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Last week’s $180,000 Cairns Cup at St Louis became a landmark for American chess when Carissa Yip, at 16 the youngest and lowest-ranked of the 10 players, outplayed China’s reigning world women’s champion and No 1 seed Ju Wenjun in impressive style.

Much earlier in her career Yip became, at 10, the youngest female to defeat a male grandmaster, but she had lost her first four games at St Louis and admitted to feeling “intimidated”. Then her play suddenly clicked and she finished strongly with 4/5.

Carissa Jip v Ju Wenjun Cairns Cup 2020. Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club/Austin Fuller
Carissa Yip plays against China's Ju Wenjun at the Cairns Cup © St Louis Chess Club

Ju Wenjun, who had fallen for the trap in this week’s puzzle the previous round, was caught at the start with a prepared line against her Ruy Lopez. Later, at move 39, Yip found a winning bishop sacrifice, and although Ju fought on the white position was hopeless.

China, Russia, the former Soviet nations and India, whose Humpy Koneru won the 2020 Cairns Cup half a point ahead of Ju, currently dominate women’s events, The US, with financial backing from its Maecenas Rex Sinquefield, aims to match them.

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Nana Dzagnidze v Ju Wenjun, Cairns Cup, St Louis 2020. China’s world women’s champion was two pawns up and on her way to victory until Black’s last move h4-h3?

It’s a three-part puzzle: (a) What was Dzagnidze’s next white move (easy)? (b) Why was it strong (not difficult)? (c) What did the disbelieving grandmaster commentator. so shocked that he repeated his question three times, ask his colleague (a little harder)?

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