- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The inaugural Cairns Cup, believed to be the strongest women’s tournament ever held on U.S. soil, is in the books, and GM Valentina Gunina has claimed a little piece of history as the event’s first winner.

The three-time Russian women’s champion went undefeated at 7-2, holding off former women’s world champion and fellow Russian GM Alexandra Kosteniuk in a hard-fought final-round draw that clinched first place and the $40,000 top prize.

Kosteniuk, who also went through the event without a loss, was a half-point back at 6½-2½, and GM Irina Krush was the top American finisher, alone in third at 5½-3½. Here’s hoping the St. Louis Chess Club and club co-founder Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield will make this event, intended to inspire more women and girls to take up the game, an annual affair.

Gunina got off to a nice start with a Round 1 win over Georgian GM Beta Khotenashvili, a d3 Closed Ruy Lopez in which White struggles mightily to get her hooked opponent into the boat.

After 17. Qxf3 exd4 18. Bxh6! (the only way for White to keep the balance), Khotenashvili rejects the straightforward 18…Bd6 for 18…d3!?, leading to highly unbalanced play. Black unwisely allows her knight to be imprisoned on b2, while White’s bishop pair lay down menacing fire on both sides of the board.

Thus: 28. Bb7 a5 29. Nh6+! gxh6 30. Qxf6 Rd6 31. Qf3 c6 32. Re8 Rg6 33. h4 (also strong was the simple 33. Rc8!; White is essentially playing a piece up) Qd6 34. Bc8 Qd5 35. Qh3 Qh5, when with 36. Kh2 Qd5 37. Bf5, Gunina would have been very close to winning.

But things get a little hairy on 36. g4? Qd5?! (f5! was a strong rejoinder here, as White’s edge dissipates in lines like 37. Be6+ [Bxf5? Qxf5] Kg7 38. g5 hxg5! [and not 38…Qd1+? 39. Kh2 Qxd2 40. Qxf5 Bd6+ 41. Kh3 Rxe6 42. Qxe6 Qe2 43. Qg8 mate] 39. Bxf5 Rh6 40. hxg5 Qd1+ 41. Re1 Rxh3 42. Rxd1 Nxd1 43. Bxh3 b4) 37. h5 Rf6 38. g5 hxg5 39. h6 Qd6?! (39…Kh7! looks like a last chance to fight: 40. Rxf8 Qc5 — with a double attack on f8 and f2 — 41. Rd8 Qxf2+ 41. Kh1 a4! [Qxd2?? 43. Bf5+ and wins], with a fighting chance at a draw) 40. h7+ Kh8 41. Bf5 and White is once again in charge.

White finds the winning path after a well-fought struggle on 44. Rxf8! Kxf8 45. Bxg5 Rh5 46. g4! Rxg5 47. h8=Q+ Ke7 48. Qh2, and the ill-starred Black knight would be trapped once again on 48…Nd1 49. Qd2; Khotenashvili resigned.

A neighbor dropped off a box of vintage chess books once owned by her father, which could supply a number of columns through 2027. One classic in the collection was Kenneth S. Howard’s “Spectacular Chess Problems,” 200 problems by American composers dating back to the 1850s and the days of Sam Loyd.

Today’s diagram is a three-move mate composed exactly 100 years ago by the Rev. Gilbert Dobbs, a Baptist minister who produced over 3,000 mates, studies and other problems over a 40-year composing career. Here White moves first and mates Black in three moves. We’ll have the solution next week.

Gunina-Khotenashvili, 1st Cairns Cup, St. Louis, February 2019

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 d6 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 Re8 9. Re1 Bf8 10. Nf1 h6 11. Ng3 b5 12. Bc2 d5 13. exd5 Qxd5 14. d4 Bg4 15. Bb3 Qd7 16. h3 Bxf3 17. Qxf3 exd4 18. Bxh6 d3 19. Bg5 Nh7 20. Bf4 Na5 21. Bd5 Rxe1+ 22. Rxe1 Rd8 23. Be4 Nc4 24. b3 Nb2 25. Bd2 Nf6 26. Bc6 Qd6 27. Nf5 Qc5 28. Bb7 a5 29. Nh6+ gxh6 30. Qxf6 Rd6 31. Qf3 c6 32. Re8 Rg6 33. h4 Qd6 34. Bc8 Qd5 35. Qh3 Qh5 36. g4 Qd5 37. h5 Rf6 38. g5 hxg5 39. h6 Qd6 40. h7+ Kh8 41. Bf5 Rh6 42. Qg3 Qxg3+ 43. fxg3 Kg7 44. Rxf8 Kxf8 45. Bxg5 Rh5 46. g4 Rxg5 47. h8=Q+ Ke7 48. Qh2 Black resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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