Vladimir Kramnik Chess Grandmaster
Vladimir Kramnik does not ride the Moscow metro. It's not that the 25-year-old chess grandmaster is an elitist or a claustrophobe. The reason is simple: Kramnik, recently crowned the world's 14th Chess Champion after defeating Garry Kasparov, does not have a Moscow registration permit and fears being picked up by the police.
The fears are not unfounded. A few months ago Kramnik was out for a morning jog and ended up being forced into a police van. His protests went unheeded. "We'll see what kind of Grandmaster you are when we get to the local precinct," the arresting officer quipped.
In fact, Kramnik is a chess champion very much unlike his predecessor Kasparov. Whereas Kasparov is disciplined in his training, Kramnik will often stay out late at a bar on the eve of a match. And if Kasparov has a reputation as an arrogant showman, as an aggressive and explosive player, Kramnik is much more like a quiet intellectual, and has been called "positional and python-like" in his playing style. Their nicknames draw further distinctions: Kasparov is known as "The Ogre of Baku," "The Boss" and "Gazza." Kramnik is simply "Volodya," "Vlad," "Ovik" and, oh yes, "Vlad the Impaler."
Kramnik does not take his calling lightly. Indeed, in preparation for his November showdown against Kasparov, Kramnik quit smoking and undertook a serious workout regimen that trimmed his already slender 6' 6" frame to a lanky 175 pounds.
The workout paid off. Kramnik was in top form at the London match, exuding self-confidence and a cool head as he executed a brilliant Berlin Defense, making his chess fortress impenetrable, in an approach Kramnik himself likened to Field Marshall Mikhail Kutuzov's 1812 military strategy to defeat Napoleon.
Kramnik is truly an example of a pupil who has overtaken his teacher. A graduate of the famous "Botvinnik Kasparov Chess School," Kramnik has been studying Kasparov's games since he was 11 and was for a time on Kasparov's backup chess team.
Unfortunately, the teacher did not always express humility in his defeat. Citing personal reasons for his poor performance, Kasparov (who first won the top chess crown from Anatoly Karpov in 1985, at the age of 22) grumbled to Sport-Express that Kramnik "embodies the pragmatic, cynical approach" to chess, and that his playing style is "no fun. …