14th World Champion
Classical World Champion
Vladimir Kramnik was born in Tuapse, Russia in 1975. His father's birth name was Boris Sokolov, but he took his stepfather's surname when his mother (Vladimir's grandmother) remarried. As a child, Vladimir Kramnik studied in the chess school established by Mikhail Botvinnik. His first notable result in a major tournament was his gold medal win as first reserve for the Russian team in the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila. His selection for the team caused some controversy in Russia at the time, as he was only sixteen years old and had not yet been awarded the grandmaster title, but his selection was supported by Garry Kasparov. He scored eight wins, one draw, and no losses.
In 2000, Kramnik played a sixteen game match against Garry Kasparov in London, for the Classical Chess World Championship. Kramnik won the match without losing a game. This was only the second time in history that a World Champion had lost a match without winning a single game. This event marked the first time Kasparov had been beaten in a World Championship match.
In late 2004, Kramnik successfully defended his title against challenger Peter Leko in a drawn match played in Brissago, Switzerland.
When Garry Kasparov broke with FIDE, the federation governing professional chess, to play the 1993 World Championship with Nigel Short, he created a rift in the chess world. In response, FIDE sanctioned a match between Anatoly Karpov and Jan Timman for the FIDE World Championship, which Karpov won. Subsequently, the chess world has seen two "champions": the "classical" championship, claiming lineage dating back to Steinitz; and the FIDE endorsed champion.
In April 2006, FIDE announced a reunification match between Kramnik and Topalov, the FIDE World Chess Championship 2006. The match took place in Elista, Kalmykia. After the first four games, Kramnik led 3-1 (out of a maximum of 12). After the fourth game, however, Topalov protested that Kramnik was using the toilet suspiciously frequently, implying that he was somehow receiving outside assistance whilst doing so. Topalov said that he would refuse to shake hands with Kramnik in the remaining games. The Appeals committee decided that the players' toilets be locked and that they be forced to use a shared toilet, accompanied by an assistant arbiter.
Kramnik refused to play the fifth game unless the original conditions agreed for the match were adhered to. As a result, the point was awarded to Topalov, reducing Kramnik's lead to 3-2. Kramnik stated that the appeals committee was biased and demanded that it be replaced. As a condition to continue the match, Kramnik insisted on playing the remaining games under the original conditions of the match contract, which allows use of the bathroom at the players' discretion.
The controversy resulted in a heavy volume of correspondence to Chessbase and other publications. The balance of views from fans was in support of Kramnik. Prominent figures in the chess world, such as John Nunn, Yasser Seirawan, and Bessel Kok also sided with Kramnik. The Russian and Bulgarian Chess Federations supported their respective players. Kramnik's behavior during the match earned him widespread support in the chess community.
After twelve regular games the match was tied 6-6, although Kramnik continued to dispute the result of the unplayed fifth game until the end of the tournament. On 13 October 2006 the result of the disputed fifth game became irrelevant as Kramnik won the rapid tie-break making him the first undisputed World Champion, holding both the FIDE and Classical titles, since Kasparov split from FIDE in 1993.
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