Cairns Cup Round 5, 2024: Lee Miraculously Saves Game Against Dzagnidze After 5-Hours Of Defense


14-year-old IM Alice Lee is the talk of the town at the Cairns Cup 2024 after tricking GM Nana Dzagnidze into a drawn ending when all seemed lost. GMs Irina Krush, Mariya Muzychuk, and IM Anna Zatonskih all missed golden opportunities to win their respective games while GM Tan Zhongyi managed to hold onto her lead after drawing with GM Anna Muzychuk.

Each of the five games ended in draws, but as IM Jovanka Houska aptly quipped: “The round was not without adventure.”

Following a rest day, round six will start on Wednesday, June 19, at 2 p.m. ET / 20:00 CEST / 11:30 p.m. IST and will feature a blockbuster clash between U.S. compatriots and generational rivals Lee and Krush.

Round 5 Results


 
Standings


The Saint Louis Chess Club played unexpected hosts to an endgame exhibition on Monday as all of the participants seemed content to press with fewer pieces on the board. Minor-piece imbalances were the theme of the day and round five’s proceedings prove that complex endgames will continue to provide ample opportunity to shake up the tournament standings.

The participants (pictured here with Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield and GM Nona Gaprindashvili) have put on quite the show in St. Louis so far. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

With players defying ratings, form, and momentum, the tussle for the lead is showing no signs of slowing down. A rest day will give players the opportunity to replenish their energy reserves and stock up on preparation for the second half of the event.

Anna Muzychuk 0.5-0.5 Tan

Muzychuk came close to knocking Tan off the top of the leaderboard after a temporary sacrifice allowed her to win two pawns for the price of one. Playing the Advance Variation against Tan’s Caro-Kann Defense, Muzychuk developed her pieces forcefully and steered Black toward an endgame where a knight vs. bishop imbalance would take center stage, with one twist… Muzychuk would maintain her one-pawn advantage.

Tan still leads the tournament with two wins and three draws. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Unfortunately, the Ukrainian GM would insist on giving the pawn back several moves later in exchange for an active rook, a decision that would sap her superiority over the position and allow Tan to enter an equal endgame. By move 33, Muzychuk’s time also slipped below 10 minutes so a draw by repetition was welcomed with open arms when it arose 10 moves later.

Lee 0.5-0.5 Dzagnidze

Lee and Dzagnidze’s tournaments have been equally tumultuous thus far and off the back of a spectacular win over former Women’s World Champion Kosteniuk, it was Lee who found herself fighting to cling to her mid-table spot when her Catalan Opening went pear-shaped.

Following Lee’s imprecise 12.e4?! Dzagnidze played the pawn break 12…c5! which derailed Lee’s center and brought Black’s pieces to life. While material remained balance throughout the middlegame, Lee was left with pawns strewn across the board that Dzagnidze could patiently pester. 

For hours, Dzagnidze poked and prodded and the evaluation bar crept up and eventually both fell into time trouble. Given Lee’s dire position, it seemed inevitable that she would fall. However, in a show of stoicism, Lee found a trick on the stroke of the fifth hour and secured an all-important draw. 

Lee couldn’t bear to look when she realized that the position was drawn. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Our Game of the Day has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Krush 0.5-0.5 Kosteniuk

The clash between two titans of chess had all the hallmarks of a Krush middlegame masterclass, but the eight-time U.S. women’s champion fell just short of finding a winning combination and stumbled into a clutch perpetual by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Both players are placed in the middle of the field on 2.5/5, but their journey to this score has been vastly different—Krush has five draws to her name while Kosteniuk has scored two wins, a draw, and two losses.

Kosteniuk will welcome a rest day after five days of ups and downs. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Mariya Muzychuk 0.5-0.5 Harika

As early as move 13 in their Giuoco Piano tango, Muzychuk and Harika Dronavalli appeared to be content with a draw as they played into a popular line with a 72% draw rate. However, in an innocuous middlegame Harika made an astonishing concession on move 25, giving up a pawn with 25…Ne6??.

Sensing opportunity, Muzychuk tried to pile the pressure on Harika. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Whether she was too eager to exchange pieces or simply believed in her d5-knight, Stockfish frowned upon the move but Harika invoked the spirit of Tarrasch, swapping into a rook ending and endorsing the tongue-in-cheek idiom that suggests that all such endings are drawn.

Zatonskih 0.5-0.5 Paehtz

“Anna Zatonskih is going to look back on this tournament and say to herself how many points have I left on the table” were the words of commentator and GM Yasser Seirawan as the 2023 Cairns Cup winner confirmed threefold repetition despite having a sizeable advantage. 

Zatonskih has had no trouble building advantages but has struggled to convert. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Having worked hard to quell Paehtz’s Bogo-Indian Defense, Zatonskih finally found herself with a healthy advantage at the 30-move mark when Black’s king was forced forwards, but she missed a pawn break that would have helped capitalize on the situation.

While Zatonskih’s 1/5 score leaves her with little chance of snapping up consecutive Cairns Cup titles, Paehtz’s 2/5 keeps her in the race due to messy results at the top.

The all-U.S. duel between Lee and Krush will headline round six due to the local interest. However, Harika also bids to join Tan in the lead as she takes the white pieces against a struggling Zatonskih. Tan, meanwhile, will play Black against Dzagnidze while the second-placed Mariya Muzychuk will try her hand against an unpredictable Kosteniuk.

There’s no telling which version of Kosteniuk will arrive in round six against Mariya Muzychuk. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The 2024 Cairns Cup is one of the strongest women’s tournaments in the world. The event is a 10-player round-robin with a 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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