Teenage prodigies Dronavalli Harika and G Rohit all but confirmed their individual Grandmaster norms after commendable performances in the eighth and penultimate round in the Aerolfot International chess tournament in Moscow [ Images ] on Friday.
Woman Grandmaster Harika, looking for her maiden GM norm, held Andrei Volokitin in the 'A1' section while Rohit also inched closer to what would be his second GM norm, defeating Tigran Nalbandian of Armenia in the 'A2' section, being held simultaneously.
Both Harika and Rohit need just draws in their final round games to achieve the feat.
It turned out to be a better day for Indians as Krishnan Sasikiran and National champion Surya
Shekhar Ganguly scored contrasting victories in the A1 section.
Drawing his fifth game in eight rounds was former World Junior champion P Harikrishna while S Vijayalakshmi was comprehensively beaten by world's youngest Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi, who incidentally scored his first victory in the event.
But draws were the order of the day despite some very interesting games.
The Russian trio of Evgeny Tomashevsky, Evgeny Alekseev and Dmitry Jakovenko remained in joint lead on six points.
Harika, Sasikiran and Ganguly have four points apiece.
In the 'A2' section, the lead changed hands as Russian Marat Askarov downed Uzbek Safin Shukhrat to emerge the new leader.
Abhijit Kunte was held to a draw by Al Sayed Mohamad of Qatar in quick time while Deepan Chakravarthy continued on the recovery path to beat Pogos Nakhapetiane, another Russian.
The day however belonged to Rohit, who emerged as the best Indian performer in this section on 5.5 points. Chakaravarthy and Kunte are a close second on five points with just one round to come.
Harika played white against Volokitin and her solid approach yet again held her in good stead.
Playing a queen pawn opening, the Andhra girl was never in any serious trouble even as Volokitin sacrificed a rook to obtain what turned out to only optically decisive-attack.
Harika thwarted all attempts by Volokitin to improve further and the Ukrainian could only force a draw.
Sasikiran scored a smashing victory over Li Shilong of China, who played black and was outdone in quick time.
The Indian did not waste much time in the opening and used barely 20 minutes for the first 25 moves to reach a complicated position where the Chinese erred and did not get a second chance.
Ganguly played white against Safarli Eltaj of Azerbaijan and faced the Sicilian Najdorf.
The Indian got a subtle advantage out of the opening and nurtured it quite well till the end of the game.
After an excellent start that fetched him two victories in the first two rounds itself, this was Ganguly's third victory in the tournament.