King Kramik

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Sun Nov 12 02:47:52 MST 2000

Volume 17 - Issue 23, Nov. 11 - 24, 2000
India's National Magazine on
from the publishers of THE HINDU


World chess gets a new champion after 15 years.
in London
IN one of the greatest upsets in chess history, Vladimir Kramnik unseated
Garry Kasparov on November 2 to become the new world chess champion.
It all happened on a stormy Thursday evening in London in the 16-match
Braingames world chess championship match. Kramnik, 25, defeated 37-year old
Kasparov 8.5-6.5 with a game to spare, for an astounding surprise in this
all-Russian affair. The younger Russian who was universally thought to be
the underdog, ran through the 15 games without losing any and by winning
Game Two and Game Ten he won the title. Thirteen games were drawn in the
match, which saw the lowest number of decisive outcomes in individ ual
Kramnik is the 15th player in history to win the crown, which runs back as
far as 1886. World champions are rare and special people in the chess world,
and Kramnik joins this select band.
This match is not recognised by FIDE, the international Chess Federation,
and does not come under the ambit of Elo ratings. Since 1993, when Kasparov
and Nigel Short decided to play outside the purview of FIDE, two parallel
world championships were held. FIDE recognised their cycle, but the chess
world and the man on the street recognised Kasparov's cycle since he was the
strongest player on the planet. Kasparov found takers like The Times
newspaper of London to sponsor the 1993 match with Short for a prize money
of £ 1.7 million and microchip maker Intel to sponsor the $1.5 million match
against Viswanathan Anand in 1995. After several unsuccessful attempts and
different opponents each time, Kasparov got his eighth match after a
five-year gap and lost by two games and, importantly, did not live up to his
known levels of play.
This latest match carried total a prize money of $2 million (about Rs. 9.3
crores) and Kramnik earns $1.33 million, his career best purse. Kasparov
takes the rest. It was Kasparov's first match defeat to a human being. He
was beaten by Deep Blue, the chess playing computer developed by IBM, in
1997 by 3.5-2.5 in New York.
The latest match did not have the usual backstage stories which any such
event usually involves. "It was a pure chess match between two friends,"
said American arbiter Eric Schiller. Veteran International Master (IM)
Andrei Fillipowicz from Poland, who speaks Russian, the language of the
participants, was the main arbiter. For the first time in a match, players
were checked with metal detectors but discreetly.
ABOUT the quality of chess played, Kramnik pressed harder each time he had
white and was generally positive in his approach. Kasparov was found wanting
in terms of inspiration and he let go several opportunities with white with
early draws. Kramnik's early breakthrough with white in Game Two against
Kasparov's main defence against the queen pawn - the Grunfeld Defence - put
the pressure on the senior team and it remained that way until the end. The
trend was known after as early as Game Two. Kasparov had to find new
openings to defend with black on the one side and try to break the surprise
opening that Kramnik had come prepared for the match - the Berlin variation
of the Ruy Lopez. He did not succeed in either both and said after Game
Eight that he was spending as much as ten hours trying to rebuild his
opening repertoire. Kasparov's chess career had been reliant on the openings
to deliver the goods that he never tried plan B and plan C that most players
will come up with. He was perhaps confident that it would not be required
and gave up a little prematurely.
Kramnik won the match on the psychological front too. He had prepared
clearly surprise openings as black and had bone depth strike with white
against Kasparov's openings. By avoiding most of Kasparov's preparation,
Kramnik dictated terms in the opening and perhaps that demoralised Kasparov
into a surprise defeat. Kramnik's poor match record was a thing of the past
for he beat the greatest match player.
Kasparov's skills were seen in many games where he escaped defeat and pulled
off draws with them. His play looked ordinary without the usual razor sharp
openings. He did not try enough in many games and particularly in Game 13.
In the coming days and months he will perhaps explain what went on inside
him. Kramnik was too solid with black and deadly with white. When he won
Game 10, it looked as if it was over at 6-4 as Kasparov was aimlessly
pushing himself
in the match. "Do you smell victory already in the match?" this writer asked
Kramnik. "Not yet," Kramnik replied. That was the key game. Kramnik drew
the remaining games with ease to wrap it up after Game 15.
