Cairns Cup 2020 & Colorado State Scholastic Championships

1:03pm Thursday, February 27th, 2020

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"We have a great year of chess still ahead of us with the Candidates in March and the U.S. Championships in April back here in St. Louis followed by our own Denver Open in May"

Here again, we have excellent John Brezina reports and fantastic photos from a stellar international event hosted by the St. Louis Chess club, and the same for a premier CSCA tournament. He recently attended the 2nd annual Carin's Cup in St. Louis and the CSCA Scholastic Championship tournament here in Colorado. We are privileged to have Mr. Brezina bringing us these reports from all over the world of chess, as well as from local tournaments here in Colorado. I couldn't be happier to once again select and caption the photographs. The heading photo is a great shot of the reigning Colorado Scholastic Champion, Akshat Jain, at the board. 

John Brezina's CSCA 2020 Scholastic Championship Report:


The 2020 CSCA Scholastic Championship in progress. 

Quoting John Brezina: "Hello Colorado chess fans, only two months into the year and already a busy year of chess. Big events such as Tata Steel and the Cairns Cup have finished with the much anticipated Candidates Tournament around the corner in March. And the recent Colorado Scholastic State Championships just wrapped up with an amazing 264 kids participating. I'm going to share my coverage of the second Cairns Cup in St. Louis but first I'd like to give a few words from the State Scholastic tournament that I had the privilege to photograph."


Parents and players mingling before the tournament starts. Chess parents are the best. 

"For the second year in a row, the event was held at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds. A great venue that has plenty of space to accommodate the players in one hall and the parents in another. Vendors were set up with apparel for sale, a Colorado State Chess Association table and a Chesskid.com booth run by Director Mike Klein with the help of local player Daniel Herman who analyzed games."


Daniel Herman about to analyze a young players game. ...


... and Mike Kline, of chesskid.com  fame, being at the tournament was just great.

"A commentary room was set up for the top boards of each section which were played on DGT boards thanks to our IT wizard Dean Clow. A new addition was a parent chess tournament which was fun to watch as well."


Tech wizard Dean Clow set up an excellent game display screen.

"This year's tournament was run by newly appointed scholastic director Lior Lapid who replaced long-time Colorado chess advocate and author Todd Bardwick. CSCA President Paul Covington would honor Mr. Bardwick during the trophy presentations with an award of exemplary service to Colorado chess."


CSCA President Paul Covington awarded Todd Bardwick a special trophy...


...inscribed with a fitting tribute.

"I was able to cover the end of round three, all of round four and the final round six. This year K-12 finals paired Akshat Jain against Griffin McConnell, same as last year. And the K-8 finals came down to Sullivan McConnell and Neil Bhavikatti, again the same as last year. And results were the same as last year, with Akshat Jain taking the State title and a place in the Denker Tournament for his final senior year over our new Colorado Junior representative Griffin McConnell." 


The great chess tradition of a handshake before the game.


Newly appointed CSCA Scholastic Director, Lior Lapid, is observing the Sullivan McConnell vs. Neil Bhavikatti game.

"His younger brother Sullivan took the title again from Neil this year, both of which will be a force in the next four years of this event. Of special note for me was the K-3 champion this year, Darshan Satishkumar, who won all six games and is a student from my Parker Chess Club. Congratulations to all the players in this well run tournament by a great staff and I have included all my photos from the event including the trophy presentations.  "


The pleased K-3 champion, Darshan Satishkumar. And I can't  stop myself from adding a few more photos...


... yes I'm cute...


... and I won two trophies :-) Trophies were presented by Paul Covington and Gracie Salazar...


... This young lady seems to be saying - Whatcha gonna do now, boy...


...and this young lass knows her pen is way cooler than his pencil...


... They ran out of tables and chairs, and paired me twice. No problem :-) 

See all of Mr. Brezina's terrific photos from this tournament: From Saturday  and Sunday . Do not miss seeing the award ceremony pictures near the end of the Sunday photos. Including this one:


CSCA Vice President, Kevin McConnell. Proud father of his sons, Griffin and Sullivan. 


The 2020 CSCA Scholastic Championship would not have happened without these dedicated people devoting their time and effort to make it happen. Thanks to you all. 

John Brezina's 2020 Cairn's Cup Report


Jeanne Sinquefield - the driving force behind the Cairn's Cup - along with Chief Arbiter, Anastasia Sorokina, making sure everything is just so before the games begin...


... and with everything in order, the games have begun. 

Quoting John Brezina: "Now onto the second annual Cairns Cup which was the highest-rated female tournament to date and featured Women's World Chess Champion Wenjun Ju. The four other new additions this year were World Rapid Champion Humpy Koneru of India, former World Champion Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine, former World Blitz Champion Kateryna Lagno of Russia, and finally the young American Carissa Yip."


Current Women's World Champion, GM Wenjun Ju from China...


Women's World Rapid Champion, GM Humpy Koneru from India...


 Former Women's World Champion, GM Mariya Muzychuk from Ukraine...


A stylish GM Kateryna Lagno. A former Women's World Blitz Champion from Russia...


...and WGM Carissa Yip, from the United States. Truly an international group of players.

"Round four had the teenager Yip paired with former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk who delivered the youngster her fourth consecutive loss. The most anticipated game was the current World Champion Wenjun Ju against last year's Cairns Cup winner Valentina Gunina."


