50. Dortmund Chess Festival: A record-breaking jubilee

by André Schulz
7/7/2023 – At the anniversary tournament, the organisers of the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Trophy celebrated a record number of participants in the Open with almost 550 players, including several German national players. Vladimir Kramnik and Fabiano Caruana, runner-up at the 2018 World Championship, provided the glamour of world champions at the NC Masters. | Photo: Veterans of the Dortmund Chess Festival | Photos: Michelle Lassak

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The Dortmund Chess Festival, also known as the Sparkassen Chess Meeting and the Sparkassen Chess Trophy, has a long tradition. The football city of Dortmund once applied to host the World Championship match Fischer vs. Spassky in 1972. As is well known, this did not happen in Dortmund, but the bid was the beginning of a long tournament history.

In 1973, half a century ago, the first grandmaster tournament was held as a replacement. In 2023 Dortmund is still a chess metropolis. Under new management the Dortmund Chess Festival wants to get closer to the "grass roots" again, to the countless chess friends who play chess in the Ruhr area, in Germany, all over the world, not at world class level, but at a high level and with great pleasure. The idea was to give the tournament the character of a chess festival with a nice open and many participants.

Of course, you also need a few cherries on the cake. Vladimir Kramnik and Fabiano Caruana, a world champion and a runner-up, provided a special glamour in the anniversary year. But also the many strong German grandmasters and champions in the Open and in the Sportland NRW Cup.

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Dortmund's planned relaunch was hampered by the years of the pandemic, but still turned out splendidly. In fact, the jubilee tournament was a record-breaking event. With 569 participants in the Open, players from 43 nations, including 121 title holders and no less than 31 grandmasters, the organisers of the young association "Initiative Pro Schach e.V." (IPS) with their front man Carsten Hensel were certainly very satisfied. With Dortmund's Westfalenhalle, the tournament also had the prominent venue it deserved.

A unique feature of the Dortmund Chess Trophy is the NC Masters. NC stands for No Castling. Playing chess without castling is an idea of Deep Mind and Vladimir Kramnik. The level of top chess has improved considerably in recent years, which means that many of the top players' games end in draws. Can you increase the number of decided games with games without castling - that was the original idea. It worked well at the NC Masters because most of the games were decided. The winner of the tournament was Fabiano Caruana.

Ingrid Lauterbach, President of the German Chess Federation, plays the first move in the top game of the NC Masters

In the NRW Sportland Cup, a round-robin tournament, the players were allowed to castle. Here Ruben Gideon Köllner and Dinara Wagner fought a thrilling duel for the tournament victory. Wagner won this duel, the winner's prize and made her third IM norm and her second GM norm, following up on her success in the Women's Grand Prix tournament in Nicosia.

Dinara Wagner

In the current women's world rankings, Wagner has climbed to 18th place with an Elo rating of 2468 and is preparing to surpass Elisabeth Pähtz (2471), who has been the number one in German women's chess for ages.

The Open featured a number of top German and international players. In the end, two of them, Alexander Donchenko and Frederik Svane, shared first place, but Donchenko won the tournament on tiebreak. Rasmus Svane was fourth and Matthias Blübaum ninth.

Alexander Donchenko and Frederik Svane

On Sunday the winners were honoured and received their prizes. The closing programme also included a lecture by Matthias Deutschmann who, among other things, pointed out the peaceful internationality of the chess community.

Matthias Deutschmann, Comedian and chess enthusiast


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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.