Candidates – Vladimir Kramnik (2810 – World #2)

3/14/2013 – He broke onto the world chess scene at the Manila Olympiad 1992, a 16-year-old protégé of Garry Kasparov, whom he defeated in the World Championship match 2000 in London. He was dethroned by Vishy Anand in 2008, where he stated that he was only "loaning the title to Anand". The London Candidates is a first step in retrieving it. Michael von Keitz provides a portrait and full statistics.

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Vladimir Kramnik (2810 – World #2)

One-time Champion of the USSR (1990), Vladimir Kramnik joins this year’s candidates as a veteran Top-3 player with a list of accomplishments that seems to run on for miles. As but one example, Dortmund, a marquee event on the calendar for decades, is “his” tournament, with ten titles to his credit. That, however, has hardly encumbered his results in a plethora of additional super-tournaments over the years. Even more importantly, this is the man who ripped the classical crown from the hands of Kasparov in the year 2000. Throw in his unwavering dependability as a teammate and what more could you want in a player competing to fight for the world title?

Starting out young, in Botvinnik’s famed chess school, Kramnik quickly rose to an elite standard of play, culminating in his first notable success as first reserve for the Russian team at the 1992 Manila Olympiad. As a 16-year-old upstart, his selection was much-criticized leading up to the event, but Kasparov’s support of the decision, coupled with Kramnik’s 8.5/9 score, served to handily silence the critics.

Kramnik during the 1992 Manila Olympiad...

... and discussing a game there in his ChessBase DVD My Path to the Top

Early on in his professional career, the World Champion’s title proved elusive to Kramnik, but, after a series of disappointing results on both the FIDE and PCA sides of the universe, including a 4.5-3.5 match loss to Boris Gelfand (whom he will soon be facing again), he was eventually granted an opportunity to play for Kasparov’s classical world title in the year 2000. His loss in a Candidates match with Shirov in 1998 made some question the legitimacy of the selection process for this subsequent World Championship match, but, nonetheless, after leaving the chess world dumbstruck by grinding out an undefeated 8.5-6.5 match victory over Kasparov, Kramnik was ushered in as the new classical world champion.

Kramnik vs Kasparov in the 2000 World Championship match

A successful, albeit nail-biting, title defense against Peter Leko in 2004, followed by his reunification of the chess world in 2006 with the defeat of Topalov, left few in doubt that Kramnik might hold on to his title for a long while. Then, a resurgent Anand upset the applecart, wresting the title from Kramnik and successfully defending it to this day. It started with the 2007 World Championship tournament, where Kramnik finished tied with Gelfand for 2nd through 3rd, was followed by Anand’s surprisingly healthy 6.5-4.5 victory in a return match, and, to date, ended with Kramnik’s elimination in the second round of the 2011 Candidates matches at the hands of Grischuk.

With Kramnik’s former claim that he was merely loaning the world title to Anand, he continues to have something to prove and, despite the depth of the field at this event, as we will see, he stands a reasonable chance of success.


