The Sinquefield Cup held in the Saint Louis Chess Club is regarded as one of the annual highlights of the elite chess calendar and named after its chess patron Rex Sinquefield. And inspired by the innovative club’s mission to help promote the female game, last year Rex’s wife, Dr Jeanne Sinquefield (née Cairns) got in on the family act with the staging of the inaugural Cairns Cup, that was the biggest, strongest and richest elite-level tournament ever for women – and now comes the 2nd Cairns Cup!
The 10-player Round Robin event that runs February 6-17 February not only has one of the largest prize funds ($180,000, with the top three finishers receiving $45,000, $35,000 and $25,000 respectively) for a women’s tournament, it out-does last year’s event with a stronger and more cosmipolitan field that’s headed by the reigning Women’s World Champion, two former world champions and a six-time U.S. women’s champ.
The full line-up includes: GM Ju Wenjun (China), GM Humpy Koneru (India), GM Mariya Muzychuk (Ukraine), GM Kateryna Lagno (Russia), Harika Dronavalli (India), GM Nana Dzagnidze (Georgia), GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia), GM Valentina Gunina (Russia), GM Irina Krush (USA) and IM Carissa Yip (USA)
The first Women’s International Chess Congress was held in London in 1897 to coincide with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. In those pre-suffragette days, though, many readers of that august organ of The Times of London openly scoffed in the letters page about the prospect of women playing tournament chess, believing that it would descend into a farce, primarily because the “weaker sex,” as one reader somewhat glibly put it, “…would come under great strain lifting the leaded, wooden chess pieces.”
Victorian male chauvinist jibes aside, Mary Rudge found this no obstacle as she entered the annals by becoming the very first woman to win an international tournament. And in the latest edition of the Cairns Cup, in one of the standout games of the early rounds, former world champion Mariya Muzychuk also demonstrated that she similarly had no issues with any ‘heavy lifting’ of chess pieces, by expertly unleashing a very instructive double rook lift in today’s featured game.
1. N. Dzagnidze (Georgia) 2½/3; 2-4. K. Lagno (Russia), M. Muzychuk (Ukraine), H. Dronavalli (India) 2; 5-7. Ju Wenjun (China), H. Koneru (India), A. Kosteniuk (Russia) 1½; 8-9. V. Gunina (Russia), I. Krush (USA) 1; 10. C. Yip (USA) 0.
Photo: Former world champion Mariya Muzychuk has no problems with any ‘heavy lifting’! | © Crystal Fuller / St. Louis Chess Club
GM Mariya Muzychuk – GM Humpy Koneru
2nd Cairns Cup, (2)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.Nc3 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Bd6 8.0-0 0-0 9.Re1 Bxe5 10.dxe5 Nc5 11.Rb1 Nxd3 12.cxd3 b6 13.Rb4! The start of a powerful series of ‘heavy lifts’ from Muzychuk, as she looks to bring her rooks into the attack of her opponent’s king. 13…Bf5 The other alternative of 13…f5 was played in Sokolov-Schandorff, Bundesliga 2001, and the engine wants to follow up with 14.Rf4 h6 15.Re3! – and this is likely where Muzychuk might have seen the potential of the powerful double rook lift. 14.Qf3 c5 15.Rf4 Bg6 16.h4 h5 17.g4! Qxh4 There’s no alternative now than excepting the pawn sacrifice, as Black is already halfway down the rabbit-hole. If 17…hxg4 18.Rxg4 Kh8 (There’s no time for 18…Bh5 as the White attack comes in like a tsunami with 19.Rxg7+!! Kxg7 20.Qxh5 Rh8 21.Qg4+ Kf8 22.Bg5 Qc8 23.e6! and Black is dead in the water.) 19.Bg5 Qd7 20.h5! Qf5 21.Qg3 Bxh5 22.Rh4 g6 23.e6! and again, Black is all but lost here. If 23…f6 (23…fxe6 24.Rf4! traps the queen.) 24.Bh6 and Black is facing a heavy loss of material to stop Rf4, again embarrassing the Black queen. 18.Qg2 Qe7?! It is not an easy move to find, as human instinct will be letting off all kinds of alarm bells ringing, but Koneru simple had to find the only saving move she has here, which is 18…Qg5! walking into what looks like is a very dangerous discovered attack on her queen – but quite remarkably, White can’t take advantage due to the need to support g4. If 19.Ra4 (Alternatively, after 19.f3 Black has to stay brave and go for 19…Bxd3! 20.Rf6 Qh4! and now White is the one who is dead in the water as both rook are simultaneously under attack. The best White can hope for is 19.Bd2 hxg4 (After 19…Rae8 comes under attack, but White looks as if she can escape with 20.e6! h4 21.exf7+ Bxf7 22.Rxe8 Rxe8 23.Rxf7! Qxd2 24.Qxd5 Qe1+ 25.Kg2 Qe6 26.Qxe6 Rxe6 27.Rxa7 Rd6 and the game fizzles out to a drawn rook and pawn ending.) 20.e6 f6 21.Re2 with both sides having “chances”.; 19…Qh4! forces a repetition with 20.Rf4 Qg5 21.Ra4 Qh4 etc. 19.gxh5 Bxh5 20.Re3! And now we are back to the double rook lift motif we saw in the note on move 13 – and with it, Black is in deep trouble, as there’s simply no defence from the threats from the “heavy furniture” combination of the two rooks and queen. 20…Rfe8 21.Qh2 The clean and efficient kill was the powerful 21.e6! Qf8 22.Qxd5 Bg6 23.Rh3! and Black can resign, as the only move to stop the threat of Rfh4 mating is 23…Qe7 24.Rfh4 Qxh4 25.Rxh4 and a horrendous loss of material. 21…g6 22.Rf5 Not only does it look powerful, it is powerful! 22…Bg4 There’s no defence. Initially, it looks as if Black might well escape the worst of it with 22…gxf5 23.Qxh5 f4 and there’s no direct mating threats, and after Rh3 Black will have …Qxe5 covering the vital h8 square; and also, with the queen now off of e7, the king has an escape hole on e7 to run to. But White simply opts now for 24.Qg4+! Kf8 25.Qxf4 Qe6 26.Qh4! stopping the king running to safety with …Ke7, and there’s no easy answers to the looming threats of the winning rook lift with Rg3 and Bh6+ snaring the Black king. 23.Rf4 Bh5 24.e6 fxe6 25.Rg3 Kh7 26.Rh4 Qf7 27.Rg5 Rg8 The rook lifts are stretching Black to the max. If now 27…Rh8 White crashes through with 28.Rgxh5+! gxh5 29.Rxh5+ Kg7 30.Rg5+ Kf6 31.Qe5+ Ke7 32.Rg7 Rag8 33.Qc7+ Ke8 34.Qxf7+ Kd8 35.Qd7# 28.Kf1! The quiet moves in chess are always the killers! With the calm and simpe solution if the king shuffle to the side to get off the g-file and the potentially embarrassing discovered check, Muzychuk renews her winning threat of a Rxh5+! 28…Qf3 Muzychuk has successfully trapped her quarry. If 28…Raf8 29.Rgxh5+ gxh5 30.Rxh5+ Kg6 31.Rh6+ Kg7 32.Qg3+ Qg6 33.Qxg6# 29.Rhxh5+! [see diagram] The final sacrificial flurry sees the end come similar to previous notes. 29…gxh5 30.Qc7+ Kh8 31.Qe5+ Kh7 32.Rxh5+ Kg6 33.Qg5+ Kf7 34.Rh7+ 1-0