Converting Small Advantages
I became enamored with Vladimir Kramnik's games shortly after I graduated high school.
In 2005, the 14th World Champion was nearing the tail end of a significant rating decline. Still, he seemed capable of producing masterpieces whenever he sat down at the board. The ever-present cast-iron logic behind his games made an impression on me, and I soon endeavored to "play like Kramnik."
The first thing I did was purchase Kramnik: My Life and Games. Kramnik published this work in 2000, so his World Championship matches are not covered. Nevertheless, this book proved to be a valuable resource. Kramnik's victories throughout the '90s reflected a style that always seemed to be in control of the position. In effortless fashion he would accumulate a number of small advantages, devise a plan for victory, and execute it with ruthless accuracy. With White, he was particularly unstoppable. A typical example from this period:
After a thorough study of Kramnik's games, I next sought to incorporate his openings into my repertoire. This meant learning 1.Nf3! As a 1.e4 player, this was quite a transition. With help from GM Alexander Khalifman's Opening for White According to Kramnik series, I eventually became a full-fledged 1.Nf3 player. I credit this switch as a big factor in making my IM title in 2006.
Since then, I'm happy to have produced a few Kramnik-esque games. One of these games was played during my sophomore year at the University of Texas at Dallas GM Invitational. My opponent, FM Keaton Kiewra, is a good friend of mine who recently achieved his second GM norm (congrats, Keaton!). My plan was to aim for a queenless middlegame in which I had a couple of small edges and chances to outplay my opponent...Kramnik style!
Here is a fragment from the blitz game I mentioned in the note to Black's 25th move:
Accumulating and converting small advantages is how elite players like Kramnik make their living. One can benefit a great deal from their expertise!