Kramnik's opponents at the Candidates

Boris Gelfand (2740 – World #18)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Win (w)
53
1993 Linares E81 King's Indian, Samisch
2 Draw (b)
11
1993 Biel Interzonal D10 QGD Slav
3 Draw (w)
41
1994 Linares E92 King's Indian
4 Draw (w)
14
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
5 Draw (b)
33
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B30 Sicilian
6 Win (w)
35
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
7 Loss (b)
42
1994 Candidates Semi-Final D32 QGD, Tarrasch
8 Draw (w)
47
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B22 Sicilian, Alapin
9 Draw (b)
76
1994 Candidates Semi-Final A50 Queen’s Pawn Game
10 Draw (w)
23
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
11 Loss (b)
63
1994 Candidates Semi-Final A34 English, Symmetrical
12 Draw (b)
27
1995 Belgrade Invest A35 English, Symmetrical
13 Draw (w)
11
1995 European Club Cup B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
14 Draw (b)
33
1996 Euwe Mem A33 English, Symmetrical
15 Draw (w)
63
1996 Dos Hermanas A15 English
16 Draw (w)
24
1996 Dortmund E97 King's Indian
17 Draw (w)
51
1996 Novgorod E97 King's Indian
18 Loss (b)
62
1996 Novgorod B70 Sicilian, Dragon
19 Draw (w)
35
1996 Vienna E97 King's Indian
20 Win (b)
28
1996 European Club Cup D45 QGD Semi-Slav
21 Draw (w)
15
1997 Linares D15 QGD Slav
22 Draw (b)
17
1997 Dos Hermanas D46 QGD Semi-Slav
23 Draw (b)
17
1997 Novgorod E14 Queen's Indian
24 Draw (w)
76
1997 Novgorod D15 QGD Slav
25 Draw (b)
32
1997 Dortmund D55 QGD
26 Draw (w)
66
1997 Belgrade Invest E97 King's Indian
27 Win (w)
40
1998 Wijk aan Zee D11 QGD Slav
28 Draw (b)
30
1999 Dos Hermanas D37 QGD
29 Win (w)
60
2001 Astana E06 Catalan, Closed
30 Draw (b)
29
2001 Astana D58 QGD, Tartakower
31 Draw (w)
20
2005 European Club Cup D12 QGD Slav
32 Draw (b)
19
2006 Dortmund D47 QGD Semi-Slav
33 Win (w)
62
2007 Dortmund D45 QGD Semi-Slav
34 Draw (w)
40
2007 FIDE World Ch D43 QGD Semi-Slav
35 Draw (b)
26
2007 FIDE World Ch D47 QGD Semi-Slav
36 Draw (b)
31
2007 Tal Memorial D12 QGD Slav
37 Draw (w)
48
2008 Corus E15 Queen’s Indian
38 Draw (b)
47
2008 Tal Memorial D45 QGD Semi-Slav
39 Draw (b)
81
2009 Tal Memorial E04 Catalan, Open
40 Draw (b)
32
2010 Tal Memorial E10 Queen’s Pawn Game
41 Draw (b)
48
2011 Tal Memorial D37 QGD
42 Draw (w)
59
2013 Zurich A04 Reti
43 Draw (b)
46
2013 Zurich E06 Catalan, Closed

Overall: 6 Wins, 34 Draws, 3 Losses
White: 5 Wins, 16 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 18 Draws, 3 Losses

Gelfand and Kramnik are both old veterans these days and they have 43 classical encounters against one another to speak to that longevity. Both have been in these circumstances before, but it is Gelfand who has the better results when the stakes are high, having eliminated Kramnik in their semi-final match of the 1994 Candidates tournament, while holding him to two draws at the 2007 FIDE World Championship tournament. With the Catalan making a reappearance between these two, after its first successful deployment in Astana in 2001, do not be surprised to see Gelfand reach back into their pre-history to pull out an opening like the Rossolimo.


Peter Svidler (2747 – World #14)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
26
1997 Tilburg B33 Sicilian
2 Draw (b)
30
1998 Linares B33 Sicilian
3 Win (w)
29
1998 Linares E05 Catalan, Open, Classical
4 Win (w)
30
1998 Dortmund D86 Grunfeld, Exchange
5 Draw (w)
25
1998 Tilburg D86 Grunfeld, Exchange
6 Draw (b)
27
1999 Wijk aan Zee B33 Sicilian
7 Draw (b)
27
1999 Linares C42 Petrov
8 Win (w)
33
1999 Linares D85 Grunfeld
9 Draw (b)
23
1999 Dos Hermanas C43 Petrov, Modern
10 Draw (b)
18
1999 European Club Cup B74 Sicilian, Dragon, Classical
11 Win (w)
49
2004 Wijk aan Zee B97 Sicilian, Najdorf
12 Draw (w)
45
2004 Dortmund D85 Grunfeld
13 Draw (b)
25
2004 Dortmund C67 Ruy Lopez
14 Win (w)
28
2005 Corus B41 Sicilian, Kan
15 Draw (w)
25
2005 Dortmund B44 Sicilian
16 Loss (b)
48
2005 Russian Superfinal C42 Petrov
17 Draw (b)
39
2006 Dortmund C42 Petrov
18 Draw (b)
21
2007 Corus C42 Petrov
19 Draw (w)
23
2007 FIDE World Ch D43 QGD Semi-Slav
20 Draw (b)
29
2007 FIDE World Ch C42 Petrov
21 Win (w)
37
2009 Tal Memorial D85 Grunfeld
22 Loss (b)
41
2011 Tal Memorial A13 English
23 Loss (b)
44
2011 Russian Superfinal A07 KIA

Overall: 6 Wins, 14 Draws, 3 Losses
White: 6 Wins, 4 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 10 Draws, 3 Losses

As a many-time Russian Champion, Svidler is a notably pesky opponent for any elite player to face. That proves to be no different for Kramnik, as, although Vladimir holds an edge in their lifetime series, Svidler has claimed victory in both of their two most recent encounters and held Kramnik to two draws at the 2007 World Championship tournament, an additional victory for Peter at the 2005 Russian Superfinal simply being a cherry on the sundae. The Petrov may make a return, but do not disclude the possibility of a return to explorations of the Sicilian.


