John Brezina's Cairns Cup Report

12:03pm Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

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Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield have and continue to do so much for chess. Elevating it to the professional standards it deserves.

Through his travels, John Brezina has become acquainted with many of the movers and shakers in the chess world. Including Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, founders of the of the St. Louis Chess Club. We all know the Sinquefield's are doing wonders for chess here in the United States. Most recently staging the Cairns Cup. Here is Mr. Brezina's report and photos from that event. I'm pleased that once again, Mr. Brezina allowed me to select and caption the photos. The heading photo is the World Chess Hall of Fame, located directly across the street from the St. Louis Chess Club.

Quoting John Brezina: "The St. Louis Chess Club continues to innovate and come up with new tournaments, and the Cairns Cup is the latest. For fans of the Sinquefield Cup, this is the women's version. Ten of the worlds best female players play nine rounds of classical chess with total prize payouts of $150,000.


The line up of players for the inaugural Cairns Cup

The inaugural event went very well, having the model of the Sinquefield Cup to follow. It will be an annual tournament and I see it becoming a premier event for women. February was picked as the chess calendar for worldwide tournaments is becoming quite full. A great time for professional chess players. Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield have and continue to do so much for chess. Elevating it to the professional standards it deserves. This time and era in chess is similar to the 1960's when Jacqueline and Gregor Piatigorsky elevated the game during the Fischer era.


Jeanne Sinquefield speaking at the opening ceremony.

The name for the Cairns Cup comes from the maiden name of Jeanne Sinquefield, a great way to honor her family name. The opening ceremony was held at the beautiful World Chess Hall of Fame which provided a great venue to meet and greet the players. In addition I met Randy Sinquefield and the great chess ambassador, Yasser Seirawan.


At the far left, Yasser Seirawan is enjoying the press conference.

Another gentlemen that makes many appearances and is doing so much for chess is Michael Khodarkovsky. Good friend of Garry Kapsarov and the President of the Kasparov Chess Foundation. He also works with the Grand Chess Tour and a VP on the FIDE board. A busy man that is always a joy to talk with.


Michael Khodarkovsky, on the left, with John Brezina. 

Members of the US Chess Women's Committee were present as well to announce a $100,000 grant from the St. Louis Chess Club to help promote girls in chess. Many would speak at the opening of the ceremonies including the honorary members, Jeanne and Rex. Master of ceremonies Maurice Ashley conducted brilliantly while Jennifer Shahade would introduce the players.


Maurice Ashley, on the left. Rex Sinquefield, center, and Jennifer Shahade  

The number one seed Alexandra Kosteniuk garnered much attention as well as our two American participants Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih. All the players were quite grateful and honored to be part of this inaugural event in their opening statements. Then came the drawing of lots where each player would choose a numbered collector chess piece, a Queen of course! Followed by more mingling and photo ops. Including all the players in the stairwell together. taken by Austin Fuller who shared this one, along with the others that include me.


The players with their collector chess piece. From left to right: GM Irina Krush, GM Valentina Gunina, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, IM Zhansaya Abdumalik, IM Elisabeth Paehtz, GM Marie Sebag, GM Nana Dzagnidze, GM Bela Khotenashvili, GM Harika Dronavalli, and IM Anna Zatonskih. 

I was only able to attend round one, but what a round! The tables were all set upstairs at the beautiful St. Louis Chess Club. There were many in attendance for the opening bell, which was rung by Carol B. Meyer, US Chess Executive Director. And of course making the ceremonial opening move, the honorable Jeanne "Cairns" Sinquefield.


Carol B. Meyer, ringing the opening bell, with Chief Arbiter, Carol Jarecki.


Ms. Sinquefield about to make the 1st move for GM Nana Dzagnidze. Seemingly asking GM Irina Krush what move she would like :-)

The players came out swinging in round one, with four decisive games. In addition to a great spectator experience upstairs, the Kingside Diner downstairs had a room with great commentary by WGM Tatev Abrahamyan and WGM Tania Sachdev. Both were great at analyzing each game live while taking questions and were very gracious with their time. I look forward to Tatev playing in our very own Denver Open in April.


WGM Tatev Abrahamyan commenting on the games. 

As many already may know, GM Valentina Gunina would finish in first place, half a point ahead of GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. Our very own Irina Krush would finish a respectable third. A great tournament I look forward to for hopefully many years.


The Cairns Cup winner, Valentina Gunina.


GM Alexandra Kosteniuk and GM Irina Krush are all smiles.

And across the street at the World Chess Hall of Fame another great exhibit coming to a close soon, the Harry Benson Kings & Queens. The "older" folks may remember Life magazines from years ago. Harry joined Life as a photographer in 1970 and shortly thereafter was tasked with following a rising American star, Bobby Fischer! Capturing many historic photos and befriending Bobby on his road to the World Championship title. In addition, Mr. Benson has photographed every President since Dwight Eisenhower, and most Kings and Queens in between, hence the exhibits title.



A sampling from the Harry Benson Kings & Queens exhibit at the World Chess hall of Fame.

Another wonderful time in St. Louis. Until next time, keep playing and helping spread our Royal game. Encourage and mentor young girls and boys to enter our wonderful world of chess. Let's keep surprising J.C. MacNeil with greater attendance numbers at the Denver Chess Club. And don't forget to register for the Denver Open at the end of April, as we will have some great players joining us that you won't want to miss!"

I can't thank Mr. Brezina enough for these reports and photos from the world class chess events that he attends. See all of his excellent photos from the Cairns Cup here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/xxzXiR2UazKdjcf27

In conclusion, let me add a couple of quotes about the St. Louis Chess Club. "Everyone in the world knows about this chess club." - GM Ben Finegold. "...the fact that they bring so many top, elite events to the U.S. Because of that, everyone is inspired..." - GM Maurice Ashley. "...now here in St. Louis, we are facing the renaissance of the great game of chess" - GM Gary Kasparov.


Is the St. Louis Chess Club a classy place or what ;-)

We can only hope the Denver Chess Club will one day rise to the level of what the Sinquefield's have done in St. Louis.

Thanks again to John Brezina. Thanks to the women players who made this a great chess tournament, and thanks especially to Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield.

J.C. MacNeil


Last Modified: 2/20/2019 at 3:02pm Views: 422