Today we will wrap up the series on how to convert an advantage according to Kramnik. This article is the seventh installment on this topic. Last week I showed you several of my games from the recent World Open, where I had a chance to practice what I have learned from Kramnik's games. Today I will show you four examples from my games played at the recent USA - China match in Ningbo, China from July 18-28th. Although the USA team lost the match, it was a great international and a team experience for me. I also had a really good time there as the organization of the match was at the highest level.
The Chinese women's team consisted only of 2400+ players, with top two players belonging to the top 20 women in the world. Naturally I felt a bit intimidated playing such a high level of opposition, and I ended up with four draws and one loss in the standard time control competition.
Here is my game against Wang Jue where I slowly built up an advantage. The diagram position is about equal, but maybe one can give a small edge to White, who after all has a central pawn. Eventually Black ended up with a bad bishop on g7, and I got the advantage of the two bishops as well.
At a critical moment I did not find the correct bishop retreat and the game ended in a draw. If I had realized that the BR v. BR endgame is a draw, then I would not have allowed the bishop for the knight swap. It is crucial in endgames to know which pieces to trade and which to keep. Kramnik is very well versed in this area and I should study his games more to improve this aspect of the game!
In the next game Tan has a small edge as my rooks are a bit passive and the pawn on a3 can become a real weakness. The c-pawn can be a strong passed pawn but also can turn out to be a weakness; it is hard to asses now what will happen. My bishop controls the important b8-square, not allowing Black to seize the b-file, while the black knight on e6 is well placed as it protects the c5-pawn.
After some moves we exchanged a pair of rooks and my rook became active on a4. When the kings joined the game it turned out that the c-pawn was a weakness. Trading rooks favored me as the B vs. N endgame was much better for me due to pawns being present on both flanks.
In a key position I did not find the zugzwang idea that could have resulted in a winning position. Instead, I chose a different continuation that let Black clinch a draw. I feel like in this game I was patient enough to build up the advantage but that I was not decisive enough at the critical moment. Kramnik has a good feel for those critical moments where either a pawn break or a sacrifice decides the game.
I lost all three games - one at the classic time control and two rapid - to a top-10 player: Ju Wenjun.
The last game was very close and I felt like I should have drawn but instead was I outplayed like a baby in the N vs. B endgame. From the above endgame vs. Tan we already know that it is not a good idea to exchange rooks in a position where White has a space advantage and where the bishop will dominate the knight. In the position below I could have exchanged the minor pieces what would result in an easy draw.
Instead, trading rooks was a mistake as the defense of the position with no time is non-trivial. I should have found the fortress with the knight on f6 and the king on c7-d8 but instead put my knight on f7 where it can be easily attacked by the bishop. Once again the topic of which pieces to exchange and B vs. N happened and I was not at my best. Some material to study!
The last example shows how I had a small edge as Black and decided to force a draw instead of patiently building up the position as Kramnik would have done. One has to realize that White has no way of improving his pieces. Black has a better pawn structure and the f5-push will become a threat sometimes. The black rooks are well placed attacking both of White's weaknesses. Finding h5-Kh7-f5 is not that hard as it is a very standard plan. The only explanation for my decision is that I was worried as this was the first rapid game and I wanted to start well.
There is so much more that one can learn from observing Kramnik's technique, but we shall close this topic for now and move on to some other series next week.
Here is another photo of the U.S. women's team during the free day:
L-R Sabina Foisor, Tatev Abrahamyan, Viktoria Ni, Alisa Melekhina, Iryna Zenyuk