In the following position white is down the exchange, but up a pawn. Stockfish 10 and Komodo 13.2 evaluate it at 0.00. My Question is essentially which side has the advantage(if any) and if so how would that side push for a win. I don't necessarily trust the engine in this position as it's a very imbalanced position.

[FEN "5rk1/6p1/2p2r2/p1pp2N1/P4P2/1P1P2P1/2P1R1K1/8 b - - 0 1"]
[StartPly "3"]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1... Rb8

First, I think that your lack of faith in strong computers is misplaced. My Stockfish 11 quickly gets up to a depth of over 40 ply, and still reads 0.00. Just because a position is imbalanced, it does not mean they are wrong. It would be a truly exceptional case at that depth for them to be wrong. That said, regarding your sentence about who has the advantage, it is clear that only black can legitimately try to win this. White should have no prayer of winning this, but nevertheless, as with any position, if you try too hard, you can lose; and I give several lines below where it is possible for black to push too hard, and lose, or at least, be worse. I have pushed like that in similar positions myself, so I can relate.

The evaluation of the position is such:

White has one pawn for the exchange, but has several other pluses. For example, not only does white have the move, in essence, white sometimes might have two moves since black might eventually have deal with the threat of Re8 mate in some lines (right now, Rf8 would work if the Rb8 moves off the back rank). Related to that, the Ng5 is a monster for now, and combines nicely with the Re2, which will be seen in a number of lines below, and white owns the file. Black also has very weak pawns spread out over three pawn islands, which give white a lot of targets to counterattack. Lastly, and we see this in a few lines, if g7 drops, the connected passers on g3 and f4 gain a lot of strength, and provide ample counterplay.

In contrast, black has the exchange, and the possibility of c4 seriously weakening the white queenside. Ideally, black should want to trade a set of rooks since R vs. N endings with pawns on both sides are often among the easiest endings to win.

There are a virtually unlimited number of possibilities here since they all read 0.00, so you can go down any number of paths, but that demonstrates that the computer sees a GREAT NUMBER of defensive resources since white is very active. That is not to say that there is not the opportunity for a lot of play. Equal here does not equal a "dead draw" by any means.

I am going to give the two main plans that I can see for black: Trying to trade a set of rooks, and playing c4.

 [FEN "1r4k1/6p1/2p2r2/p1pp2N1/P4P2/1P1P2P1/2P1R1K1/8 w - - 0 1"]

 1. Kf3 Rff8 (1... c4 2. dxc4 dxc4 3. bxc4 $1 {This look very weakening, but white is active enough to maintain the balance.} Rb4 4. Re8+ Rf8 5. Re7 {Only move.} Rxc4 6. Ne6 Rf6 (6... Rf7 $2 7. Re8+ Kh7 8. Ng5+ Kg6 9. Nxf7 Kxf7 10. Rc8 Rxc2 11. Kg4=) 7. Rxg7+ Kh8 8. Re7 Kg8 (8... Rxc2) 9. Rg7+ Kh8 10. Re7= Rxc2 $2 11. g4 $16) 2. Ne6 Rfe8 3. Nxc5 Rxe2 4. Kxe2 Kf7 5. c3 Ke7 6. Kf3 Rh8 (6... d4 7. cxd4 Kd6 8. f5 Kd5 9. Ke3 Re8+ 10. Ne6 g6 11. g4 gxf5 12. gxf5 Re7 13. Kf4=) 7. Nb7 Kd7 8. d4 Rh2 9. Nc5+ Kd6 10. b4 axb4 11. cxb4 Rb2 12. a5 Rxb4 13. a6 Rb2 14. f5 Kc7 15. Ne6+ Kd6 {Only move.} (15... Kb6 $4 16. Nxg7 Kxa6 17. f6 Rb8 18. Ne6 $18) 16. Nxg7 c5 17. dxc5+ Kxc5 18. g4 Ra2 19. Ne8 Ra3+ (19... Rxa6 $4 20. f6 $18) 20. Kf4 Ra4+ 21. Kg5 (21. Kf3=) 21... Rxa6 22. f6 Ra7 23. Kg6 d4 24. f7 Rxf7 25. Kxf7 d3 26. Nf6 Kd4 27. g5 d2 28. g6 d1=Q 29. g7 Qb3+ 30. Kg6=
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  • Almost midnight here, so I will address any comments in the morning. – PhishMaster Mar 8 at 4:40
  • @Phismaster I didn't say that the evaluation is wrong I just meant that I was really surprised that the engine gave it exactly 0.00. Also Is there a way for white to use the slightly more active king to create threats against the weak pawns(g7, doubled d pawns) – SubhanKhan Mar 8 at 7:25
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    @SubhanKhan But you said you did not "trust" it, which is why I said that. Any plan with bringing the king up TO ATTACK is destined to fail since it is too slow, and black can always keep the white king out. That said, bringing the king up still makes sense because you can see that in those lines where black pushed too hard, the white king can possibly help advance the f-pawn and g-pawn. – PhishMaster Mar 8 at 10:44
  • By the way, although I definitely use a computer when answering these questions, I also add in a great deal of human experience at the master level. I use my judgment FIRST, but then the computer because it analyzes so much better than I can. It is like "advanced" chess. – PhishMaster Mar 8 at 10:46

I would much prefer to play Black.

Rb4, then pawn c4 looks like a very promising break.
But then I am not a GM.

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  • It most cases this plan leads you to lose the Pc5 before your intended break with c5-c4. E.G. 1.Kf3 Rb4 2.Re8 Rf8 3.Rxf8 Kxf8 4.Ne6 Ke7 5.Nxc5, and it is still drawish, but I would prefer to sit behind the White pieces here. – Evargalo Mar 9 at 8:42

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