Converting Advantage According to Kramnik, Part 1
Last week we started the series of articles 'Convert an Advantage According to Kramnik' with an introduction. Today we will continue with the topic and explore some of Kramnik's games where he used Method 1: Maximally improve pieces, and then go for winning material or convert extra material.
Here Kramnik is up two (!) pawns but the weaknesses on a3 and c3 cannot really count as healthy pawns. Black's pieces are fully mobilized: both rooks aim at the weak a3 and c3 pawns and are in perfect coordination with the knight and queen. White's pieces are scattered and at the moment lack coordination. Kramnik masterfully brings his pieces together and then improves them to the maximum before delivering a final breakthrough.
Notice how Kramnik's initially inactive rook slowly moved to the a-file, then closer to the enemy ranks and finally occupied the 6th and 7th ranks. At no point was he in a rush to blow the center open. The Russian did that only after his rooks were maximally effective. Another conclusion to draw is that Black successfully defended against the passed b-pawn, so White had to create another weakness in in the enemy camp and did so by getting a passed d-pawn.
In the following example Black has a pawn majority on the queenside but these pawns are tied down by only two white pawns. The bishop on a5 is very strong as it controls the key d8-square, thus guaranteeing the control of the d-file. Black has a light-squared bishop and his pawns are on light squares on the queenside, which weakens the dark-squares. White has two bishops but the one on g2 does not do much yet. Let's see how Kramnik unwound this position to get a desirable endgame.
Once again we see the scenario of a domination: Kramnik brings his pieces closer and closer to the opponent's camp. In the end the endgame with two bishops is a very pleasant one, and should be winning maybe in 70% of the time. Once again, piece improvement first and all the other operations later!
In the next example White is up an exchange but down in development. It looks like the c6-pawn will fall sooner or later, so Kramnik needs to find a way to get his pieces into the game fast. He does this with a rook lift and pawn break to activate the bishop. Later in the game he exchanges a pair of rooks, which benefits him because he is up material. He finishes off the game nicely with a threat to go into a pawn endgame.
A static advantage like a passed pawn is long-lasting, while piece activity is a temporary advantage. In the next position Kramnik got a passed pawn, but didn't manage to convert it into something bigger at first because the black pieces were active and the Russian had to make few defensive moves. However, once Black ran out of active moves, Kramnik finished his development and decided the game with the passed pawn.
Next week we will look closer into some of the other methods seen in Kramnik's way of converting an advantage.