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    Tuesday
    Jan292019

    Vladimir Kramnik Retires At 43

    I guess this explains his kamikaze performance at Wijk aan Zee, though why he preferred to go out showing insane chess rather than making an all-out effort to remind the world of his best chess is hard to understand. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

    Anyway, it's sad news to see Vladimir Kramnik, who has been in the top 10 (often in the top 5, and for serious stretches in the top 3) for almost all of the past 25 years hang it up at the relatively early age of 43. There are athletes who still play professional sports at that age (not many, but still), and while Garry Kasparov threw in the towel at the age of 41 it's rare for a chess player to give up so early. Viswanathan Anand was still the world champion at that age, and Anatoly Karpov also held one of the world titles when he was 43 (and just a few months before he turned 43 he had one of the greatest results of all time when he destroyed the field in Linares in 1994).

    Kramnik was the world champion from 2000 to 2006, defeating Kasparov to win the title. In addition to his colossal achievements as a player, he has been the leading influence on opening theory over the past quarter of a century. With White, he was among the movers and shakers of the 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian. Against the King's Indian, his use of the Petrosian Variation and then especially the Bayonet Attack gave King's Indian players headaches for years, and helped chase Kasparov away from that defense. His advocacy of the Catalan also produced much suffering for Black for years, while with the black pieces he not only put the Berlin Defense on the map, he made everything else on the 1.e4 map look like a tiny island, at least for a while.

    Kramnik had made jokes about being a "pensioner" for a few years, and had threatened to retire at age 40. I'm glad he stuck around a while longer (though I would have been okay with his retiring before his dreadful performance in Wijk aan Zee), and hope he gets his motivation back soon. (He probably won't, but I can hope.)

    More about the decision here, and if someone else doesn't do it first I might try to cobble together a "best of" post at some point.

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    Reader Comments (4)

    I am sure that his performance at Wijk aan Zee hurried along his decision. After reading the article it only confirms what seemed apparent for a few years now, he just doesn't want make the effort to perform at the level needed to keep in the top 10. There is no doubt in my mind he will go down as a great World Champion. If I remember correctly, Kasparov predicted Kramnik would become the World Champion if he stayed serious about chess. It's been said that he was one of the greatest positional players of all time. His contributions to the Catalan and the Berlin certainly bore that out.
    I do hope he stays involved in chess, like Kasparov and Karpov, he can still contribute even without playing serious chess.

    January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLarry L.

    So sad...

    Here is my best attempt at Kramnik best games volume: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chesscollection?cid=1039388
    65 games maybe I should delete one?!

    Here is my favorite game (one Carlsen's ONLY 6 losses in the last decade at Tata): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1569983

    So many good games.

    A sad day for chess. Maybe he will take commentating?! Or writing a best games books?

    So sad to see one of my favorite players retire.

    Seeing him commentate in London was truly special. Also his daughter fell asleep on my shoe which was hilarious. Kramnik came over and said it was alright let her sleep and we had a pleasant conversation.

    I think Aronian summed it up fairly well and it's worth repeating, "It's a sad day for chess. Another giant leaves the game earlier than we all would hope for.Vladimir Kramnik leaves an incredible legacy behind him. Almost every opening line played in last 25 years has his major input.Thanks maestro."

    Also, the chess.com article is quite nice: https://www.chess.com/news/view/14th-world-champion-kramnik-retires-from-classical-chess

    January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

    Vladimir Kramnik's major achievement was to beat Gary Kasparov for the world title in 2000, while the latter was at least near his best (Kasparov was still number 1 in rating as well as being World Champion). And Kramnik did it without conceding a game! It also marked the introduction of the Berlin Defence into top-flight chess and ultimately led to the unification of the world chess championship title (which would have been unlikely to happen under Kasparov).
    Tournament chess gets more and more demanding with age, so it is very much up to the individual when he decides to call it quits in the professional game. As a poster elsewhere has commented, Kramnik had nothing left to prove. His style, though, and post-game comments will be very much missed.
    I wonder will he now find time to write a good autobiography? Something like Korchnoi's 'Chess is My Life' would be very welcome. The earlier games collection Kramnik produced in collaboration lacked sparkle and I somehow doubt whether his manager Carsten Hensel's account of his life has much merit. I can read German, but in an interview (in 'Karl') Hensel says he wrote the book 'in three weeks' (!!). Also, in the interview, Hensel comes across as decidedly colorless. Ideally, Genna Sosonko will write a memoir of his acquaintanceship with Kramnik, but probably they are not of the same generation at all.

    [DM: Nooooooooooooooo. Please God, no.]

    If, however, Kramnik himself could bring the wit and perception he showed in many interviews to the task, then his own account would be a delight.

    January 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterOliver Dunne

    Deservedly up there with the great 'Ks' - Karpov, Kaspraov, Korchnoi and Keres.

    January 30, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarc

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