Today we start wrapping up our series on converting an advantage according to Vladimir Kramnik. Over the last four articles we explored methods and techniques that Kramnik uses to efficiently convert the advantage in slightly better or winning positions. This article concentrates on games from his very recent practice, from the last half year or so, and features different techniques already discussed in the previous articles.
In the first position, a game from the Tal Memorial blitz tournament, we revisit pawn breaks as an effective means to realize an advantage. Black is underdeveloped and has weak dark squares all around. White has the bishop pair and space in the center. Obviously White is better, but what plan to choose to capitalize on this advantage? Opening files for the bishop pair is a logical follow-up, and Kramnik masterfully proceeds with this plan.
The e6-pawn cut Black's position in two halves and Black didn't manage to coordinate his pieces. Kramnik created a second weakness in the enemy position by winning the a6-pawn.
In the next blitz game against Alexander Morozevich, Kramnik sacrificed two pawns to get an attack on the black king. He opened the f-file with a pawn push forward, and this cleared the way for all white pieces. Did he have to be so radical in converting the advantage? After all, sacrificing two pawns is a high price?
Well, if the attack succeed White checkmates no matter how many pawns he is down. By normal means White will have a slight edge, but Kramnik went for a more ambitious and slightly risky continuation that required calculation, but especially for a blitz game it was the right decision.
Kramnik at the Tal Memorial blitz tournament last month
The next two examples are of a completely different nature: Kramnik is playing for domination instead of a direct assault. In the first position, against Michael Adams, Kramnik might be a bit worse in the starting position as White can force a draw in many lines. Instead, White plays for an advantage, presses too hard and ends up losing the game. Kramnik first avoids the exchange of minor pieces, then grabs space on the kingside and finally ends up with bishop vs. knight, where the knight does not have many squares to move to.
In the concluding example Kramnik has two knights for two bishops but the bishop on g6 doesn't participate much. White is better because he controls the d-file and because the white pieces are better placed. Kramnik first regroups his pieces to get a better grip on the d-file, and exploits the position of a better placed knight compared to the bishop. The endgame Q+N vs. Q+B has multiple zugzwangs where White wins with a pawn break.
As today's article shows, in his games of 2013 Kramnik converts advantages as well as ever, using methods of pawn breaks, tactics, domination and zugzwang. In the next article we will look at some of my games from recent practice where I applied some of Kramnik's methods.