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Cairns Cup R08: Humpy takes sole lead and inches closer to the title

by Satanick Mukhuty - 16/02/2020

The fight for the top spot escalated to an altogether different level in the penultimate round of Cairns Cup 2020. On one hand Koneru Humpy thoroughly out-prepared Valentina Gunina in the opening and demolished her in a mere 35 moves, while on the other the 16-year-old Carissa Yip stole the show by beating the reigning World Champion and top seed Ju Wenjun. Elsewhere, Alexandra Kosteniuk too continued to be a class act by taking down Nana Dzagnidze with some brilliant show of technique. The strongest women's tournament in the history of chess will thus enter its ninth and final round with four players in contention for the first place. Humpy is in sole lead with 5.5/9, Kosteniuk follow her just half a point behind, and Ju Wenjun and Mariya Muzychuk share the third place with 4.5/9 each.

The Cairns Cup 2020 has delivered some of the most dramatic plot twists so far but its penultimate round exceeded all its previous rounds in thrill and action. Valentina Gunina was caught totally out of her depth in a line of the Meran Semi-Slav against Koneru Humpy which the latter had actually played back in 2006 to beat Anatoly Karpov. Humpy was in her best element and she unleashed an absolute rampage on the Russian to clinch a thumping victory. The other shocker of the day was the lowest seed of the event Carissa Yip beating the top seed Ju Wenjun.

The electrifying eighth round of the event yielded three decisive games in all. The two draws too were well-fought and exciting. 

Humpy in sole lead and close to the title !!

Koneru Humpy has already surpassed the reigning World Champion Ju Wenjun in live ratings and has taken the sole lead in the event with her sensational victory over Valentina Gunina. She is up against compatriot Harika Dronavalli in the last round and a draw for her is good enough to secure a clear or joint first place finish. 

According to the latest live ratings Koneru is only second to Hou Yifan of China and has already overtaken the reigning World Champion Ju Wenjun. 

First winning the World Rapids in Moscow and now on her way to win the strongest women's tournament in history, Koneru Humpy is on the roll! | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club 
Gunina repeated the same line that Karpov had played (and lost!) against Humpy 14 years ago, the result therefore was an unsurprisingly quick one-sided demolition. Check out the analysis of this encounter in detail by IM Sagar Shah and replay the full game below.

Carissa Yip out-played Ju Wenjun in almost all departments of the game. She found a very comfortable position out of the opening and then went on to punish her opponent heavily for her inaccuracies | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Nana Dzagnidze found some edge out of the opening but Kosteniuk bounced back and soon took charge playing the middlegame and endgame with surgical precision | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Harika Dronavalli had some troubles against Mariya Muzychuk but she defended well to ultimately force the split of points | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Irina Krush once again fumbled after seizing an absolutely crushing advantage against Kateryna Lagno. The game ended in a draw after a gruelling 78-move long battle | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Standings and final round pairings

Humpy is the sole leader as of now and in the final round all eyes will be on her.

With four players in contention for the first place, the final round is expected to be really exciting