Vladimir Kramnik is one of the greatest chess players of all time. From 2000 to 2007, the Russian held the title of Classical World Chess Champion. He contributed significantly to the reunification of the world title, set trends in numerous opening systems, and remains one of the strongest and most influential players on the planet.
This book tells the remarkable story of Kramnik's top-level clashes, while providing an exciting view behind the scenes of the chess world. Added to this are Kramnik's own comments on some of his most memorable games, as well as numerous color photographs.
“Art and chess are just different fields, in which the same poetry finds expression.” – Vladimir Kramnik, 14th World Chess Champion
“Vladimir Kramnik is one of the most talented players, perhaps THE most talented player, whom I have met in my chess career... There are some positions, like for example with the bishop pair or with a central passed pawn, which he played as if with divine inspiration.” – Artur Yusupov
Written by his former manager, Carsten Hensel, this book makes a timely appearance in view of the fact that former world champion Vladimir Kramnik’s has recently announced his retirement from competitive play. However I’m a little torn over the content, there are parts that I found disappointing, parts that had me wowed and parts which I even found puzzling. The disappointment came primarily from the part covering the period prior to Hensel’s entry on the stage as Kramnik’s manager. In fact, when I read this section I was thinking “this is a terrible book”, there is no passion in the narrative, it’s more a perfunctory recording of results and relaying of generalities. I understand that Hensel played no part in Kramnik’s career at that point, but nevertheless the text here could certainly have been made more interesting.
However, all this dramatically changes when we come to coverage of the period when Hensel came on board. There are many fascinating accounts from tournaments and matches, giving the reader an inside view as to what went on behind the curtain - the drama and the intrigue of the matches and so forth. I loved this part.
The puzzling bits are the games, which are initially given with few or no annotations, followed by some comments by Kramnik, which could easily have been woven into the bare game scores. While interesting in themselves, these annotations, as presented, seem disjointed and look rather like an afterthought, something they surely weren’t. Also, the 45 pages featuring portraits of all other world champions seemed like filler material to make a short book look longer. The same can be said about the section presenting all of Kramnik’s games from his world title matches against Kasparov, Leko, Topalov and Anand, as well as the World Championship tournament in Mexico City - 69 bare game scores, several of which had even been given earlier in the book. Initially this book seemed to have a lot of promise, but somehow I feel the author failed to deliver.