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It is an almost senseless challenge to describe GM Vladimir Kramnik in only a few lines. His personality has too many facets; his areas of interests are too diverse. What is clear is that Vladimir Kramnik is not solely fixated on chess. At 38, he enjoys a peaceful life in Paris with his wife and two children keeping intact the same ambition of those younger years as World Champion.
Current affairs interest him just as intensively as numerous sport and cultural activities, several of which he regularly engages in. The cosmopolitan would love to enjoy life ever more intensively, but his drive to succeed holds this inclination within limits. What is it that marks out the world champion in him even though he doesn't focus exclusively on chess?
GM Vladimir Kramnik, World Chess Champion 2000-2007
Kramnik considers chess as the art of carrying out a long-term plan
People close to Kramnik, who presumably works less intensively for chess than most of his competitors, often claim that this has something to do with his creative nature and strategic gifts. Kramnik considers chess less as a sport and more as the art of carrying out a long-term plan. The harmonious interplay of his pieces and the beauty of his game are already legendary. He is always searching for creative and new solutions, particularly when he is playing.
In many games, they say, he sees things that no computer can calculate and no other grandmasters could discover. The ingenious ideas would come to him quite easily, providing him with moments of pure joy.
The artistic vein in the 34-year-old Muscovite must have been given to him in his cradle. His father Boris is a well-known sculptor; his mother Irina a music teacher. That this assumption is not far off the mark is evidenced by his response to the question, "What would you like to do after the end of your career?" The classical music aficionado and avid reader answered, "Start a family - and learn to play the piano." No wonder that journalists all over the world have dubbed Kramnik an "artist" or "painter".
Kramnik started to play chess at the age of five. At 12, his enormous talent was recognized in Moscow and encouraged. As a teenager, Kramnik got better and better – at only 16, he won the U18 World Championship.
The list of his victories is long. He has already finished all major tournaments in the world as the victor. And he holds a record which made sporting history: Kramnik was unbeaten at the highest level in 86 classical games over 18 months up to July 2000.
Kramnik sharing his experience with kids in Bahrain.
The road to the World Championship title
Thursday, November 2, 2000, London. Vladimir Kramnik became the 14th World Chess Champion with a brilliant 8.5-6.5 result against Garry Kasparov, who could not win a single game. After Garry Kasparov had congratulated him, the greatest dream of his life became true: World Chess Champion. Exulting, Kramnik threw his arms up into the air in triumph. The audience's applause and the subsequent tumult will not be forgotten.
It was a historic moment in the history of chess: Kramnik had not only won the lion’s share of the two-million dollar prize money; his victory had ended Kasparov's 15-year-long reign on the chess throne.
After this historic triumph, Kramnik notched up several major victories at prestigious tournaments such as Dortmund, Linares, Leon and Monaco.
Kramnik's games against Kasparov were always focus of great media attraction.
The first challenge to this title
In 2004, he faced off in another World Championship, this time in Switzerland: Kramnik successfully defended his title against the official challenger, Hungarian super grandmaster Péter Lékó. In a complex strategic battle, he pulled off a supreme coup, winning in the 14th game – the last in the match – with a 7:7 tie. Traditionally, the reigning World Champion has to be beaten outright based on points – the challenger Lékó came heart-wrenchingly close to doing so.
Kramnik retained his title in a hard fought match against Leko
2005 was a year of ups and downs for the World Champion. Kramnik was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, entered intense medical treatment, and disappeared from the tournament hubbub for six months. The break seemed to rejuvenate the Russian – at his comebackin the 2006 Chess Olympiad in Turin, he had the best individual score of all 1,000 participants.
The World Chess Title Unification Championship
In October 2006, Kramnik faced the biggest challenge: the unification match that would decide who the next unique, absolute World Champion would be.
Kramnik - Topalov match in Elista, opening ceremony
In a historic fight against all sort of adversities, Kramnik defeated Topalov to become the first unified World Champion after 1993, the one and only official World Chess Champion. His win in Elista was one of the most impressive victories in all of sports history.
Kramnik's message to all his fans
Vladimir Kramnik, Elista, 14 October 2006
Kramnik gets his WC trophy from the FIDE President
During 2007 Kramnik has kept very active in the World Chess scene. He has played in many events, like Wijk aan Zee, Monaco, matches against Leko and Aronian and Dortmund.
Kramnik is also very good giving lectures and commentaries
35th Dortmund International Tournament 2007
World Champion Vladimir Kramnik was the undisputed winner of the super strong 2007 edition of the annual Dortmund Festival. Kramnik finished with 5/7, undefeated. His victories were against Gelfand, Naitditsch and Carlsen.
Left to right Alekseev (3rd place), Leko (second) and Kramnik (big winner)
Anand becomes the new World Champion in México City 2007
In September 2007 Kramnik defended his title fighting bravely against 7 very strong challengers. It was a closed tournament, a double round robin event where Kramnik met Anand, Aronian, Leko, Gelfand, Grischuk, Svidler and Morozevich. Kramnik missed several wins in the first half of the tournament, then lost a critical game against Morozevich early in the second half. At the end of the event Kramnik played brilliantly defeating Leko and Aronian, but it was already too late, since Anand had accumulated many points so far.
At the very end Anand was first and Kramnik second, not enough to retain his title.
October 2008: The match against Anand
Following the regulations from the Mexico World Championship, Kramnik challenged Anand in a match to regain his title of World Champion. The match took place from October 14th-31 in the city of Bonn, Germany.
The spectacular playing hall in Bonn
Anand defended his title with a 6,5:4,5 victory. Vladimir fought very hard, he even won the penultimate game, adding extra tension to the match, but at the end Anand showed his best preparation to win the match.
Year 2009 events. Kramnik is back!
Kramnik gave the first clear indication that he was back! He played excellent chess at the Blindfold competition, sharing first place his two of the hottest players at the time, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian. In the rapid competition he was only half a point below the first place.
A few months later, in July, Kramnik won with authority the strong Classical Event in Dortmund, FIDE Cat XX, unbeaten, one full point ahead of the field.
The best result of the year for him was, however, the Tal Memorial Cat XXI, held in Moscow in November. Kramnik took clear first place, among a line-up full of super grandmasters, where nobody was missing. Ivanchuk and Carlsen shared second whike Aronian and Anand shared fourth.
To close up year 2009, Kramnik was second in the strong London Classical, where he lost a single game and won many.
A sensational win in the Final Masters of the Grand Slam circuit for 2010
It happened in Bilbao, Spain, during October. His opponents were Carlsen, Anand and Shirov. Kramnik took clear first with 4 out of 6, after beating Carlsen and Shirov, drawing all his remaining games.
Previously, Kramnik had played very well in Wijk aan Zee, where he was 2-3 behind Carlsen, ahead of Anand, Nakamura, Ivanchuk, Karjakin and many others.
Outstanding results in 2011
Kramnik went all the way to the semifinals of the World Champìonship cycle. Unfortunately, there he lost to Grischuk in the blitz tiebreaks, after their matches at both classical and rapid time formats had finished in a tie.
In July 2011 Kramnik was superb once again in Dortmund, Category 20 (2731), taking clear first with 7/10, a rating performance of 2868. In November he also won Hoogeveen, Category 20 (2732) with 4.5/6, unbeaten, this time an ever higher rating performance of 2903.
Up next came London, starting on December 3rd, where he made his best performance of the year by winning the stronger Category 20 event (2748) with 6/8, unbeaten, rising his rating performance to 2932 and more importantly ahead of his main adversaries, Magnus Carlsen, Wiswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian.
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(Updated 1. March 2017)