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Cairns cup R02: Mariya Muzychuk crushes Koneru Humpy with brilliant attacking play

by Satanick Mukhuty - 09/02/2020

Mariya Muzychuk registered a convincing victory against Koneru Humpy of India in the second round of Cairns Cup 2020. The former World Champion played a rather unorthodox continuation against the Petroff defense and arranged a devious kingside attack early on in the game. Koneru made just a single slip dealing with the complications and that was enough for the Ukrainian to rip her apart. In this illustrated article, we bring you the detailed analysis of this instructive encounter along with a comprehensive second round report from St. Louis, Missouri.

Apart from its historic strength, what makes the Cairns cup really special is its promise to deliver dynamic fighting chess. Short draws by mutual consent in less than thirty moves are in fact forbidden in the event by law and the result of it is already there to be seen. The second day of the event saw as many as three out of five games concluding decisively with the remaining two boards playing out hard-fought draws. The Ukrainian Grandmaster and former World Champion Mariya Muzychuk was arguably the best performer of the day who displayed some scintillating bit of attacking chess to outplay India's top female player and the current World Rapid Champion Koneru Humpy. The other two victories were clinched by the two Russians Kateryna Lagno and Alexandra Kosteniuk who defeated Yip Carissa and Valentina Gunina respectively.

Round two results of the event.

Mariya had the white pieces against Koneru today and she made her intentions clear right out of the opening by choosing an unusual continuation on move 11 against the Petroff. The position turned quite complex soon after with the Ukrainian launching a vicious attack on the kingside. Let us begin by looking at the highlights of the critical moments. (Photo: St.Louis Chess Club)


Mariya Muzychuk - Koneru Humpy, Round 2  

11.Rb1!? was the start of Mariya's devious machinations. The moves like 11.Be3 or 11.Bf1 commonly played here are calmer. The former World Champion wasn't interested in all these and intended to go directly for blood by rerouting her a1 rook to the kingside. 

...And with 13.Rb4!? she evinced her intentions.

The position above after 17.g4 was even but already very dangerous for Black. For instance, an impulsive capture like 17...hxg4 loses on spot to 18.Rxg4 Qe7 19.Qg3 where White has the deadly threat of h4-h5. In the game Koneru played 17...Qxh4 and Mariya retorted with 18.Qg2 intending to trap the queen with g4-g5. The Indian at this point had to retreat her royal piece but to where?

Where should Black retreat her queen?

Koneru played 18...Qe7 here and this was the decisive mistake that sealed the fate of the game. The position is actually very tricky and the only move that holds everything together is 18...Qg5! which is certainly not the first move you think of because it places the queen on white bishop's line. But it turns out that there are really no harmful discoveries. Something like 19.Ra4 Qh4 only leads to repetition of moves and 19.gxh5 Qxg2+ 20.Kxg2 Bxh5 is even a tad better for Black.


But 18...Qe7? was an unfortunate blunder that allowed White to get in an onslaught with all guns blazing. The game followed 19.gxh5 Bxh5 and then in came the powerful lift 20.Re3!

It was all over for Black from here. A dozen more moves were made on the board before Koneru resigned. The full game is presented below with annotations.

The World Blitz Champion Kateryna Lagno didn't face much difficulty to thoroughly outplay her young opponent Yip Carissa. Kateryna had the black pieces but was hardly tested in the Scotch which was Yip's choice of opening. By move 22 itself she found a comfortable edge and soon got the chance to capitalize big time on it. (Photo: St.Louis Chess Club)


Yip Carissa - Kateryna Lagno, Round 2

22...Nh5!? was a deceptive move by Kateryna apparently aiming to get her knight to f4 but really hoping to provoke the weakening g2-g3 and sure enough her inexperienced opponent did end up falling for it. The Russian coolly retreated her knight back to f6 and went on to exploit the newly created lightsquare weaknesses.

24...Ng4 put pressure on f2 now. What is White's best way to defend herself?

Well, under pressure, the American simply failed to find the most optimal continuations and soon Black crashed through bearing down all her forces on White's kingside. The full game is below for you to replay.

Valentina Gunina lost her second game in a row against the former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk in round two of the tournament today. The former had the black pieces and played a rather strange move in the Spanish to give her opponent the upper hand early on in the encounter. The rest of the game thereafter turned out only to be a nightmarish episode of woes for her. (Photo: St. Louis Chess Club)


Alexandra Kosteniuk - Valentina Gunina, Round 2

9...Qb8 was Valentina's novelty but it really messed everything up for her. 

And she found herself on the ropes after just the next five moves. 

More photos...

Nana Dzagnidze made a relatively quick draw against Harika Dronavalli in round two. They played a Catalan and reached an even rook ending by move 17 itself | Photo: St.Louis Chess Club  

Top seed Ju Wenjun is yet to register a win. She was held to a draw by Irina Krush after a 74 moves long battle | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Pairings for the next round 

The next round starts tomorrow at 12:30 am IST (1 pm local time) and the big encounter to look out for is Koneru Humpy versus Ju Wenjun!

Follow the action live on our live games page here!