Vlad Kramnik, world champion from 2000 to 2007, has retired from competitive play at the early age of 45, citing diminished motivation. Nearly 20 years ago he stunned the chess community when he captured the crown from his fellow Russian, the legendary Garry Kasparov.
That London series will be remembered for Kramnik’s highly successful use of the Berlin Wall 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 with the main line 4 0-0 Nxe4 5 d4 Nd6 6 Bxc6 dxc6 7 dxe5 Nf5 8 Qxd8+ Kxd8. Kasparov failed to refute it, as have many master games since, while recently, as Kramnik mentioned with pleasure in an interview, it was the main defence used by the innovatory program AlphaZero in its match with Stockfish.
Kramnik’s niche in chess history is secure, and it could have been still higher but for his results in his best years being marred by a rare form of arthritis.
His decision reflects the trend for chess strength to decline after age 40, as modern computer-based preparation demands a young memory. It could put extra pressure on Michael Adams. The Cornishman, 47, is being challenged for his England No1 ranking by David Howell, his junior by nearly two decades.
Jiri Kociscak v Marcin Tazbir, Czech Republic 2018. White (to move) is a pawn down, and the obvious 1 Bh6, threatening 2 Rxf8 mate, is well met by 1…Rc8. Can you find White’s hidden win?
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