World champion Viswanathan Anand's [ Images ] hopes of winning the Tal Memorial chess championship are all but over after playing out a draw against Hikaru Nakamura in the penultimate round in Moscow [ Images ] on Friday.
With his eighth consecutive draw in as many rounds in the 10-player round-robin tournament, Anand is almost out of the reckoning for a top finish, as he has only four points out of a possible eight.
He faces his World championship challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel in the next round.
Levon Aronian displayed immaculate technique and great determination to beat Peter Svidler of Russia [ Images ] and surge ahead in the points table with one round to go.
On a day when the other games ended in draws, Aronian took his tally to five points. He is followed by the Russian duo of Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi, Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and Magnus Carlsen [ Images ] of Norway, who all have 4.5 points each.
Anand holds the sixth spot while Russians Vladimir Kramnik [ Images ] and Peter Svidler are tied on the seventh with 3.5 points each.
Sharing the last place are Gelfand and Nakamura of the United States.
Against Nakamura, Anand tried to make his last white count but missed the opportunity.
Nakamura employed the King's Indian defense and faced the Saemisch variation; The Indian ace was soon in control after an unwarranted pawn advance by the American on the queen side.
Another inaccuracy by the American left the pawn hanging but Anand missed the opportunity and the game ended in a draw after 33 moves.
Aronian was in control right through a positional squeeze against Svidler. Not going for topical variations, Aronian chose a subtle line that gave white a minimal advantage and the grind was on for a long time.
Svidler went for passive defense when he should have been looking for counter play in the queen and minor pieces endgame and that cost him dearly.
With a remarkable knight sacrifice, Aronian created passed pawns that the Knight was unable to stop. The game lasted 54 moves.
In other games of the day, Magnus Carlsen could not avoid an equalising break through in the centre against Nepomniachtchi from a Sicilian Rossolimo and subsequent exchanges led to a draw by perpetual checks.
Vladimir Kramnik could not make headway after Karjakin defused the tension and drew in 43 moves while in a Semi Slav defense, Gelfand found a piece sacrifice to force a draw with Vassily Ivanchuk.
Results after round 8: V Anand (IND, 4) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 3); Vassily Ivanchuk (UKR, 4.5) drew with Boris Gelfand (ISR, 3); Magnus Carlsen (NOR, 4.5) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS, 4.5); Levon Aronian (ARM, 5) beat Peter Svidler (RUS, 3.5); Vladimir Kramnik (RUS, 3.5) drew with Sergey Karjakin (UKR, 4.5).