S Meenakshi became the fifth Woman Grandmaster of the country after settling for a quick draw in the eighth and penultimate round of the Commonwealth Chess Championships at Mumbai on Saturday.
On another board, Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay's wonderful run continued as he drove home yet another excellent result drawing with top seed Grandmaster Nigel Short of England.
With all the three overnight leaders, Thipsay, Short and Pavel Smirnov of Russia (6.5 points) settling for truce, the lead positions remained unchanged though the gap with the leading pack was reduced to just half a point by five players who closed in with hard earned victories.
While all the attention was on Thipsay's exploits against Short, 22-year-old Meenakshi achieved the Woman Grandmaster title settling for a quick draw with Vishal Sareen.
Younger sister of sub-continent's first Woman Grandmaster S Vijayalakshmi, Meenakshi, who had beaten Grandmaster Safin Shukhrat of Uzbekistan in the previous round was assured of the third and final WGM norm with one round to spare.
Meenakshi who made her first WGM norm in August 2002 at the British Championship and the second one at Asian team Championships at Jodhpur last April will be officially awarded the title in the next FIDE meeting.
"I am very happy and especially pleased as I thought it was already overdue," Meenakshi said.
Fourteen-year-old Abhijeet Gupta was not far behind in the achiever's list as he completed the formalities of his second IM norm after signing the peace treaty with IM Tahir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan. Abhijeet is now just one norm away from the International Master title.
Also attaining a milestone was Charudutt Jadhav, the only blind participant in the history of Commonwealth Chess. He is the first blind player from India to get the International rating.
On the main front, where the battle for the winner's purse of US $ 2500 is on, a close finish looks on the cards. There are three players on the top, while five more -- Dzhumaev Marat of Uzbekistan, Niaz Murshed of Bangladesh, Sergey Iskusnyh of Russia and Indians P Harikrishna and Lanka Ravi -- who have 6 points each are in strong pursuit.
Thipsay did not allow Short to get on top in their 61-move encounter where the Indian played white. The Brayer variation in the Ruy Lopez gave Short a roughly level middle game and it remained that way right till the endgame as Thipsay matched the mighty Short move by move.
Smirnov drew with British Champion Abhijit Kunte, who stood better in the middle game with his white pieces. However, after the exchange of queens there was not much left in the position.
Harikrishna beat Tejas Bakre in a keenly contested game while Niaz Murshed turned the tables on GM Koneru Humpy.
Important results - Round 8 (Indians unless specified):
Pravin Thipsay (6.5) drew Nigel Short (6.5, Eng); Abhijit Kunte (5.5) drew Smirnov Pavel (6.5, Rus); P Harikrishna (6) bt Tejas Bakre (5); S Kidambi (5.5) drew Fominyh Alexander (5.5, Rus); Abhijeet Gupta (5.5) drew Tahir Vakhidov (5.5, Uzb); Dzhumaev Marat (6, Uzb) bt S Roy Chowdhury (5); Koneru Humpy (5) lost to Niaz Murshed (6, Ban); Iskusnyh Sergey (6, Rus) bt Sudhakar Babu (5); Sharad Tilik (5) lost to Lanka Ravi (6); Somak Palit (5) lost to K Sasikiran (5.5); Sandipan Chanda (5.5) bt Anup Deshmukh (4.5); Gurpreetpal Singh (5) drew RB Ramesh (5); Vijayalakshmi (5.5) bt Ravi Hegde (4.5); Michelakis George (4.5, RSA) lost to K.Rathnakaran (5.5); David Gluckman (4.5, RSA) lost to MR Venkatesh (5.5); Varugeese Koshy (5) drew RR Laxman (5); S Meenakshi (5) drew Vishal Sareen (5); Rishipal Singh (4.5) lost to Poobesh Anand (5.5); Saidali Iuldachev (5, Uzb) bt D Harika (4); Stuart Conquest (5; Eng) bt Saptarshi Roy (4); SS Ganguly (4.5) drew Vladimir Feldman (4.5, Aus); Neelotpal Das (4.5) drew Jayant Gokhale (4.5); Atanu Lahiri (5) bt Sriram Jha (4); Mahmood Lodhi (5; Pak) bt J Ramakrishna (4); Devaki Prasad (4.5) drew Berezina Irina (4.5, Aus); Deepan Chakkravarthy (4.5) drew Lim Yee Weng (4.5, Mas); Nisha Mohota (4.5) drew Himanshu Sharma (4.5); Aarthie Ramaswamy (4.5) drew Dinesh Sharma (4.5); Chandrashekhar Gokhale (4.5) drew Sekhar Sahu (4.5); Yogesh Gore (5) bt Satyapragyan (4).