Victor Korchnoi, playing much of the game with no winning chances and in constant time trouble, held on yesterday to earn a draw with Anatoly Karpov in the eighth game of the world chess championship at Merano, Italy.

Karpov, the current champion, still leads three games to one, with the ninth game scheduled for this afternoon. There have been four draws between the Soviet champion and Korchnoi, a Soviet defector.

Yesterday's play was a continuation of a contest that was adjourned after Karpov's 41st move on Thursday, with Karpov holding a narrow edge. The contest continued through 80 moves, making it the longest in the series so far.

Korchnoi managed to take his pieces out of serious trouble twice during the contest through sharp play. "He was always below water in the game but always coming up for air," Reuter quoted international chess arbiter Daniel Weber as saying.

In the final position, both players had two knights, and Karpov, playing white, had one pawn but was unable to move it forward.

Here are yesterday's moves, beginning with Korchnoi's (black's) 41st:

41 . . . Ra8 (move sealed the previous night) 42. f4, exf4; 43. gxf4, Nb6; 44. Bf3, Rd8; 45. Be2, Na4;

46. Ra7, Rd7; 47. Kd2, Ne6; 48. Rxd7, Bxd7; 49. Bg4, g6; 50. f5, gxf5;

51. Bxf5, Kg7; 52. e5, Nf8; 53. Bxd7, Nxd7; 54. e6, Ndb6; 55. Nf4, Kf8;

56. Kd3, Nc8; 57. Ng4, Ke7; 58. Nh6, Kd6; 59. Kd4, Ne7; 60. Nf7ch, Kc7;

61. Nh5, c5 ch; 62. bxc5, Nc6 ch; 63. Ke3, Nxc5; 64. Nxf6, Nxe6; 65. h5, Nf8;

66. Ke4, Kb6; 67. Ng5, h6; 68. Nf7, Ne6; 69. Ne8, Nc5 ch; 70. Ke3, Na4;

71. Kd2, b4; 72. cxb4, Nxb4; 73. Nxh6, Nc5; 74. Nf5, Nd5; 75. h6, Ne4 ch;

76. Kd3, Ng5; 77. Kd4, Kc6; 78. Nfg7, Ne7; 79. Nf6, Ng6; 80. Nf5 (draw agreed to).