Swati Ghate achieved her third and final Women Grandmaster norm after defeating Enrique Osuna Vega of Spain after the ninth and penultimate round in the Gibetelecom Masters International Open chess tournament at Gibraltar.
National Champion Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly joined top seed GM Nigel Short of England at the top of the table with a crushing victory over GM Jonathan Rowson of Scotland. With just one round remaining in the tournament, both Ganguly and Short have an identical seven points and are followed by Pentyala Harikrishna and second seed GM Alexei Dreev of Russia, who are clubbed together on 6.5 points.
As many as seven players including GM Abhijit Kunte and GM Sandipan Chanda are still in contention for top honours, although the title will most likely be decided between Short, Ganguly, Dreev and Harikrishna.
The last round pairings are quite interesting. Short has a tough customer to beat in teenager GM Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia, floating up to someone who is a full point ahead as Short has played everybody in the nearest point group.
Harikrishna and Ganguly will battle it out amongst themselves and a keen tussle is on cards in this encounter while Dreev has a relatively easier opponent in Murray Chandler of England who is not seen much in major events these days.
Apart from fight for the championship, Swati made her visit here memorable by getting the third and final Women Grandmaster norm. The Indian, who made her first norm in Czech open at Pardubidce in 2002 and second in British championship last year, was obviously relieved to get her long overdue title.
Incidentally, Swati becomes the third WGM of the country in just less than three weeks. In the Commonwealth championship at Mumbai, young sensation Dronavalli Harika had completed the formalities of her final GM norm along with S Meenakshi.
Meenakshi's elder sister S Vijayalakshmi has the honour of becoming the first WGM of the country as Koneru Humpy, Aarthie Ramaswamy and Nisha Mohota followed.
The penultimate round was just fine from Indian perspective. Harikrishna, after getting a pounding at the hands of Short in the previous round, managed to hold Dreev with ease even as the highly rated Russian played black.
Tejas Bakre kept his final GM norm hopes alive after settling for a draw with GM Alexey Kuzmin of Russia. Tejas, though, has a tough task on hand as he needs a win against another Russian GM Aleksander Polulzahov in the final round.
Abhijit Kunte and Sandipan Chanda played out draws, albeit hard fought ones, with Scot Paul Motwani and English Peter Wells respectively while Dibyendu Barua drew with Serbian Bojan Vuckovic.
Amongst the Women, Vijayalakshmi scored over Andrew Dunn of England, Meenakshi cruised past Erne Hagesaether of Norway, Kruttika Nadig proved a notch above Jesus Andrades of Spain while Nisha Mohota was held to a draw by Adela Felloussi of Morroco.
Ganguly played with white and never let Rowson feel comfortable in his pet variation against Nazdorf. The middle game took shape in a position akin to the Sicilian Sveshnikov and Rowson found himself at sea in working out the right plan.
Playing attacking chess right through, Ganguly took Rowson king for a long walk in the final stages of the game and was threatening to win a piece by force when Rowson called it a day. The most absorbing battle of the day lasted 53 moves.
With black pieces, Short did not take risks against Epishin and drew without much ado in Tartakower variation of the Queens gambit declined, peace treaty was signed on move 30.
Important results round 9:
Vladimir Epishin (6, Rus) drew with Nigel Short (7, Eng); Alexei Dreev (6.5, Rus drew with P Harikrishna (6.5); Surya Shekar Ganguly (7) bt Jonathan Rowson (5.5, Sco); Paul Motwani (6, Sco) drew with Abhijit Kunte (6); Peter Wells (6, Eng) drew with Sandipan Chanda (6); Bogdan Lalic (5.5, Eng) drew with Murray Chandler (6, Eng); Ernesto Inarkiev (6, Rus) beat Antoaneta Stefanova (5, Bul); Andrew Muir (5.5, Sco) drew with Jonathan Speelman (5.5, Eng); Alexey Kuzmin (5.5, Rus) drew with Tejas Bakre (5.5); Bojan Vuckovic (5.5, Ser) drew with Dibyendu Barua (5.5); John Emms (5.5, Eng) beat Nigel Davies (5, Eng); Sarunas Sulskis (5, Ltu) drew with Pia Cramling (5, Swe); Mark Hebden (5.5, Eng) beat Mathias Womacka (4.5, Ger); Aleksander Poluljahov (5.5, Rus) beat Tatiana Vasilevich (4.5, Ukr); Colin Mcnab (5, Sco) drew with Joseph Gallagher (5, Sui); S Vijayalakshmi (5) beat Andrew Dunn (4, Eng); Nisha Mohota (4.5) drew with Abdela Felloussi (4, Mor); Swati Ghate (5) beat Enrique Osuna Vega (3.5, Esp); Erne Hagesaether (3, Nor) lost to S Meenakshi (4); Jesus Andrades (3, Esp) lost to Kruttika Nadig (4).