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Kramnik Microsense India Chess Program Day 1: Meeting Vladimir Kramnik!

by Sagar Shah - 16/08/2019

The Kramnik Microsense India Chess Program kicked off on the 15th of August 2019 as Vladimir Kramnik came to the champions house in Chens Sur Leman, France. The six youngsters introduced themselves and Kramnik got to know them better in the first couple of hours. After trying some Indian food, an intense endgame session began where Vladimir showed seven of his practical endgames. It was a class where the youngsters learnt a lot and Kramnik's preparation was matched by the boys giving it their 100%. Get to know more about day one of this amazing chess camp, and also the journey of all the youngsters on how they travelled and made it to Chens Sur Leman! 

For all those who are not aware about the Kramnik - Microsense Chess Program can read about it in our previous article.

Day 0: Reaching The House!

All the six youngsters are globe trotters. So it was of course difficult to have everyone coming from the same place to our final destination - Geneva. Three players - Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani and Leon Mendonca flew with Amruta and me from the Mumbai airport, while Gukesh came from Riga International in a train, Iniyan travelled for nearly two days from Coimbatore - Mumbai - Delhi - Abu Dhabi - Geneva (!) to meet us at Geneva airport and Prithu Gupta had his own exciting journey from Delhi.

We met at the Mumbai airport and the queue for check-in was quite long. So what do we do?

Of course! Start discussing chess!

Gone were the days when you needed a chess board to play blitz. Here Raunak and Pragg are playing each other online!

Best buddies?!!

Prithu Gupta had a great experience with Turkish airways. When they got to know the purpose of his travel and the fact that he was travelling all alone, they upgraded him to business class!

If you see the cow, you know you are in Switzerland!

Entering Chens Sur Leman. It is very close to Geneva, but technically we were now in France. The town selected is in the outskirts to ensure that the camp is held in a quiet and green place

The big supermarket is quite far away and hence the driver was kind enough to stop there before we reached home

The motto is not just to stay in a healthy place, but also eat healthy non packaged food!

This villa in Chens-Sur-Leman was going to be our abode for the next ten days!

The single most important reason why we were in Chens-Sur-Leman was to work with Kramnik and hence the work place had to be the most comfortable. We immediately began to shift things with the help of the owner.

And that's where the training would take place!
A tour of the house!

We had travelled for the entire night and it would seem logical to just take rest. Well, it's for a reason that these kids are GMs and IMs at the age of 13 and 14 and we are not! They simply eat, drink, dream chess! And so the first Chens-Sur-Leman Cup began!

We joked that this was the first ever tournament that was held in this small town! But perhaps we are not wrong. (Prithu Gupta and D.Gukesh had not yet arrived)

The first Chens-Sur-Leman Cup champion R. Praggnanandhaa won Rs.100 with his name engraved on it!
Leon Mendonca, the little chess musician, practices his violin. We have decided that Leon will play every evening and help us relax with his soothing music!

The food in the afternoon was noodles and vegetables

While in the evening we had the nutritious Dal with Rice

We have a simple rule - whoever eats or drinks in a particular utensil, cleans it!

Day 1: Meeting Vladimir Kramnik

To meet Vladimir Kramnik is the dream of many chess players. These six youngsters will not just have a chance to meet him but also train with him for ten days! Well, through their excellent performances they have earned this opportunity. But still when Vladimir Kramnik, entered the apartment it was a surreal feeling for the youngsters.

Kramnik enters the Champions House in Chens Sur Leman

Kramnik greeted each player and tried to understand their complex Indian names! 

The entire troop - Kramnik with the six youngsters and the two managers

It's really a big privilege for these youngsters to be learning from the best!

Discipline personified

Just a few hours later after the class, all the discipline was gone! Kids will after all be kids!

The first few hours of the camp was Kramnik trying to get to know the youngsters much better and answering general questions like how to overcome losses, how to manage time in the best possible way etc.

Post lunch began the session where Kramnik showed seven of his special endgames!

It was so amazing to understand and learn endgames from one of the greatest endgame players of all time

There were several endgames that Kramnik showed in the class and the most amazing part about them was that he chose his own endgames. Usually when you go to a camp, you are either taught theoretical endgames or endgames which are quite concrete. But Kramnik being Kramnik could take the risk of teaching the art of practical endgame play to six hungry youngsters. All six of them had hundreds of questions, but Kramnik would answer them with great respect giving his insights. Sometimes there were no accurate answers, but more important than accurate answers was to understand how a former World Champion thinks in a specific position. Teaching such endgames is really difficult because often the difference between two options doesn't seem much. You really have to be a master to actually explain the difference. At the end of nearly four hours of training, the youngsters had learnt some important lessons. One of the key ones being - you don't have always have to do something. Often the opponent will help you find a plan in the position. Kramnik's training methods are very practical and it felt as if the lessons he imparted on day one were exactly the things that youngsters lack in their play.


Just to give you an example:

Kovacevic vs Kramnik, 1997

Kramnik asks the class - What would you do here?

One of the students says Bd6-e5 relocating the bishop on a strong square, while another said ...h4 fixing the kingside pawns. Which move is better? Usually trainers do not want to go into such discussions because they themselves do not understand which move is better and why. But Kramnik would often analyze such positions trying to explain his thought process. And perhaps as per the computer this wasn't the most precise, but when one of the greatest endgame players of all time chooses a plan, an idea or a move and you can understand his thinking, this is already a huge learning for the youngsters.

The class came to an end, but the learning continued as the kids went for a walk with Kramnik until he got his cab!

Rice, dal, moong with thepla, curd and pickle, a simple yet effective meal!

At night the hard work continues as the youngsters analyze the endgame between Kramnik and Zhang Zhong!

The place is beautiful, however right now all that the youngsters are focusing upon is how they can become better chess players! The long walks into the countryside will have to wait until the rest day!

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