Kramnik for The Mind Behind: “I’m not a sportsman by nature”

by ChessBase
6/20/2020 – Earlier this week, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik was interviewed by Tania Sachdev for Red Bull's series ‘The Mind Behind’. Among other subjects, the Russian talked about how he is coping with the lockdown, his biggest chess influence as a kid, his main strength as a competitor and his favourite world championship match to date. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


“I was very stable psychologically”

The Austrian energy-drink company Red Bull GmbH is known for sponsoring sportsmen from a wide variety of disciplines. Currently, they are supporting Indian IM Tania Sachdev, who was the host of the latest interview from the ‘Mind Behind’ series. Vladimir Kramnik, the 14th undisputed world chess champion, was her guest.

Kramnik shocked the chess world by announcing his retirement at last year’s Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Since then, he has participated in some rapid and blitz events and trained a group of young Indian super-talents. But, how is he coping with the lockdown?

Vladimir KramnikI am quite happy about it, and would enjoy another month or two if needed. There are many things to do — I spend time with my family, with my kids more than usual.

Going back some forty years, what does he consider to be his biggest influence during the early development of his chess career? 

The only book in our small bookshop was a book on the best games of Anatoly Karpov, and I studied it day and night maybe for one year, so probably it was the most influential book for me. But it was a pure accident.

His greatest achievement certainly was to beat Garry Kasparov at the 2000 Classical World Championship match in London. How did he do it? 

My main strength was I was very stable psychologically, and I never actually wanted too much to win. [...] I didn’t care about winning so much. That’s why I was not so nervous, and that’s why I was actually coming back always. I’d accepted quite soon that losing is a part of the deal. Actually I’m not a sportsman by nature, I’m not a competitive person. 

His greatest advice for young players? Sometimes less is more.

I was lucky that I never had an advisor. When you learn things by your own experience — and very often negative experience — you make some stupid mistakes and then you learn from them. It’s a much better lesson.

On a personal note, why isn’t he on social media? The main issue for him is the amount of time it takes away from other activities. And he goes even further, confessing that he does not watch TV or movies:

I have a much greater sin than this. I don’t watch serials at all, and I don’t watch TV at all. [...] I actually just watched The Matrix maybe two months ago for the first time. [...] That makes a lot of economy of time.

Watch the full 14-minute interview at Red Bull’s official website.

Master Class Vol.11: Vladimir Kramnik

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors (Pelletier, Marin, Müller and Reeh) how to successfully organise your games strategically, consequently how to keep y


Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

physica physica 6/21/2020 10:09
@AVRO1938 CoolStoryBob

Though, GK was done right after parting FIDE in '93. There was no other honorable way to maintain leverage and respect from FIDE than winning the 2000 CWCC match. And to mention the rival organizations' championships (1993–2006) things were awkward to say at least. The real reunification was to happen sooner or later but no one really ever knew when.

So what were the justifications for instant rematch? Personal grudge but nothing legal. Of course, GK would have wiped the floor with the Prague Agreement format roster but maybe submitting to both FIDE and others' terms was simply too much to swallow.

And what IF he'd won the instant rematch with VK? Unification with FIDE or bunker down and prolong reign a bit? The latter was the lesser bad option and would've been somewhat rotten end to his career.
AVRO1938 AVRO1938 6/21/2020 06:35
Kramnik says he is not a sportsman. He is not a sport either. What he did after winning the title in 2000 was unforgivable.
In 2001, Seirawan proposed an excellent way (which he called "A Fresh Start") of solving the problems (problems that had mainly been created by Kramnik) that had arisen regarding the World Championship. Had this system been adopted, the chess world would have been spared the following 20 years and counting (there are still major problems in the current system) of utter absurdities regarding the World Championship. Everyone (except one person) was in agreement - Kasparov, Ilyumzhinov, with no objections by anybody else. It was vetoed by one man - Kramnik. "A Fresh Start" would have required a moderate concession from Kramnik. Considering that he should never have got his World Championship match in 2000 in the first place, and considering the nefarious, self-serving and unacceptable proposal he had made for the Challengers (which basically cut Kasparov out of them), he should have made this concession. But Kramnik was not a sport, he was selfish and arrogant.
He instead insisted on his ridiculous (particularly for those days) format for the Challengers - a knockout, which he knew was 100% unacceptable to Kasparov (and which he himself had criticised up to then - what a hypocrite). It was obvious that Kramnik was doing this so that Kasparov would refuse to play in the Challengers, and thus Kramnik would avoid a rematch with him.
Kramnik has never apologised for this, so I don't care how much the incredible arrogance that Kramnik displayed from 2001 to 2008 (when he got thumped in the match with Anand) has been toned down since, he will never be forgiven by me.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 6/21/2020 05:15
@gongorilla, No problem. I could tell that there was nothing but respect for Kramnik in the underlying joke, and I think most people got it.
gongorilla gongorilla 6/21/2020 03:55
Thank you, PhisMaster. Obviously, I was just kidding: Kramnik is a wonderful player. In my humble opinion, he is for sure in the top ten in the ranking of modern players (from the year 2000 until our days). And much closer to the number 1 (Carlsen) than to number ten. I really love his games.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 6/21/2020 01:01
@Keshava, gongorilla's OBVIOUS sarcasm, and kidding about his own weakness, somehow went WAY over your head. It was CLEARLY a joke.
Gerald C Gerald C 6/21/2020 08:58
V. Kramnik had an excellent teacher with the great A. Karpov.
Keshava Keshava 6/21/2020 06:53
Although he is retired from classical chess competition, I doubt one can truthfully call him 'weak'.
Jack Nayer Jack Nayer 6/20/2020 05:27
Nice guy. Always liked him.
gongorilla gongorilla 6/20/2020 04:01
I really like this guy. He's not a competitive person, like me; he studied Karpov's games by chance, like me; he doesn't watch TV serials or movies, like me. The main difference between him and I: he's such a weak chessplayer!