 Cairns Cup events page

The live broadcast was hosted by Seirawan, Houska, and IM Nazi Paikidze.

The 2024 Cairns Cup is one of the strongest women's tournaments in the world. The event is a 10-player round-robin with classical time control (120 minutes for the entire game, plus a 30-second increment per move). The 2024 Cairns Cup runs from June 13 to June 23 and features a $200,000 prize fund.

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