Kolkata: Soumya Swaminathan joined overnight leader Swati Ghate even as top seed Tania Sachdev made rapid progress climbing to joint second spot after the eighth round in the 40th National Women Premier Chess Championship here on Monday.
Both Swati and Soumya have 5.5 points apiece, while the trio of Tania, Mary Ann Gomes and Padmini Rout remain half-a-point adrift as the tournament is poised for an exciting finish with three more rounds remaining.
Playing white, Swati was in a better position with a winning endgame but Nisha escaped with a draw in a knight versus bishop ending.
Fortune favoured Soumya as she won from an inferior position against Bhakti Kulkarni, who missed a number of winning possibilities with black in a Center Counter defence as the she joined her fellow Pune player at the top.
Having started her campaign badly, Tania slowly made her progress as she outplayed G K Monnisha in a bishop ending that stretched up to 79 moves to keep herself in the fray.
Two-time defending champion and local favourite Mary Ann, playing white, was content with a draw against Padmini Rout of Odisha.
Eyeing a hat-trick of titles, Mary Ann thus remained unbeaten with six draws and two wins to brighten her prospect.