Anand vs Kramnik – no castling!

by ChessBase
2/19/2021 – This summer Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand will face each other in an innovative chess variant, proposed by Kramnik: No-Castling chess. There is one simple rule change – no castling allowed, everything else remains the same as in the regular chess – is meant to combat over-preparation and drawing tendencies in chess. Experience shows that it also leads to more exciting games. In parallel the online Sparkassen Playchess Open for participants from all over the world will be in the "No-Castling“ format. This is your chance to try it out.

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Press release 2021

Two World Champions face-off at Sparkassen Chess Trophy  

48th International Dortmund Chess Days to launch digitization initiative and Deutschland Grand Prix 

The chess world is expecting a major highlight in the heart of Germany’s Ruhr region this summer: with Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) and Viswanathan Anand (India), the 14th and 15th chess world champions will duel in an innovative chess variant at the No-castling (NC) World Masters. In addition, Germany's top players will compete with international grandmasters at the Deutschland Grand Prix. Both top events, as well as the NRW Youth Cup, will take place from July 13 to 18, 2021, at the Westfalenhallen Congress Center, while the digital Sparkassen Playchess Open will be held online from July 10 to 18, 2021.

Anand and Kramnik playing the World Chess Championship in 2008

"We are very pleased to return to the Westfalenhallen after a long interval with the first-ever staging of the NC World Masters. Germany's most prestigious chess tournament provides a worthy setting for a duel of world champions," says event director Carsten Hensel, looking ahead to the chess highlight of the year.

NC World Masters in the spotlight of the chess world 

In the duel, quite a novelty will be in the focus of the chess world from July 13 on: with Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand, two living legends of the international chess scene, will play four chess games against each other with classical thinking time, yet without the possibility of castling. The so-called "No-Castling Chess", an idea explored by the DeepMind AlphaZero team and Vladimir Kramnik, will use this tiny rule change to force players to deviate from memorized opening lines, and thus lead to completely new creativity. The game promises to become more dynamic and entertaining without deviating from its familiar rules and patterns.

Demis Hassabis, CEO and founder of DeepMind, the most advanced enterprise in developing Artificial Intelligence said: „When we first introduced AlphaZero, its creative and dynamic style inspired chess players around the world. Now, it’s exciting to see world-class players like Vladimir Kramnik work with AlphaZero to design novel possibilities for the game. I look forward to seeing the No-Castling variant played between two former World Champions, and I hope it will once again inspire players of all levels to explore new possibilities and ideas in chess.“ 

Deutschland Grand Prix and North Rhine-Westphalia Youth Cup

The second event highlight will be the Deutschland Grand Prix, which will also be an integral part of the Sparkassen Chess Trophy in the future. German national players will compete with the extended world elite. For the first time since 2013, the number of invited grandmasters will be increased to ten again.

The association Initiative Pro Schach (IPS) with its chairman Stefan Koth and event director Carsten Hensel at the helm wants to further develop the Sparkassen Chess Trophy with the new formats and promote top chess in Dortmund. This includes the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Youth Cup, also planned for July 13 in the Westfalenhallen. This tournament will feature Germany's strongest young talents in international competition. 

Chess television and Sparkassen Playchess Open on the internet

The ChessBase company, Hamburg, could be won as media partner. As part of this collaboration, the event will undergo a digitization offensive. Not only the chess games played, but also the pictures from the Westfalenhallen will be broadcast live all over the world.

This cooperation will lead to a fourth major event entitled Sparkassen Playchess Open, which will be held online under the umbrella of the event and will start on July 10. It will be a tournament with high numbers of participants from all over the world in the innovative "no-castling“ chess, which can also provide trend-setting insights in this format. The background for the digitalization of the Sparkassen Playchess Open is the corona pandemic. A "hygiene concept" is continuously being developed and updated in this context.

Digitization offensive and hygiene concept

"We want to try everything to avoid another cancellation of the Sparkassen Chess Trophy due to the pandemic," says Carsten Hensel. This includes the digitalization of certain areas such as the Open. The circumstances are currently highly problematic for all organizers. However, there would also be opportunities for the Chess Days, for example to accelerate the digitization of this event, which was intended anyway. Hensel continues: "What we would otherwise have achieved in two or three years in the area of broadcasting chess TV, we are now trying to implement in 4-5 months. Not everything will be perfect by then, but we are on the right track." 

The event in Dortmund will be designed under the best possible hygiene conditions in the Westfalenhallen. A powerful filter and ventilation system will ensure that the air is exchanged several times an hour. Due to the reduced number of players, large distances will be maintained between the participants. In addition, plexiglass screens will be placed between the opponents so that every conceivable safety precaution will be taken against Covid-19. FFP2 masks and disinfectants will be provided to all participants, organizers and reporters. Testing must be carried out and possible quarantines of foreign players must be observed.

Whether the Sparkassen Chess Trophy 2021 - 48th International Dortmund Chess Days - can be opened to the general public is rather unlikely under the given circumstances. "If at all, we can only decide that in case of a very favourable pandemic development and immediately before the event. At the moment, however, it rather doesn't look like that," says organiser Stefan Koth.    

On Friday, July 16, an evening with the participating stars is planned as part of the supporting program, which will be held on a small scale due to the pandemic. Sabine Oecking from Munich is involved with the artistic direction of the event and would like to create some space for the subject of art even under the extraordinary circumstances.

Also read (and watch)

Vladimir Kramnik proposes an exciting chess variant!
12/9/2019 – From lay fans to top grandmasters, more or less everyone in the world of chess feels upset today about the significant number of draws that take place in virtually every classical elite tournament. Too much theory reinforced by extensive engine work is seemingly rendering the game of chess sterile and lifeless. One alternative is Chess960 and FIDE sanctioned the first Fischer Random World Championship this year. Recently the legendary Vladimir Kramnik has also proposed a solution to the problem that is simpler and more efficient than the Fischer Random, and which he believes will ensure more than 50% decisive games in top-level play.


First ever "no-castling" tournament results in 89% decisive games!
1/19/2020 – All the rules of chess remain the same, just that both the players cannot castle. How does removing this one rule alter the game? Well, we decided to put this idea to test by getting 13 of the strongest Indian youngsters (average Elo: 2457) and holding the first ever No-Castling chess tournament at the Microsense Kramnik Gelfand Training camp in Chennai.

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