Vassily Ivanchuk (2757 – World #13)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Win (b)
33
1993 Linares B57 Sicilian
2 Draw (w)
19
1993 World Team Championship D52 QGD
3 Draw (w)
31
1994 Linares D17 QGD Slav
4 Loss (b)
40
1994 Novgorod B33 Sicilian
5 Draw (w)
65
1994 Novgorod D85 Grunfeld
6 Draw (w)
38
1995 Tal Memorial A30 English, Symmetrical
7 Draw (w)
20
1995 Novgorod D52 QGD
8 Win (w)
50
1995 Dortmund D21 QGA
9 Draw (b)
49
1995 Credit Suisse Masters B56 Sicilian
10 Draw (w)
46
1995 Belgrade Invest E91 King's Indian
11 Win (b)
32
1996 Dos Hermanas B62 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
12 Loss (b)
40
1996 Novgorod D43 QGD Semi-Slav
13 Win (w)
25
1996 Novgorod D44 QGD Semi-Slav
14 Draw (w)
10
1996 Yerevan Olympiad D45 QGD Semi-Slav
15 Loss (b)
34
1996 Las Palmas E81 King's Indian, Samisch
16 Win (w)
50
1996 Las Palmas A15 English
17 Win (b)
41
1997 Linares B65 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
18 Win (w)
19
1997 Dortmund D45 QGD Semi-Slav
19 Draw (w)
32
1997 Belgrade Invest A15 English
20 Draw (w)
58
1998 Linares D02 Queen's Pawn Game
21 Draw (b)
74
1998 Linares B57 Sicilian
22 Draw (b)
17
1998 Dortmund C42 Petrov
23 Draw (b)
12
1999 Wijk aan Zee C42 Petrov
24 Draw (w)
25
1999 Linares D45 QGD Semi-Slav
25 Draw (b)
22
1999 Linares D37 QGD
26 Win (b)
38
2001 Wijk aan Zee C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin
27 Draw (w)
41
2003 Wijk aan Zee B67 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
28 Draw (b)
16
2006 Turin Olympiad A29 English, Four Knights
29 Draw (b)
59
2007 Tal Memorial C42 Petrov
30 Draw (b)
37
2008 Wijk aan Zee C42 Petrov
31 Loss (b)
49
2008 Dortmund C42 Petrov
32 Draw (b)
28
2008 Tal Memorial C42 Petrov
33 Draw (w)
54
2008 Dresden Olympiad E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
34 Draw (b)
28
2009 Tal Memorial D37 QGD
35 Draw (w)
40
2010 Wijk aan Zee D37 QGD
36 Draw (w)
35
2010 Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad D97 Grunfeld, Russian
37 Draw (w)
57
2011 Tal Memorial D15 QGD Slav
38 Draw (w)
78
2012 Istanbul Olympiad A46 Queen's Pawn Game

Overall: 8 Wins, 26 Draws, 4 Losses
White: 4 Wins, 16 Draws, 0 Losses
Black:
4 Wins, 10 Draws, 4 Losses

In team events, where results matter to more than just the individual, Ivanchuk and Kramnik have tended to draw. The implications of a shot at the world title have never been a theme in their encounters, however, so the resultant changes in their approach will be interesting to observe. The two may dispense with recent efforts and return to sharp Sicilian lines, although the temptation to play the Slav or Semi-Slav will be strong.


