Veselin Topalov must have been feeling pretty good going into the penultimate round of the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters 2017. In the previous round, he had won with Black in order to join the leaders. Unfortunately for him, his bubble was to burst, as in this round he lost with White to very much scupper his ambitions.
The Bulgarian would play Spain’s David Anton Guijarro, who would employ Chigorin’s Defence against the Ruy Lopez. This worked out pretty well for him, too. He managed to equalise comfortably and was slightly aided by Topalov’s play, which seemed reserved and rather lack-lustre. Apart from an excursion with a rook to a7, White did not seem to attempt to make any inroads to the Black position and when this rook was quickly exchanged, seemed either unsure or uninterested towards any aggressive ideas.
Gradually Black’s position improved and Anton Guijarro was soon better. Upon Black’s 40…Qh6, White is struggling but Veselin’s 41.Qxh6+ Kxh6 42.Kf1 Kg5 resigns, seems surprisingly complicit. Things really can change very quickly in chess.
With this result, David Anton Guijarro took sole lead of the tournament going into the final round. However, a total of eight players were just half a point behind him and a further ten were within a point, so if he wanted to wrap things up, nothing less than a win would do in the final round.
By contrast, Ju Wenjun looked to have sealed the top women’s prize. Her win in this round over Sebastien Maze was a complete rout after Black’s 19…Nb8(??) and saw White win both of Black’s rooks in return for her bishops. This result puts Ju a point ahead of her nearest rivals, Antoaneta Stefanova and Yifan Hou among them. Even if disaster would happen in round ten, seeing Ju lose and one of her rivals winning, Ju’s tournament performance rating would likely decide things.