Chess - Koneru Humpy wins the second edition of the Cairns Cup

Koneru Humpy
Koneru Humpy

What's the story?

India's chess queen Koneru Humpy added another feather to her cap by claiming the title at the 2nd Cairns Cup held in Saint Louis, USA from 7th to 16th February 2020.

In case you didn't know

India's Koneru Humpy is a chess grandmaster and the current World Rapid Chess Champion. In October 2007, she had become the second female player, after Judit Polgár, to exceed the 2600 ELO rating mark with an ELO rating of 2606. In 2002, Humpy had become the youngest woman ever to achieve the title of Grandmaster (not solely a Woman Grandmaster) at the age of 15 years, 1 month and 27 days, beating Judit Polgár's previous mark by three months although this record was subsequently broken by Hou Yifan in 2008.

Her biggest achievement came in 2019 when she won the World Rapid Chess title. This win was even more incredible as she was coming back after a two year hiatus from the game of chess.

The heart of the matter

The 2nd Cairns Cup was held in Saint Louis, USA from 7th to 16th February 2020. The tournament was a nine-round classical event featuring 10 of the top women's chess players. With a total prize money of $180,000, it had one of the largest prize purse for a women's tournament. The top three finishers were supposed to get $45,000, $35,000 and $25,000 respectively.

The tournament field was led by World Champion Ju Wenjun (ELO Rating 2583) with Koneru Humpy of India as the 2nd seed with an ELO rating of 2580.

Humpy continued with her recent good form to claim the title. Going into the final round, she was leading by 0.5 points from her nearest competitor Alexandra Kosteniuk. In the final round, Humpy played out a comfortable draw with her compatriot Dronavalli Harika while Kosteniuk suffered a defeat at the hands of Ju Wenjun. This ensured that Humpy claimed the title with a clear margin. Harika who was seeded 5th at the start of the tournament lived up to her billing while finishing tied 5th.

Humpy made a bright start to the tournament by winning her 1st round match against Carissa Yip. But she suffered a setback in the next match as she lost to Mariya Muzychuk. After playing out draws in the next 2 matches, she bagged a creditable win against former World Chess Champion Nana Dzagnidze in the 5th round with black pieces and followed it up with another win against Kosteniuk. After drawing her 7th round match, she was again back to winning ways by beating Valentina Gunina in the next round. In the final round, she had a comfortable draw with Harika to end the tournament with 6 points and with it bagged the title.

Final Standings - 1. Koneru Humpy (6pts.), 2. Ju Wenjun (5.5 pts.), 3. Mariya Muzychuk (5 pts.), 4. Alexandra Kosteniuk (5 pts.), 5. Kateryna Lagno (4.5 pts.), 6. Dronavalli Harika (4.5 pts.), 7. Nana Dzagnidze (4 pts.), 8. Irina Krush (4 pts.), 9. Carissa Yip (4 pts.), 10. Valentina Gunina (2.5 pts.)

What's next?

It has been a good last few months for Koneru Humpy. The Indian star won the first event of the Grand Prix series in Skolkovo and got 2nd place at the second stage in Monaco before becoming Women's World Rapid Chess Champion. She has continued this run now by claiming first place at the Cairns Cup. We hope that she continues with this good form in the upcoming Grand Prix events and eventually goes on to become India's 1st female World Chess Champion in the traditional format as well.

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Edited by S Chowdhury
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