Alexander Grischuk (2764 – World #10)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
20
2003 Wijk aan Zee B23 Sicilian, Closed
2 Draw (w)
67
2005 Corus B09 Pirc, Austrian
3 Draw (w)
58
2007 FIDE World Ch E05 Catalan, Open, Classical
4 Draw (b)
13
2007 FIDE World Ch C43 Petrov, Modern
5 Draw (w)
39
2010 Tal Memorial D37 QGD
6 Draw (b)
34
2011 Wijk aan Zee A09 Reti Opening
7 Draw (b)
16
2011 Candidates D37 QGD
8 Draw (w)
56
2011 Candidates A04 Reti Opening
9 Draw (b)
25
2011 Candidates C42 Petrov
10 Draw (w)
44
2011 Candidates A04 Reti Opening
11 Draw (b)
21
2011 Russian Superfinal D39 QGD, Vienna
12 Win (w)
29
2012 Tal Memorial E97 King's Indian

Overall: 1 Win, 11 Draws, 0 Losses
White: 1 Win, 6 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 5 Draws, 0 Losses

As leading players in the world’s leading chess nation, it is surprising to see that Grischuk and Kramnik have not met more than a dozen times at standard time controls. By and large, draws have been the order of the day, but Kramnik did manage to take a maiden victory in their most recent game at the 2012 Tal Memorial. The 2007 World Championship tournament saw the two draw both games, one in 13 moves, while the 2011 Candidates tournament saw a 16-move draw to start and ended with Kramnik’s elimination in the tiebreak games. Grischuk will prove resilient, but count on Kramnik to attempt to use his momentum to advantage. The Petrov has been a common tool for Kramnik, but expect for it to be dropped in his games against Grischuk.


Teimour Radjabov (2793 – World #4)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
19
2003 Wijk aan Zee E15 Queen's Indian
2 Win (w)
36
2003 Linares C11 French
3 Draw (b)
48
2003 Linares E12 Queen's Indian
4 Win (w)
31
2003 Dortmund B33 Sicilian
5 Draw (b)
23
2003 Dortmund D38 QGD, Ragozin
6 Draw (b)
23
2004 Linares C42 Petrov
7 Draw (w)
35
2004 Linares C53 Giuoco Piano
8 Draw (w)
28
2007 Corus E92 King's Indian
9 Draw (w)
79
2008 Corus E97 King's Indian
10 Draw (b)
25
2011 Candidates Tournament D56 QGD
11 Draw (w)
61
2011 Candidates Tournament E06 Catalan, Closed
12 Draw (b)
33
2011 Candidates Tournament D56 QGD
13 Draw (w)
28
2011 Candidates Tournament D37 QGD
14 Draw (b)
25
2012 Tal Memorial C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin
15 Draw (b)
37
2012 Istanbul Olympiad A15 English

Overall: 2 Wins, 13 Draws, 0 Losses
White: 2 Wins, 5 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 8 Draws, 0 Losses

As one of a handful of leading members in the younger generation, Radjabov seems to have had fewer opportunities to face Kramnik up to this point. All told, however, Kramnik is +2 against the Azerbaijani and should hang tough again. Their 2011 Candidates match saw Radjabov controversially eliminated, but fortune may yet swing Teimour’s way. Expect a Queen’s Gambit Declined between these two.


Levon Aronian (2809 – World #3)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
85
2005 European Club Cup A15 English
2 Win (w)
37
2006 Turin Olympiad A15 English
3 Draw (b)
43
2006 Dortmund D20 QGA
4 Draw (b)
28
2007 Corus D17 QGD Slav
5 Draw (b)
22
2007 FIDE World Championship E05 Catalan, Open, Classical
6 Win (w)
35
2007 FIDE World Championship E15 Queen’s Indian
7 Win (w)
110
2008 Corus D44 QGD Semi-Slav
8 Draw (b)
41
2008 Dresden Olympiad D44 QGD Semi-Slav
9 Draw (b)
23
2009 Tal Memorial D39 QGD, Vienna
10 Draw (w)
38
2010 Shanghai Masters D18 QGD Slav, Dutch
11 Win (b)
71
2010 Shanghai Masters E04 Catalan, Open, 5.Nf3
12 Draw (b)
26
2010 Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad A13 English
13 Loss (b)
41
2010 Tal Memorial D38 QGD, Ragozin
14 Draw (w)
26
2011 Wijk aan Zee D10 QGD Slav
15 Draw (b)
49
2011 Tal Memorial D40 QGD, Semi-Tarrasch
16 Draw (w)
32
2011 London Classic D37 QGD
17 Loss (w)
41
2012 Zurich Challenge Match D43 QGD Semi-Slav
18 Draw (b)
37
2012 Zurich Challenge Match C67 Ruy Lopez
19 Win (w)
42
2012 Zurich Challenge Match C47 Four Knights
20 Draw (b)
25
2012 Zurich Challenge Match C67 Ruy Lopez
21 Draw (w)
43
2012 Zurich Challenge Match D43 QGD Semi-Slav
22 Draw (b)
43
2012 Zurich Challenge Match C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin
23 Draw (w)
40
2012 Tal Memorial C47 Four Knights
24 Win (w)
35
2012 Istanbul Olympiad D10 QGD Slav
25 Draw (b)
67
2012 London Classic C67 Ruy Lopez

