csmath: 4. ...c5
["Delayed Tarasch" with white Catalan fianchetto, this is not very often to see on top level. However this is suitable for aggressive style of Aronian.]
[Strange move from Li Chao. His setup is not very ambitious which is not a surprise but it is also not a good idea against Aronian.]
The opening quickly leads to a middlegame with black unchallenged clearly having solid position with some pawn weaknesses that cannot be attacked as white is tied to defend his b-pawn.
[More akward positioning of white pieces does not allow anything else than defence. Li Chao is playing for a draw.]
[Natural move underlining akward placements of white knights obstructing white queen.]
[Aronian decides to complete development with knight rather than trying 12. ...Rd8. His judgement is correct as even though white played bizzare opening it seems that after 13. Nb5 Nc6, 14. N1a3! a6, 15. Nc3 Na5, 16. Na4 and white can complete his development without weakness.]
[White misses unique opportunity to play equal game with 13. Bxc6 bxc6, 14. Nxc6 Bb7, 15. Ne5. Black will be able to defend the pawn or to exchange it on c3 after which the game would likely be a draw.]
Now black is better although it is hard to see how to exploit that. Li Chao makes it easier on Aronian.
[Yet another surprising anti-positional move closing bishop's diagonal and creating long-term pawn weakness. White plans to remove black knight from f6 while the black rooks are away from d-file and thus to assume control of central files (c and d). However black is faster.]
[Aronian does not miss such an active move. The rook will now control 4th rank with deadly effect.]
[Forces white into defence.]
[Typical move but 21. ...c3 was probably better. This move allows white to block c-pawn with 22. Rc3.]
[Li Chao follows his plan but this is not the time. 22. Rc3 was absolutely necessary.]
[Yet another move creating more weaknesses (square e3) which is actually a pawn sacrifice. Sadly, there was nothing else:
23. a3?! c3!
24. Nxc3 Rd4
25. Rcd1 Rbd8
and black will get d-pawn since 26. f4? gxf4, 27. gxf4 Ne3, 28. Rd2 dxc3!! 29. Rxd8 Ke7 loses a piece due to the threat of promotion. There is little doubt that Aronian would miss that.]
Li Chao balances on the edge.
[Expected move but powerful nevertheless. Black now controls 4th rank and breaches into defence of white king.]
[31. h3 suggests itself to release pressure on white king and although it is not making defence easy: 31. ...Rf5, 32. Bxg4 hxg4, 33. hxg4 Rf1+ , it is surely more resilient.]
[Finally a losing move. However white is already about to lose exchange and the game does not look promising for him at all.]
[Aronian is not missing anything. The threat is 32. Kxh2 Rh4+, 33. Kg1 Rxg3+, 34. Kf2 Rgh3 with decisive material advantage including a passer on h-file.]
and with a multitude of mate threats Li Chao resigns in two moves. For example: 34. Rxh5 Rg4 and white is completely defenceless against Rg1.
Bizzare opening of Li Chao and even though he was not objectively worse after 12 moves his middlegame play produced enough weaknesses for Aronian to prove his class.
Excellent and merciless execution by world #2.