World Champion Viswanathan Anand's hope of winning the Tal Memorial chess championship is all but over after the Indian played out a draw against Hikaru Nakamura in the penultimate round 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 in his kitty out of a possible eight.
Anand will face 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 and surge ahead in the points table with one round still to go.
On a day when the other games ended in draw affairs, Aronian took his tally to five points in all and is now followed by Russian duo of Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi, Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who all have 4.5 points apiece.
Anand holds the sixth spot while Russians Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler are tied on the seventh spot on 3.5 points each. Sharing the last spot are Gelfand and Nakamura of 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 and 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 misseed 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).