1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 c5 After few hesitations (Black could have played c5 one move earlier while White could have prevented it with 4.d4) we have reached a position that had never occured in the practice of the two players before. Not with these colours, to be more precise, since Aronian was generally succesful against it when playing with White.
5.0-0 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.Be3 Nbd7 10.Rac1 Rc8 11.b3 a6 12.Rfd1 0-0
13.Qd2 [During the last year, there has been an intense theoretical discussion about the slightly extravagant plan 13.Qh4 Rc7 14.Bh3 Qb8 15.g4 However, Aronian failed to obtain an advantage with White in a recent game, which might have inspired him when he made his opening choice for the present game. 15...e6 16.g5 Ne8 17.Bg2 b5 18.Ne4 bxc4 19.bxc4 d5 20.cxd5 Bxd5 21.Nc5 Nxc5 22.Bxc5 Nd6 23.Rb1 Qxb1 24.Rxb1 Rxc5 25.Qa4 Ne4 26.Qxa6 Rc2 27.Qd3 Rxa2 28.Rc1 Rfa8 and Black had excellent compensation for the queen and soon got the upper hand in Aronian-Kramnik, Saint Vincent 2005.]
13...Ne4 [Technically speaking, this is a novelty, although everything is relative in such an opening that allows all kind of transpositions. Usually, Black refrains from exchanging knights at such an early stage of the game. The flexible approach based on 13...Re8 14.Bh3 Qc7 or 14...Rc7 followed by Qb8 is more popular. In principle, Black needs both knights in order to defend his pawn weaknesses.]
15.Ne1! [A strong move, taking advantage of the concrete circumstances of the position. Curiously, the more stereotype continuation 15.Bh3 Rc7 16.Nd4 Qb8 17.f3 Bb7 would lead by a huge transposition to the game Rogozenko-Ionescu,C Bucuresti 1999. After 18.Nc2 b5 19.Na3 bxc4 20.Nxc4 Ne5 21.Nxe5 Rxc1 22.Rxc1 Bxe5 23.Qb4 White maintained a microscopical advantage which he failed to convert into a full point.]
15...Nf6 Since the exchange on g2 would only help the knight approach the strong d5-square, Black prefers to maintain the tension. However, the transfer of the knight to the king side will leave Black with micro-problems on the other wing.
16.Bh3 Rb8 [Here is the first consequence of Nf6: Black cannot play the generally desirable 16...Rc7 any more.]
17.Nd3 Ba8 [With the rook on b8, 17...Bb7 looks less appealing, but this might have been a lesser evil, since now the a6-pawn will be vulnerable.]
18.f3 e6 19.Bf2 Re8
20.Nb4! Suddenly, Black cannot defend all his weaknesses.
20...a5 21.Na6 A courageous move, based on precise calculation.
21...Rc8 [Unfortunately for Black, he cannot defend his d6-pawn by indirect means with 21...Rb7 because of 22.c5! (22.Qxd6? Rd7 ) when after 22...bxc5 23.Nxc5 the only way to defend the d6-pawn would be 23...Rb6 which would lose the a5-pawn instead.]
22.Qxd6 Qxd6 23.Rxd6 White has won a pawn but the position remains complicated, since some of his minor pieces are misplaced (Na6, Bh3).
23...Nd5!? 24.Rd1 Nc3 25.R1d2 b5 26.Rd7 Be5 27.cxb5 Nxb5 28.Bf1 Bc6 29.R7d3 Na3 30.f4 Bf6 31.Nc5 Be7 32.Rd1 Nb5 33.Na4 Be4 34.Rd7 Bb4 35.Bg2 Bxg2 36.Kxg2 Rc2 Finally, Black has managed to obtain certain counterplay along the c-file, but White will create strong threats by doubling rooks on the seventh rank.
37.Rb7 Na3 38.Rdd7 Rf8 39.Kf3 Nb1 40.Be3 Rxa2 Giving up the control of the c5-square allows White bring new reserves into the attack, but this might have been not easy to foresee right before the time control.
41.Bc5 Nd2+ 42.Kg2 Bxc5 43.Nxc5 White threatens Nxe6 with a decissive mating attack.
43...e5?! [As can be understood from the next comment, it was essential to clear the h7-square for the king with 43...h6 . Black would be worse, but still breathing.]
44.Ne6 exf4 [Black might have missed the fact that 44...Re8 can be stringly met by 45.Re7 when the capture on e7 is impossible because of the weakness of the back rank (here is where h6 would have been useful). After 45...Rc8 46.Rxf7 White mates in a couple of moves.]
45.Rxf7! A simple but elegant combination to finish a well played game. Black cannot avoid mate. 1-0