The respect of a handshake at the end of the game between Wenjun Ju and Valentina Gunina.

"Their game remained rather balanced until Miss Gunina found herself in time trouble and missed a chance to hold, losing her third game while giving Miss Wenjun her first Cairns Cup victory. The other three games would all end in draws leaving Nana Dzagnidze in first place after four rounds."


GM Nana Dzagnidze at the chessboard, and ready to play.

"After their games, the players would head to the basement for interviews with Alejandro Ramirez along with fellow commentators Yasser Seirawan and Jennifer Shahade. All of which make a great and entertaining team to watch live online during the tournament. And for fans at the club, the best of both worlds by either enjoying the games in person near the players or next door at the Kingside Diner with the commentary team of Cristian Chirila and 2019 Denver Open participant Tatev Abrahamyan. After coming back upstairs to the main area of the club fans had a chance to get autographs and photos with the players."


The commentary team of Cristian Chirila and 2019 Denver Open participant, Tatev Abrahamyan. 

"And finally one last short interview by Chess.com contributor Nigarhan Gurpinar who awaited the players with questions from online fans. For the Pro Chess League fans, Nigarhan is also the manager of the Turkey Knights while St. Louis Chess Club assistant manager Mike Kummer leads the St. Louis Archbishops. And Mike was kind enough to pose with the trophy since having a Colorado connection to the Archbishops with Josh Bloomer."


Nigarhan Gurpinar interviewing GM Alexandra Kosteniuk...


...and here we see Valentina Gunina did not let her tournament score affect her spirit.

"Round five of the Cairns Cup would be an all-out battle royal with a rest day to follow. The Georgian leader Nana Dzagnidze was the first to fall to Humpy Koneru in a queen and bishop vs queen and knight endgame where the Indian player showed great technique. China's Wenjun Ju coming off her last round victory steered her game into a tactical slugfest where her Russian opponent Kateryna Lagno miscalculated and put  Ju in a tie for first. Joining her in first would be Alexandra Kosteniuk after defeating Ukraine's Maria Muzychuk in a back and forth struggle that ended with Maria flagging her clock in a lost position." 


 GM Harika Dronavalli observing the other games while waiting for her turn to move. 

"The struggling Valentina Gunina rebounded with an attacking win against Indian player Harika Dronavalli who failed to find a defense. And finally the all American match between veteran Irina Krush and the up and coming Carissa Yip. The young Yip having lost all games thus far looked to be in trouble again entering the endgame with her two rooks against a powerful queen. But her youthful tenacity paid off by coordinating her pieces and clinching her first point going into the rest day."


The youngster, WGM Carissa Yip, won a hard fought ending against the veteran, GM Irina Krush

"The four remaining rounds would be exciting and leave 1st place open until the end where Humpy Koneru would prevail and take the Cairns Cup title. Half a point behind in second place was Wenjun Ju, haunted by her only loss to the young American Carissa Yip in round eight. Despite a rough start, Miss Carissa showed some great potential with wins over the World Champion and seven-time U.S. women's champion Irina Krush. Coming in last place this year was last year's winner Valentina Gunina, who with six losses just never seemed to find her rhythm. Overall another great tournament with some fantastic chess where I found all the players to be quite courteous and a great inspiration to all the young girls playing chess."


John Brezina with Women's World Champion, GM Wenjun Ju.

"We have a great year of chess still ahead of us with the Candidates in March and the U.S. Championships in April back here in St. Louis followed by our own Denver Open in May. And there appears to be an exciting expansion of the St. Louis chess club as the adjoining two buildings are closed and covered with ads announcing "Our next move, coming soon 2021". Along with an ever-expanding World Chess Hall of Fame across the street, it appears to be an epicenter of chess for many years to come."


Beautiful chess sets are on display in the U.S. Chess Hall of fame. This one is unquestionably a work of art.


 ...as are these Star Wars inspired sets.

"Two of the latest exhibits I found interesting are "Ground Control: A Journey through Chess and Space" and "A Beautiful Game". Space fans are treated to space-themed chess sets and chess events from 1969 in connection with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. "


The tri-dimensional chess set used in the Star Trek series, 

"Of note is the Spassky victory in the World Chess Championships and the birth year of two future World Champions, Viswanathan Anand and Susan Polgar. And for you Trekkies out there, on display is a tri-dimensional chess set that Mr. Spock would often be seen playing Captain Kirk during the series. Space shuttle historians such as myself could enjoy a signed board by all 2010 U.S. Chess Championship players that flew aboard the Endeavour's last mission."


The signed board on display in the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.

"The reach of chess is not only global but also to outer space when Russian cosmonauts aboard Soyuz 9 played a game against American astronauts back on earth."


They could have found a little better set to use :-)


The St. Louis Chess Club just keeps getting better...


...it is a real classy place.

"I look forward to another year of chess coverage including our Denver Open in May. Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers that help run our Colorado tournaments and clubs that continue to grow Colorado chess - John Brezina, Parker Chess Club."

See all of Mr. Brezina's photos from the St. Louis Cairn's Cup tournament  

All of Colorado thanks you very much for these terrific reports, along with the professional grade photography, Mr. Brezina.  


Last Modified: 2/28/2020 at 9:02am Views: 520