Carlsen and Giri campaign for racial equality

by Macauley Peterson
3/21/2019 – "Breaking a rule in chess to change behavior in life." World Champion Magnus Carlsen and GM Anish Giri team up in a social campaign dubbed "Move for Equality" in honour of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The pair shot a brief video in Oslo on Tuesday for the promotion.

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Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri are not necessarily the pair you would imagine joining forces for any campaign. They've been known to feud on Twitter, and are more often poking fun at each other away from the board than finding common ground on an important social cause. But this week they came together in Oslo to kick off a promotional campaign with the hashtag #MoveForEquality and ending racial discrimination as its raison d'être.

Carlsen teased the campaign yesterday in a 16-second video, square, like a chessboard:

And today the campaign released the full version on Carlsen's Facebook page:

Official site:

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was initiated in 1966, "is an opportunity for people around the world to renew their commitment to making our world a place of justice and dignity, where all races are treated equally."

As a historical aside, it wasn't a "rule" as such for White to move first until the late-19th century. Prior to that it was common to refer to the "first player" and "second player" but which colour pieces the first player actually used were a matter of choice, and became a convention first in publishing games, and eventually in playing games as well. For instance, according to contemporaneous sources the 'immortal game' of Adolf Anderssen actually had Anderssen, the 'first player' blacking with Black.

In a clever, toungue-in-cheek response, Carlsen and Giri's chief seconds, Peter Heine Nielsen and Erwin l'Ami respectively, shared their own views on equality: 

The campaign was created with support of UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities (ICCAR).

"We cannot change the rules of chess permanently, but we flipped the board for one game to
use chess to bring a new perspective to the discussion about equality," says Carlsen.


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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chessdrummer chessdrummer 3/28/2019 01:31
sceptic101 Just about all of the top women played in those two separate tournaments. Whether we like it or not, when we travel to foreign countries, we have to follow their law and/or honor their culture or we can chose not to go. In certain places, if you have to show honor or respect of the culture. If that means removing your shoes, covering your head, bowing, and/or other gestures. The notion that one is not a Muslim and should not adhere to local customs in Iran misses the point completely. Countries cannot always expect to adapt their culture to suit visitors. Soon enough, they won't have it... and that is exactly what is happening. Every country you visit is westernized now. Sometimes visitors have to do the adapting. This is one such case. Both players you mentioned made a principled decision not to go. That's their prerogative. Asking if Carlsen and Giri made public statements about gender equality is strange... and unfair. They are making a statement against racism. It does not mean they do not care about the other issues. I doubt if they initiated this campaign. They seem more like the spokespersons and were commissioned.
hansj hansj 3/23/2019 11:49
Surely this campaign must be directed at specific instances of racism, not just racism blowing in the wind.
What are the targets of this campaign? What instances of racism are Carlsen and Giri opposing and fighting against? Have they mentioned specific targets?
Is racism a problem in Norway, and is that what Carlsen intends to do something about?
Is racism a problem in Holland and so on?
Or is all this just nice, well meaning words, emitted with no special direction?
lajosarpad lajosarpad 3/22/2019 12:20
Racism is bad, in the sense that White, Black, Brown or any other color of the skin should not be the cause of stereotypes. However, giving advantage in life to colored people would be anti white racism. I think race by its own should not be the basis of judgement of individuals.

On the other hand, races are different. Eastern Asians tend to be better in math, Ashkenazi Jews tend to be better in humane disciplines, black people tend to be strong and so on. We should not ignore scientific facts in our fight against racism, but rather, we should be understanding that the large, observed statistical data is only a tendency and we will always find many individuals of any races who are different from the characteristic members of the given race would make us to expect.

And I agree with Sceptic101, women faced very strange rules when they had to wear the hijab.
sceptic101 sceptic101 3/22/2019 10:18
In the present case it’s all very well for Carlsen and Giri to be good will ambassadors for a cause like racial equality and dignity. However, charity begins at home. Let them also speak for gender equality in the chess world. A few years ago WGM Ms Nazi Paikidze from the USA declared, she would boycott women’s world championship in Iran because their religious law would require her to wear a hijab. She wrote, “I think it’s unacceptable to host a Women’s World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens.” Apologists and defenders of such laws should understand, they cannot be imposed on individuals who come as honoured guests and participate in tournaments. Last year another WGM Soumya Swaminathan from India pulled out of the Asian Championship in Iran over the same hijab rule. She maintained, it was a violation of her personal rights. Both players received support and sympathy from all over the world. Was there a squeak of sympathy, let alone support from Magnus and his peers? I am not asking our world champions, present and former to be crusaders. At least let them have the moral courage to speak for female players. Homilies to the rest of the world can wait.
sceptic101 sceptic101 3/22/2019 10:13
About chess and politics outside: Heads of governments do like respectability and prestige conferred by sports and cultural events. The more notorious they are, the greater the desire for publicity. Late Ms Jayalalithaa hosted the world championship 2013, spending crores of rupees at the cost of the state exchequer that was reeling under deficit finance. With a series of corruption charges proven before courts she had to resort to this extravaganza. Chess players and media then sang her praises. No questions asked. Similarly King Salman, Saudi Arabia sponsored World Blitz and Rapid Championships in his land. It was necessary for him to earn some favorable publicity after the murder of dissident journalist Khashoggi had brought him infamy. Our GMs led by Magnus were only too happy to play, earn prize money and exchange pleasantries with him. They allowed themselves to be used for a political purpose. But then if a chess player resolves not to play under a repressive regime, how many would be left, including his own? Ask the veterans from the iron or the bamboo curtain. Food for thought.
celeje celeje 3/21/2019 10:50
@ chessgodo: You think racial equality is "politics", do you?
macauley macauley 3/21/2019 09:27
LOL. When the World Champion and the world #4 sit down at a chessboard in a chess pub and play chess, it has something to do with chess. :)
chessgod0 chessgod0 3/21/2019 07:17
This is politics and has nothing to do with chess.
SeniorPatzer SeniorPatzer 3/21/2019 06:52
"The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was initiated in 1966, "is an opportunity for people around the world to renew their commitment to making our world a place of justice and dignity, where all races are treated equally.""

Another good move would be to condemn anti-Semitism. Also known as Jew hatred. Wherever it is found.

And for the record, I'm not Jewish. I have seen folks condemn racism who simultaneously support or condone anti-Semitism. That's so horribly hypocritical.

Chess requires a certain amount of objectivity. And from an objective standpoint, if you are striving to treat all races equally, then that means that you can't discriminate against Jewish people.

And for whatever reason, it seems that discrimination against Jews is an acceptable prejudice.

P.S. FWIW, I'm well aware that Jewish people have both an ethnic and religious component.
Asdracles Asdracles 3/21/2019 04:54
And there was no more suitable player than Giri for a campaign named #moveforequality