Round eight of the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters 2017, belonged to Bularian Grandmaster Veselin Topalov. The former World Champion took advantage of draws among the leaders in order to close the gap.
Veselin played Black against Israel’s Emil Sutovsky and got down to business in a Caro-Kann. Both players were trailing the leaders by half a point and with the tournament approaching its climax, needed to win if they wanted to feature in things at the end. Perhaps for this reason, both seemed to go for it.
Topalov did very well from his opening choice and perhaps feeling that the onus was on him, Sutovsky pushed with White. Unfortunately for him, he pushed a little too much and this led to Black getting the better position. It was Sutovsky’s decision to invest a piece in order to pass a pawn, however, that really proved fatal. 35.Na5(??) was invalid, Black having enough resources to parry the threat.
There followed 35…bxa5 36.Rc7 Qd8 37.b6 Ne7 38.Qc5 a4 and here we see the real consequence in that Black now possessed a passer of his own. This would begin to advance towards the queening square. White’s chances evaporated, his passer was eaten up and Black had the point on the board very quickly.
Elsewhere, the leaders of the tournament could not improve their positions. Anton Guijarro and Vachier-Lagrave debated an exchange Grunfeld, in which White was always slightly better. However, Black had enough in the endgame in order to make progress very tricky if possible at all. This included the two bishops, which began to come into their own on the open board. The players called it a day in 36.
Yu Yangyi and Hikaru Nakamura resolved their game slightly quicker. In the Queen’s Gambit Declined, the opening saw exchanges which left the position rather simplified. Further exchanges happened steadily and the players then repeated.
Apart from Topalov’s win, it was also shared spoils in the chasing group, which left a five-way tie at the top. The next round would be the penultimate day of battle, however, with lots still to play for.