Indian ace Viswanathan Anand suffered two defeats but scored as many victories to stay in joint fifth place at the Tata Steel Rapid and Blitz tournament, a part of the Grand Chess Tour.
Reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen continued his dominating run as he took his lead to an almost unassailable five points and will need just two points from nine games to be played on Tuesday.
Carlsen currently has 21.5 points to his credit out of a possible 27 points. American Hikaru Nakamura is currently a distant second with 16.5 points followed by his compatriot Wesley So, who has 13.5 points.
Anish Giri (13) of Holland is in sole fourth place while Anand shares the fifth spot with Ding Liren of China and Nepomniachtchi.
P Harikrishna holds the eighth spot on 12 points, ahead of Armenian Levon Aronian (11) who in turn is a point ahead of last placed Vidit Gujrathi at this juncture in this $150,000 tournament.
Anand now has 12.5 points out and remains in contention for a berth in the Grand Finale of this tournament, to be held in London in December.
The five-time world champion started with a loss to Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi but then recovered well to beat Aronian and Wesley So in round two and four. The rest of the games were drawn except against Calrsen when the Indian suffered another defeat.
For Anand, it is crucial to remain close to Wesley, who is the closest competitor for the Grand finale of this tour. If he can keep the momentum and finish joint fifth or sole sixth place tomorrow he will qualify for the finale.
Wesley So will have to score heavily to beat Anand at the post. Also Aronian’s form is a concern and Anand may even finish third if he can pull off some fine results on the final day.
Standings after round 9 blitz: 1. Magnus Calrsen (Nor, 21.5) 2. Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 16.5); 3. Wesley So (Usa, 13.5) 4. Anish Giri (Ned, 13); 5-7. V Anand (Ind), Ding Liren (Chn); Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) all 12.5; 8. P Harikrishna (Ind, 12); 9. Levon Aronian (Arm, 11); 10. Vidit Gujrathi (Ind, 10).