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Koneru Humpy wins the strongest Women's tournament ever in the history of chess

by Satanick Mukhuty - 17/02/2020

Koneru Humpy has added one more feather to her cap by winning what has been reckoned as the strongest Women's tournament ever in the history of chess. The Cairns Cup 2020 concluded in St. Louis just a few hours ago with the Indian phenom finishing clear first with a score of 6.0/9 points. Alexandra Kosteniuk, who was Humpy's nearest rival going into the last round, failed to catch-up as she was effectively taken down by the reigning World Champion and top seed Ju Wenjun. Thus, in the final standings, Ju leapfrogged Alexandra and finished sole second, half a point behind Humpy. We bring you a brief express report highlighting the dramatic moment from the event's final day. The full report will follow soon.

Humpy does it again, wins Cairns Cup 2020!

She became the World Rapid Champion not many days ago in Moscow and there's absolutely no stopping for Koneru Humpy as she emerged a champion once again, this time winning the very prestigious super-tournament in St.Louis - The Cairns Cup 2020. Humpy made a good start in the event by beating the 16-year-old talent Carissa Yip in the very first round but had to suffer a bitter defeat immediately next, in round two, at the hands of Mariya Muzychuk. However the India no.1 didn't back up and kept her boat steady amidst all the ensuing chaotic plot twists to clinch an unbeaten five points in the next seven rounds. She was solid initially, at first drawing Ju Wenjun and Kateryna Lagno, but prompt in action eventually, getting the better of players like Nana Dzagnidze and Alexandra Kosteniuk. And finally, it was in the penultimate round that she found the chance to pull ahead of the rest by beating Valentina Gunina brilliantly. 

Humpy in action in the penultimate round | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Humpy needed only a draw in the last round to at least tie for the first place and this she managed today without difficulty by playing a solid line of Four knights opening against Harika Dronavalli. The game really didn't pick up any imbalances and the players in the end repeated the moves splitting the point peacefully.

Harika wasn't intent on pushing all that much in the last round | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club 

But while Humpy settled for her desired result without much fuss, Alexandra Kosteniuk was fighting it out against Ju Wenjun and hoping to catch-up on the top. But sadly, she found no luck. 

A final day peril for the Russian

Koneru was in no mood to take undue risks and therefore prudently went for a solid 29-move draw against her compatriot Harika in the final round of the tournament. She was fully prepared to go into the play-off which she knew would happen if Alexandra Kosteniuk managed to catch-up with her by defeating Ju Wenjun. But fortunately everything worked out like a dream for the 32-year-old Indian as Kosteniuk not only fumbled in the last round but also started going horribly wrong to be outplayed by her Chinese opponent.

Alexandra Kosteniuk was quite unpredictable in the entire tournament and the last round was no exception either as she blundered quite uncharacteristically in a Berlin endgame and went down against Ju Wenjun of China | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club 

Ju chose the super-solid Berlin against Alexandra with black pieces and got more than what she perhaps expected | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Koneru wins a prize money of 45,000 US Dollars (more than 32 Lakh in INR), while Ju, who overtook Kosteniuk to clinch the second place, takes back home 35,000 US Dollars | Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

Here are the final standings and prize money won by all the players.

Note: A detailed report with more photos and game analyses on the final round of the event will follow soon.