This article is the one before the last on how to convert an advantage according to Vladimir Kramnik. In the last five articles we explored the methods which Kramnik uses that lead to effective advantage conversion in better positions. Most of the time he chooses the most principled plan, even if it involves heavy tactical calculations.
In slow positions the most principled continuation might be improving pieces, while in sharp positions it would be tactical blows such as pawn breaks and piece sacrifices. Today I will show you a few examples from my games from the recent World Open where I played in the U2400 section. Generally, I feel that studying Kramnik's games greatly helped my technique and I think I collected many points in this event due to this newly improved part of my game.
In the first example, I am better due to centralized pieces and a badly placed black king. However, the black pieces are active too and with the last move 24...f5 my opponent put me into a position where I had to calculate a lot of lines. During the game I went for the most practical solution Rxd7, which is not the strongest. The reason for not choosing the strongest Rd6 is that I couldn't evaluate the resulting position in the end of the variation. It is not that complex, but it was hard to figure out whether Rxd7 or Rd6 gave a bigger advantage.
In the following position from the second round I have a huge advantage but my king is open and it is not that simple. Here I managed to implement a small combination that led to a victory right away. We already saw that small combinations are part of Kramnik's routine for converting an advantage.
The World Open at the Crystal City Hyatt, just outside of Washington, D.C. | Photo Chris Bird
In the third round game, I was very happy with two bishops. The queen and the bishops control the entrance squares on the c-file, so the black queen cannot really become too active. There is no simple way to win this position directly but one of the plans is to put the bishop on d6 and get the queen to c7, where it will attack the a7-pawn. For now I can threaten the black king with the battery along the a3-f8 diagonal. Black gave up the pawn in the game, but I had the challenge of deciding on winning this pawn or instead a knight, but with a messy position. I chose the right continuation because my calculations this time proved to be correct.
The next example is from the seventh round, where I am a pawn down in a knight ending. I held the position fairly easily with the idea of a piece sacrifice. Although this has nothing to do with converting an advantage, I think this example can fit into the category of "most principled plans and correct calculations". I feel that studying Kramnik's games gave me the courage to pursue these forced variations while not being afraid of miscalculating them.
In the last example White is better because the black pieces are poorly placed, especially Ba8 and Qa5. My knights are bishop are very active, the a6-pawn can be a potential queen and the rooks and queen are also active. It is time to destroy the black king's cover, and the first two moves are obvious. However, how to proceed after? I didn't find the correct way to attack as it requires some queen maneuvering that is not so obvious.
Today we looked at some examples from my own practice at the recent World Open. Generally, my technique in converting an advantage is not that great, however I feel that studying Kramnik's games helped me with this part of the game. In the next article I will show a few examples from my play at the USA - China match, which is happening now in Ningbo, China.