- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A disastrous start led to a triumphal conclusion for FM Carissa Yip at the 2nd Cairns Cup in St. Louis over the weekend, as the young American FM turned in one of the finest minus-one results seen in a tournament in a long time.

The lowest-rated player in one of the strongest all-women fields in history, Yip started the event with four straight losses and looked to be disastrously overmatched. But the 16-year-old Massachusetts native turned things around in a hurry, with three wins and two draws in the final five rounds, capped by a Round 8 dismantling of women’s world champion GM Ju Wenjun of China, a victory that helped decide the outcome of the tournament.

Indian GM Humpy Koneru took the prestigious Cairns Cup with a 6-3 result, a half-point ahead of Ju. No player in the field went undefeated, and Ju’s spectacular loss to Yip was her first over-the-board defeat since her successful title defense last month against Russia’s GM Aleksandra Goryachkina.

Video from the event shows Yip played at least parts of the game against the Chinese star with her turtleneck turned up almost to her nose, but there is nothing covered up about her play at the board.

She surprises the champ with a rare sideline defense in the Ruy Lopez, keeps the bishops (and the tension) on the board with 12. Bc3 f6, and eventually takes over the a-file that Ju had once hoped to dominate.

Black’s domination of both sides of the board comes into focus on 29. Qa1 Ra8 30. Qc1 h5! 31. Nce4?! (the trade makes Black’s rook invasion even more powerful, trying down White as the action shifts to the other flank) Nxc4 32. Nxc4 Ra2 33. g3 Kh7!, getting the bishop into the fun via h6.

With Ju otherwise occupied, the Black queen makes a triumphant entry on 36. Nc4 Qd7! 37 Re3? (Rd1 may be slightly tougher, but White’s hurting after 37…Bxc4 38. bxc4 Qh3 39. Rd3 Bxf4 40. Qxf4 Rxb2) Bxc4 38. bxc4 Qg4 39. Kh1 (see diagram; White sidesteps the pin, but the bishop crashes the party anyway) 39. Bxf4! 40. gxf4 Qxh4+ 41. Kg1 (Kg2 Qg4+ 42. Rg3 Qe2+ 43. Kh3 Rxb2) Qg4+ 42. Kh1 Qxf4.

Ju does have a piece for the three pawns but is forced to simplify down to a lost queen-and-pawn ending: 43. Qb1 (Rb3 Qxc1+ 44. Bxc1 Ra1 pins and wins) Rxb2 44. Qxb2 Qxe3 45. Qxf6 Qxe4+ 46. Kh2 b3. White has a few annoying checks, but after 53. Qe6+ Qf5! 54. Qxd6 Qf2+ 55. Kh1 Qf3+ 56. Kh2 Qh3+ 57. Kg1 Qg3+, it’s lost after 58. Qxg3+ Kxg3 59. d6 b2, and the pawn will queen with mate; Ju resigned.

The tournament’s other decisive game was being played just a few feet away from Ju-Yip, as Russian GM Valentina Gunina, the winner of the inaugural Cairns Cup, fell victim to a known opening trap and went down quickly to Koneru.

Mandatory for Black in this QGD Meran line is 14…Nc5, when there’s still a lot of play in lines such as 15. e5!? Qxe5 16. Re1 Qd6. After 14…Qc6? 15. Qf3 h6 16. Qh3!, Black’s game is already bleak. Gunina compounds the problem with 16…hxg5?! (Nc5 again provides some semblance of a defense) 17. Qxh8 Ne5 18. Bxg5 Nf7 19. Qh4 Be7 20. Rad1, and Black is down the exchange and a pawn with no real compensation.

It’s a full-fledged rout after 26. Rfe1 Nd3 27. Nd5+! Kf8 28. Nxf6 gxf6 (Nxe1 29. Nh7+ Kg8 30. Rxe1) 29. Qh8+, and the Black king is in a mating net. It’s over on 34. Rd4 c3 35. bxc3, as 35…Nd5 (e5 36. Rxf4) 36. Rh3 Kd8 37. Rh7 a5 38. Qe7+ Kc8 39. Rh8+ Qe8 40. Rxe8 is mate.

Ju-Yip, 2nd Cairns Cup, St. Louis, February 2020

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 g6 5. d4 exd4 6. c3 Bg7 7. cxd4 b5 8. Bb3 Nge7 9. d5 Na5 10. Bd2 Nxb3 11. Qxb3 c5 12. Bc3 f6 13. a3 d6 14. h4 O-O 15. Nbd2 Qe8 16. O-O Bd7 17. Qc2 Rc8 18. b3 h6 19. a4 Ra8 20. axb5 axb5 21. Rxa8 Qxa8 22. Ra1 Qb7 23. Qa2 Nc8 24. Ne1 b4 25. Bb2 Bb5 26. Nc2 Bd3 27. Ne3 Qe7 28. Re1 Nb6 29. Qa1 Ra8 30. Qc1 h5 31. Nec4 Nxc4 32. Nxc4 Ra2 33. g3 Kh7 34. Nd2 Bh6 35. f4 Qa7 36. Nc4 Qd7 37. Re3 Bxc4 38. bxc4 Qg4 39. Kh1 Bxf4 40. gxf4 Qxh4+ 41. Kg1 Qg4+ 42. Kh1 Qxf4 43. Qb1 Rxb2 44. Qxb2 Qxe3 45. Qxf6 Qxe4+ 46. Kh2 b3 47. Qf7+ Kh6 48. Qf8+ Kg5 49. Qd8+ Kf5 50. Qd7+ Ke5 51. Qg7+ Kf4 52. Qf6+ Kg4 53. Qe6+ Qf5 54. Qxd6 Qf2+ 55. Kh1 Qf3+ 56. Kh2 Qh3+ 57. Kg1 Qg3+ 0-1.

Koneru-Gunina, 2nd Cairns Cup, St. Louis, February 2020

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. O-O a6 10. e4 c5 11. d5 c4 12. Bc2 Qc7 13. dxe6 fxe6 14. Ng5 Qc6 15. Qf3 h6 16. Qh3 hxg5 17. Qxh8 Ne5 18. Bxg5 Nf7 19. Qh4 Be7 20. Rad1 Qc5 21. e5 Nxe5 22. Bxf6 Bxf6 23. Qh5+ Ke7 24. Be4 Bc6 25. Bxc6 Qxc6 26. Rfe1 Nd3 27. Nd5+ Kf8 28. Nxf6 gxf6 29. Qh8+ Kf7 30. Qh7+ Ke8 31. Re3 Nf4 32. Qg8+ Ke7 33. Qg7+ Ke8 34. Rd4 c3 35. bxc3 Black resigns.

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

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