No Castling Chess: An interview with Vladimir Kramnik

by André Schulz
5/3/2021 – From 10 to 18 July, Dortmund will once again be Germany's chess capital. Chess fans in Dortmund organise the "Sparkassen Chess Trophy", a grandmaster tournament, and Vladimir Kramnik and Vishy Anand will play a match in No Castling Chess. In an interview Kramnik reveals more.

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From 10 to 18 July, chess fans all over the world can again look to Dortmund. The "Dortmunder Schachtage" have been taking place there since 1973 and for decades the international chess elite has been coming to the German city.

Last year, in 2020, a new organisational team wanted to restart the traditional tournament. With the Westfalenhalle as a prominent venue, a large international open was planned. The meeting of German and international Grandmasters with many amateurs was to make Dortmund more of a chess festival again, after the Grandmaster tournament and the Open had become more and more distant from each other in the years before. However, because of the Corona pandemic, these ideas had to be postponed.

But the organisers did not want to let the summer of 2021 in Dortmund pass by without any chess at all. Instead of an Open, there will be a GM tournament with many strong players and, as the icing on the cake, the two former World Champions Vladimir Kramnik (14th World Chess Champion from 2000-2007) and Viswanathan Anand (15th World Chess Champion from 2007 to 2013) will play a match.

My Path to the Top

On this DVD Vladimir Kramnik retraces his career from talented schoolboy to World Champion in 2006. With humour and charm he describes his first successes, what it meant to be part of the Russian Gold Medal team at the Olympiad, and how he undertook the Herculean task of beating his former mentor and teacher Garry Kasparov.

My Career Vol. 1

The first DVD with videos from Anand's chess career reflects the very beginning of that career and goes as far as 1999. It starts with his memories of how he first learned chess and shows his first great games (including those from the 1984 WCh for juniors). The high point of his early developmental phase was the winning of the 1987 WCh for juniors. After that, things continue in quick succession: the first victories over Kasparov, WCh candidate in both the FIDE and PCA cycles and the high point of the WCh match against Kasparov in 1995.
Running time: 3:48 hours

My Career Vol. 2

Vishy Anand is one of the greatest chess talents of all times. On this DVD he speaks about his career, his views on chess, and presents the most beautiful and interesting games of his career.

Vladimir Kramnik has actually retired from tournament chess, but for the rematch of the 2008 World Championship match against Anand in Bonn he is competing again – under slightly different rules. Kramnik is currently campaigning for a modification of chess, for the so-called "No Castling" chess.

How does chess change when you are no longer allowed to castle? The idea is that there are fewer draws and the games become more lively without the usual established opening patterns.

In an interview with Patrick Zelbel, the press spokesman for the Sparkassen Chess Trophy, the 14th World Champion explains the idea himself.

Interview with Vladimir Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik shares his view of the chess world in 2021. He talks about his current projects, explains "No Castling Chess" and talks about his match against Viswanathan Anand at the Sparkassen Chess Trophy. The first NC World Masters will be held in Dortmund in July 2021.

0:00​ Kramnik on current projects
6:12​ Relationship with Dortmund
9:49​ Kramnik on No Castling Chess
32:30​ NC World Masters vs Anand 


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


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Agt the Walker Agt the Walker 5/8/2021 09:07
I fully support the work of Vladimir Kramnik to make chess less drawish (and less reliant on opening preparation).

This said, I would not forbid castling but make it less attractive. Choose one of the following:
- a player castling first forfeits the ability to move a pawn forward two squares (the first time it is moved), until their opponent castles
- a player castling first loses if stalemated, until their opponent castles
- a player castling first forfeits the ability to give perpetual check, until their opponent castles
- a player castling first loses if stalemated and forfeits the ability to give perpetual check (like in shogi and xiangqi), until their opponent castles.

