Kramnik speaks: My Path to the Top

by ChessBase
5/27/2012 – This ChessBase DVD was produced in 2007, when Vladimir Kramnik was still world champion. On it he describes the nirvana of attending the Botvinnik School, of being nominated for the Olympiad in 1992 by Garry Kasparov, how he went on to dethrone his mentor. Apart from narrative and analysis the DVD also includes previous interviews with ChessBase. Review by Prof. Nagesh Havanur.

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Kramnik speaks: My Path to the Top

DVD review by Prof. Nagesh Havanur

Tuapse is a small town by the Black Sea in Russia. Here a young man who has just become a proud father is looking up the names of newborn babies in the hospital. The list is arranged according to the height and weight of the infants. His joy knows no bounds when he discovers that his bonny baby tops the charts. An artist by profession, he takes his pencil and writes against the name: Champion. 25 Years later when his offspring wins the world title the beaming father tells him, he always knew. But how did it happen? Vladimir Kramnik tells the story with humour and charm.

Vlad learnt chess at the age of five. There was no lack of chess culture even in that remote town of Soviet Russia But opportunities of advance were fewer. It was here that fate played its part.

Fortunately for him a local chess player watching games of Vlad became a fan of our little hero and wrote to Mikhail Botvinnik. Kramnik says, the Patriarch used to receive such letters from all corners of the USSR and he need not have paid attention to this one. But he did and responded by asking for the lad’s games. When the games were sent he subjected them to meticulous scrutiny and concluded that there was a talent here. Soon Vlad received an invitation to attend the Botvinnik School where famous disciples like Kasparov delivered lectures.

Kramnik says, for him it was nothing less than nirvana. He also remembers with gratitude how Garry insisted on his inclusion in the USSR team for the 1992 Olympiad when he was not even a grandmaster. He justified Garry’s trust in his talent by scoring 8.5 out of 9. Then he was just 17 years old.

Vladimir Kramnik confidently pacing up and down the stage of the 1992 Manila Olympiad,
where he celebrated his 17th birthday with a stunning international debut.

Kramnik soon became a grandmaster and describes how he was invited for Linares tournament in 1993. Now he was in big league and describes his sense of awe at the fighting spirit of the players, especially, their resilience in defence. One such moment occurred in the game with Karpov, his boyhood hero.

Karpov with his record performance in Linares in 1994

Anatoly who had a difficult position fought like a lion and every time Vlad expected him to resign would find a miraculous resource and continue the fight. The game was drawn in 99 moves after a tough struggle. For Vlad the level of play in this tournament was a revelation. However, he was not overawed by his peers as he knew that he also possessed a talent and could learn and succeed. It was this self-confidence that enabled him to compete with the likes of Kasparov on level terms.

In this DVD he also reveals how he prepared for his matches with Kasparov...

    ... against Leko...

... and Topalov.

 He also describes the course of each match. How did he vanquish Garry without losing a single game? He says, during his preparation he had noticed that Garry did not like to play endings, especially, those positions where a miniscule advantage was held by either side. This proved to be a decisive factor in quite a few Spanish games where Garry was not able to breach the Berlin Wall. Expectedly, the bitterness shows when he speaks of the Topalov match.

Apart from Kramnik’s own talk, his previous interviews on ChessBase are also included. This DVD was produced way back in 2007 when he was still the world champion. The match with Anand in which he lost the title was yet to come:

A disappointing feature of this DVD is that there are hardly any complete games, and only positions from critical encounters are commented on by Kramnik. Otherwise it’s enjoyable.


About the author

Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in a college at Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than a decade. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines. He would welcome feedback from readers.

Vladmir Kramnik:

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