Converting advantages : A piece up
This is about the most common and most important advantage converting for amateur chess players : A piece up.
What does it mean a "piece up" ? In this case it means we are either a bishop or a knight up.
In some positions it is really easy to convert this advantage when :
- The opponent has no counterplay whatsoever
- The opponent has no material compensation at all
- The opponent has some material compensation, but it is not sufficient at all. For example : in case of 2 or 3 pawns in exchange for the piece, the pawns are far away and not so strong.
What is important to learn how to convert the advantage of being a piece up ?
- Don't just apply rules of thumbs, but evaluate the position first. The rule of thumb that "trading all pieces when being a piece up will simply win" does not always apply.
- Consolidate. Psychologically speaking there is generally a change of mood when one gets a piece up. If you have spend quite some time in building an attack, or gradually increased your positional advantage, and then get a piece up, then it is often a critical moment to change the mood. The danger is that one gets optimistic, feels a winning mood, and the concentration can get less. Maybe one starts to play faster and more careless, while the opponent, faced with a seemingly lost position, might become more concentrated and trying to squeeze every draw or winning attempt from the position.
- Find the right plan. Give yourself time to re-evaluate, and create the winning plan. Sometimes it is okay to win some time by manouver a bit, while trying to find the right winning plan.
- Give your opponent no counter play whenever you can. Learn about Prophylaxis from Aaron Nimzovich and improve your ability to spot the plans and ideas of the opponent and with that prevent any serious counterplay.
- Make all your pieces work together as a team. One badly placed piece can make a big difference.
Here are a few annotated games as examples.
First a game where things completely go wrong :
And here a game where things 1/2 go wrong :
Here a game where things go quite smooth :
Another one :
All in all, converting a piece up advantage into a win can be challenging, but is something which can be gradually learned, and one can improve the winning technique.
An idea is to work on it yourself by taking won positions, and play it against a weakened chess engine.
For example, you could take this real game position, and start practising to convert it into a win :
Or something like this :