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(June 2008) Vladimir Kramnik was born 25 June 1975, in Tuapse, Russia (part of the Soviet Union at the time), on the coast of the Black Sea. He won the non-FIDE World Championship from Garry Kasparov in 2000, then defended it against Peter Leko in 2004. He won the unified World Championship by beating Veselin Topalov in the 2006 unification match.
Early Accomplishments: He learned to play chess at age four from his father and started attending the Pioneers' chess club at age five. He was awarded the title of Candidate Master at age 11 and some time later was accepted into Botvinnik's chess school (also known as the Botvinnik - Kasparov school), which he started in 1987. He finished second at the 1990 World Youth (Under-18) Championship, then finished first a year later. In 1990 he finished second in the Russian Championship, and in 1991 played in the 58th and last Soviet Championship, where he placed 15th-22nd in a field of 64 players.
World Championships: Like most players of the 1990s, Kramnik gained valuable top-level experience playing in the competing FIDE and PCA World Championship cycles of 1993-1995. He qualified for the FIDE Candidates matches by finishing 0.5 points behind winner Gelfand in the 1993 FIDE Interzonal tournament at Biel. After beating Yudasin (+2-5=0) in the quarterfinal match, he lost to Gelfand (+1-2=5) in the semifinal. He also finished the 1993 PCA qualifying tournament at Groningen 0.5 points behind winners Adams and Anand, then lost to Kamsky (+0-3=3) in the quarterfinal match.
Kramnik gained more experience by serving as Kasparov's second in the 1995 PCA title match against Anand, which Kasparov won. This gave him insight to preparing for the tension of a World Championship match. Kasparov had already given a boost to Kramnik's career in 1992, when the World Champion handpicked the 16-year old future star, who was not yet a GM, for a coveted spot on the Russian Olympiad team.
The demise of the PCA ushered in a new era of world class chess, when World Championship events were held at irregular intervals. Kramnik declined to play in the first FIDE knockout tournament, Groningen 1997, in protest against the special status accorded to Kasparov and Karpov, who were both seeded into the last rounds of the event. He played in the second knockout event, Las Vegas 1999, but was eliminated in the fifth of seven rounds by Adams, who won both games in the second rapidplay tiebreak after drawing all four of the previous games.
In 1998, when Anand declined Kasparov's invitation to play Kramnik for a shot at the ex-PCA, non-FIDE title, the Indian was replaced by Shirov. The two met in May at Cazorla, Spain, where a motivated Shirov scored +2-0=7 against Kramnik. Although Kramnik was paid for the match, Shirov's payday was the match against Kasparov, which never materialized, leaving Shirov empty-handed.
Kasparov continued to seek funds for a title match. In 1999 a proposed title match against Anand collapsed and in 2000 Anand declined a subsequent opportunity. The offer passed to Kramnik, who accepted. To just about everyone's surprise, except Kramnik's, the younger player wrested the title from his former mentor +2-0=13 in November 2000 at London. It was only the second time in chess history that a reigning champion was defeated without winning a single game.
Kramnik refused to allow Kasparov a direct rematch, and Kasparov refused to participate in any qualifying events. In 2002 at Dortmund, Leko won the qualifier and the right to play a match against Kramnik. After overcoming organizational difficulties, the match was played under the sponsorship of Dannemann in September 2004, Brissago, Switzerland. Going into the last game a point behind, Kramnik won with White to draw the match (+2-2=10) and retain the non-FIDE title. Two years later he beat Topalov in the long awaited unification match (+3-2-1F=6 / +2-1=0) to reunify the title for the first time since 1993.
Important Tournaments: Although Kramnik lost the unified title to Anand by finishing a point behind the Indian at a title tournament in Mexico City, October, 2007, he was granted a one-on-one rematch to take place in 2008. With the exception of the annual Dortmund tournament, where he won or shared first eight times through 2007, Kramnik's tournament performances have been a bit less stellar than his recent match results. He finished first at Linares in 2004, shared first in 2000 and 2004, and tied with Anand for first at Wijk aan Zee in 1998.
Awards: Kramnik won the prestigious chess Oscar in 2000 and in 2006. Both wins stemmed from his two most important World Championship match victories.
Playing Style: Kramnik has a classic, positional style. Of his acceptance into the Botvinnik school, he wrote,'I don't know what it was that made an impression on [Botvinnik]. Perhaps it was my readiness at such an early age to play any positions, even very quiet ones, or to transpose into equal or even slightly inferior endings. Most of the books that came my way at that time were on the endgame, and my very first book was a games collection of Anatoly Karpov. On the whole I was attracted by positional play with some tactics, and already then I was aiming for universality.' Kramnik's match play and record against Kasparov, one of the best tacticians ever, is evidence of his tactical prowess.
His greatest fault, at least in the eyes of keen amateurs, is a tendency to make too many short draws. He is a great proponent of the 'win with White, draw with Black' school and has said that it will soon be nearly impossible to win with Black.
Health: After the drawn match with Leko, Kramnik revealed that he suffered from a rare form of arthritis. His results declined in 2005 and he took six months off at the beginning of 2006 to seek treatment.