Vladimir Kramnik (born June 25, 1975) is a Russian chess player. In 2000, he beat Garry Kasparov in a 16 game match played in London. In the eyes of the participants and many observers, this was a match for the world championship, and made Kramnik the chess world champion, although the International Chess Federation (FIDE) did not recognise the match as such.
Kramnik was born in the town of Tuapse, on the shores of the Black Sea. As a child, he 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 went on to win eight games, draw one, and lose none.
The following year, Kramnik played in the very strong tournament in Linares. He finished fifth, beating the then world number three, Vasily Ivanchuk along the way. He followed this up with a string of good results, but had to wait until 1995 for his first major tournament win at normal time controls, when he won the strong Dortmund tournament, finishing it unbeaten.
Kramnik continued to produce good results (including winning at Dortmund, outright or tied, in 1996, 1997 and 1998). In 2000, he played a sixteen game match against Garry Kasparov in London, a match that was billed as a world championship match, and widely accepted as being one in the tradition going back to Wilhelm Steinitz. Kramnik began the match as underdog, but his adoption of the Berlin Defence to Kasparov's Ruy Lopez opening was very effective, and Kasparov was unable to turn the theoretical advantage he had in games where he played white into wins. Kramnik won the match 8.5 - 6.5 without losing a game.
In October 2002, Kramnik competed in Brains in Bahrain, an eight game match against the chess computer Deep Fritz in Bahrain. Kramnik started well, taking a 3 - 1 lead after four games. However, in game five, Kramnik made what has been described as the worst blunder of his career, losing a knight in a position which was probably drawn. He quickly resigned. He also resigned game six, although subsequent analysis showed that with perfect play, he may have been able to draw from the final position. The last two games were drawn, and the match ended tied at 4 - 4.
In the FIDE rating list for April 2003, Kramnik was ranked number two in the world, behind Kasparov. However, some people consider Kramnik's World Championship match victory over Kasparov to be more significant.