Kramnik is at the top of the chess world. He will be expected to defend his
title in 2002 under a proposed Brain Games Network plc world championship
Kasparov may not retire but will make a bid to recapture the crown.
Nevertheless, the match will leave a scar which will remain on him and his
future games with Kramnik. The personal score which was 3-3 before this
match went up 5-3, not counting draws.
On the personal side, Kramnik may be a role model for aspiring players as
far as his chess is concerned. But he is a heavy smoker and a drinker and
represents modern-day youth in Russia. Since becoming a challenger he has
given up many of these arguable vices and has concentrated on his health and
fitness. He is single today but in 1996 was travelling to tournaments with
Czech chess player Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Eva Repkova. Kramnik
comes from a creative family. His chess epitomises perfection.
Although not rebellious like Kasparov, he takes a stand by himself and
sticks to it. In 1997, when FIDE announced the controversial knock out cycle
to decide the world champion, he protested to Anatoly Karpov's seeding to
the finals and stayed out of the event. He played in the same event in 1999
when such seeding was removed. Kramnik was lucky in many ways, including in
the way he got invited to the match. It was a match that Anand declined to
play in March 2000 when the required minimum guarantee he wanted was not
entertained. Kramnik approached several players for help in this match and
it included Anand. Kramnik himself told The Sportstar in an interview this
July that the names of some people from whom he will receive help will never
ever be revealed. In London earlier he was assisted by his Moscow neighbour
Grand master (GM) E.Bareev, his French friend GM Joel Lautier from Paris and
Spanishman GM Miguel Illescas from Barcelona.
It was one of the poorest title defences offered by Kasparov since Dutchman
Max Euwe lost a one-sided return match to Alexander Alekhine in the early
half of the previous century. He was never close to a victory. He did not
try to use the advantage of white in several games. A number of reasons
have been offered for Kasparov's defeat. "I was not outplayed, but out
prepared," said the loser in a carefully worded statement after the match.
Kasparov cited tiredness, disappointment at not being able to cash in on his
chances and personal reasons for his defeat. But had both players cashed in
on their chances, the result should have been the same.
THIS development in chess history brings several new positive things to the
sport, which has not seen a new champion for long.
Chess is still in the process of proving itself as a sport. With television
coverage impossible to get, the digital revolution and the growth of the
Internet has given new hope for spreading the game wider. For the first
time, the Kramnik-Kasparov match was available live on the Internet with
live feeds of video and audio from the board and comments from British
grandmasters. It is possible to follow chess in real time now from any
location. The result brings in a part of reality. There is no lifetime
Champions ought to lose someday. The chess fraternity did not expect that
Kasparov's time had come. Many people could not believe the result. Kramnik
proved everyone wrong that with discipline, determination and surprise he
could beat Kasparov. He worked inside Kasparov's camp in 1995 as trainer. It
was a big mistake for Kasparov, but it brought him success against Anand.
Kramnik is no newcomer to chess. He won the Linares 2000 tournament jointly
with Kasparov earlier this year. He shot into fame in his very first Chess
Olympiad at Manila in 1992 when he won the board prize for the reserve
board. Unlike his Russian predecessors, Kasparov, Karpov or Spassky, he did
not win the world junior because he did not play in them. His rise in
stature was so quick that he was a FIDE Master with a 2600 FIDE rating! He
was ranked No.1 on the junior list. Organiser Luis Rentero inducted this
teenager into the Linares Tournament in 1993, a round robin with top class
players. Since then he has been a regular at super category tournaments,
winning five of the last six Dortmund Tournaments, a host of PCA Rapid
Tournaments, and the Dos He rmanas 1996 Tournament, to name a few.
A new young world champion is what the chess world needed. From now on, the
success or failure of the two world cycles will depend on Raymond Keene of
Brain Games Network plc and the mother organisation FIDE. Before the match,
there was no possibility of a patch-up owing to clash of ideologies between
Kasparov and the FIDE president. There should be a greater possibility of a
patch-up now than before to have one cycle and one champion in the game of

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