This could also be combined with Chess960.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 5/6/2021 11:20
@genem if we think that chess has a problem to solve, then your idea would come into consideration. However, I do not think chess would have a problem. I follow top games and play my share of games. If some variant would replace chess, then I would stop following it. The non-chess starting positions (the other 959) in the variant you propose would have no connection whatsoever with historical games except that both are board games with similar rules. Also, in this case theory would change, it would focus less on concrete lines and more on ideas to consider in the starting position. So, even though I see the rationale behind your proposal, I disagree with it.
genem genem 5/6/2021 09:40
@lajosarpad wrote... {

"The idea is that there are fewer draws and the games become more lively without the usual established opening patterns."

This may be true for the time being, but if this variant becomes mainstream, people will learn it as well as chess with castling. So, banking on the fact that there is no developed opening theory yet for this variant is banking on a very ephemeral thing.

Yes, after a few years, chess masters will eventually research new openings so much that Kramnik's No-Castling Chess will have a high draw rate too. And there will be no more new positions.

Therefore, a better solution would be to adopt Fischer Random Chess, except without the 'Random'. (Aka, chess960, or chess9LX.) Pick one sensible start setup from the other 959, and reuse the setup for a few years until its opening theory is over-researched and the setup's draw rate rises too high.

A combination of Kramnik's no-castling idea, with the nonrandom chess9LX, would truly yield a lower draw rate, with the ability to maintain the lower draw rate for hundreds of years.

fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 5/4/2021 09:00
@lajosarpad has exactly identified the problem with no castling chess. I can only suppose that GM Kramnik sees it as a temporary diversion without opening theory, but it does not have longevity.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 5/4/2021 10:48
"The idea is that there are fewer draws and the games become more lively without the usual established opening patterns."

This may be true for the time being, but if this variant becomes mainstream, people will learn it as well as chess with castling. So, banking on the fact that there is no developed opening theory yet for this variant is banking on a very ephemeral thing. As about opening theory and computer lines. Yes, there are heavily analyzed lines, but players have a finite capacity to memorize lines, therefore, if somebody deviates from the main opening lines rather drastically, then it's unlikely that his/her opponent would be familiar to the random deviation. So, if one does not like to learn opening theory, then he/she can easily just learn the main ideas and strategies behind a few lines and play on his/her own. While a computer may punish such a style, over the board it's not so easy for a human, assuming that there is some considerable playing strength combined with the random deviation. I do not think the invention of new variants of chess is a good idea. It spreads the message that chess has a problem and since the variants tend to end up with the same situation earlier identified as a "problem" in chess, the end result is some bad publicity for chess. That's my opinion.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 5/4/2021 09:35
In the same vein : No double pawn moves ... ?
Mawin Mawin 5/4/2021 05:41
He thinks that castling is illogical. But it emulates the medieval battle situation. The king gave a speech to the soldiers. Then he hid behind the lines in order to oversee the battle situation and give orders. Castling is a great move that speeds up the game and makes it much more attractive. There are already many good ideas for alternative rules, such as my Relocation Variants:
chessgod0 chessgod0 5/4/2021 01:46
I like the idea, I think it's an interesting variant just the same as FischerRandom. And I like to see ex-champions staying involved in the game like this.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 5/4/2021 01:11
"No Castling", no thanks!
It's what people do when they chose to not remain in competitive chess. Why even give it the time of day?
maxi80 maxi80 5/4/2021 12:30
Complete nonsense. OTB chess should have its own fixed time controls, classical, rapid and bullet. No Castle Chess and other stuff is not the point here. One fixed time control for each kind of OTB game. Don't know which one, but we chess players all over the world are equal, but some chess players -Super GMs- are more equal than others...?! I'd love to see Super-GMs playing classical just like everybody else.
Hope this comment helps.
Machomove Machomove 5/3/2021 06:04
Let them play...
mehmet17 mehmet17 5/3/2021 05:21
No castle chess is the ancient version of chess. Sorry to see Kramnik losing time on this nonsense.