Overall: 6 Wins, 17 Draws, 2 Losses
White: 5 Wins, 5 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 1 Win, 12 Draws, 1 Loss

Kramnik has shown little love to Aronian in OTB play, although they are on good terms off it. Their training match in Zurich last year was a landmark event that may shape their approach to this all-important tournament, while the 1.5-0.5 margin secured by Kramnik over Aronian in their two games at the 2007 FIDE World Champion speaks to what he is capable of doing. Count on fighting play, with the Ruy Lopez and Semi-Slav possibly making a return as a means of resolving those conversations.


Magnus Carlsen (2872 – World #1)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
28
2007 Corus E04 Catalan, Open
2 Win (w)
30
2007 Dortmund E05 Catalan, Open, Classical
3 Draw (w)
40
2007 Tal Memorial E05 Catalan, Open, Classical
4 Loss (w)
57
2008 Corus A30 English, Symmetrical
5 Draw (b)
19
2009 Dortmund E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
6 Win (w)
36
2009 Dortmund D37 QGD
7 Draw (b)
58
2009 Tal Memorial E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
8 Loss (b)
43
2009 London Classic A29 English, Four Knights
9 Win (b)
38
2010 Corus E04 Catalan, Open
10 Win (w)
45
2010 Bilbao E15 Queen's Indian
11 Draw (b)
73
2010 Bilbao A29 English, Four Knights
12 Draw (w)
86
2010 London Classic D07 QGD, Chigorin
13 Loss (w)
80
2011 Wijk aan Zee E00 Queen's Pawn Game
14 Draw (w)
41
2011 Tal Memorial A20 English
15 Draw (b)
55
2011 London Classic E20 Nimzo-Indian
16 Draw (b)
23
2012 Tal Memorial E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
17 Draw (w)
62
2012 London Classic A37 English, Symmetrical

Overall: 4 Wins, 10 Draws, 3 Losses
White: 3 Wins, 5 Draws, 2 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 5 Draws, 1 Loss

While Carlsen has been busy ascending the chess ladder, building his resume at a pace like few before him, Kramnik has maintained an edge in their lifetime score. They have yet to meet in an event of the magnitude that the Candidates tournament represents, but, even in lesser events, they are inclined to fight. Expect Carlsen’s repertoire to have been shaken up for this event. Kramnik may, therefore, stick with the English as white.


Overall Stats Against Field

 
Wins
Draws
Losses
Draw %
Overall
33
125
15
72.25%
White
26
57
3
66.28%
Black
7
68
12
78.16%

Repertoire white

Line
score
Perf.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3   
71%
2806
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3
68%
2771
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6
68%
2813
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6
72%
2839
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3
71%
2723

Kramnik can hardly be considered to be misfortunate in any opening as White, but his success against the Sicilian may speak to a preference to avoid it. He may, instead, continue to primarily employ various Queen’s Gambit lines in this tournament.

Repertoire black

Line
score
Perf.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
40%
2654
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6
49%
2776
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4
54%
2801
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6
44%
2680
1.c4
48%
2726

Kramnik’s success in playing Anti-Nimzo Indian and Old Sicilian lines has been relatively poor. The Petrov, on the other hand, has been extraordinarily good to him, while the Berlin has been a favourite as well. For the most part, expect for him to stick with what works.


The Candidates Tournament in London

The London Candidates 2013 will be the strongest tournament of its kind in history. The Prize Fund to be shared by the players totals €510,000. The winner of the Candidates will become the Challenger to Viswanathan Anand who has reigned as World Champion since 2007.

Full information on the Candidates – pairings and commentary schedule

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