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Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik to play a four-game match of No-Castling Chess

by Sagar Shah - 23/02/2021

From July 13th to 18th, the chess world will be looking forward to the duel between the 14th and 15th World Champions Vladimir Kramnik and Vishy Anand once again. The event will be held in the chess-rich city of Dortmund and will be a part of the historic Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Trophy. However, there is a small twist here! The legends will indulge in a four-game match with Classical time control, but in No-Castling Chess! In this article we give you the details of the event and also acquaint you with the world of No-Castling chess and how it can lead to exciting games.

Over a year ago Vladimir Kramnik proposed an interesting variant of chess - the "No-Castling Chess". All the rules of the game remain the same, just that the players cannot castle. The main reason was to ensure that there are no theoretical lines. While the starting position and the rules of the game remain the same, the fact that players cannot castles, makes the existing theory quite pointless. Let's point out this fact with an interesting game:

It's the Meran variation in the Slav

Nothing unusual until now! Both players are happy making the normal moves!

Gukesh, who had the black pieces, was happy that as Black he had got in this break and activated his b7 bishop

In normal chess, this would without doubt be a better position for Black. He has a great pawn structure and White's doubled f-pawns plus the king on f1 would give him huge headaches in normal chess. But the No-Castle chess is a different beast. The main reason being the black king on e8 is not at all safe!

Bxf5!! A powerful strike by Arjun! White sacrifices a bishop to open up lines towards the black king

This is where the real difference between normal chess and No-Castling chess is clearly seen. In normal chess, Black would 0-0 and after f4 go Qb7! and then save his knight when the game is over. In No-Castling chess the king has no where to run. It is stuck in the center. Kudos to Arjun Kalyan for recognizing this and sacrificing his bishop!

One rook covers the d-file, the queen covers the f-file, the other rook is coming to the e-file to deliver checkmate!

The above was a game played between not two bots or engines! It was played at the first-ever No castling tournament that was organized by ChessBase India at the Microsense Kramnik Gelfand camp back in January 2020. On the rest day of the training camp with Kramnik and Gelfand, 13 of the most talented youngsters of Indian chess indulged in a No-castling chess tournament (Time control of 5 mins + 3 seconds increment). The average rating of the tournament was 2457 and the event had 24 games ending decisively out of 27. That's a whopping 89% decisive games!

The first ever No Castling tournament

GM Raunak Sadhwani won the event. In the picture he is congratulated by Kramnik
World Champion Vladimir Kramnik speaks about the No Castling variant of chess, how he came up with this idea and its virtues

At the No Castling event, Kramnik even indulged in a couple of games of No Castling chess with Boris Gelfand. Both these games were video-recorded and can be found below:

Game 1 - Vladimir Kramnik vs Boris Gelfand
Game 2 - Boris Gelfand vs Vladimir Kramnik

It was clear that this variant was exciting and could be introduced in some big event. And Guess what?! The very well-known Dortmund event will this year host a no-castling match between 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik and 15th World Champion Vishy Anand.

Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik have been good friends of each other since many years now | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The rivalry between Anand and Kramnik is legendary. The first time that the duo met each other over a chess board was way back in 1989 - that's 32 years ago! And that moment has been documented!

Vishy Anand playing his first ever game against Vladimir Kramnik, although Kramnik is not present at the board in this picture!

The two have played World Championships against each other and it's safe to say Vishy and Vlady are two of the greatest legends to have graced the game of chess! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

An intense game at the Tal Memorial 2018 in Moscow, Russia | Photo: Amruta Mokal

At the Batumi Olympiad in 2018 where India and Russia faced off against each other. Although Kramnik was on board 2 and Vishy on 1, they greeted each other with a firm handshake and big smiles! Just what you would expect from two good friends. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Over the years the over the board rivalry has remained, but off the board Kramnik and Anand have become very close friends!

With a huge historical backdrop and their classical score being even, the No castling match between Kramnik and Anand in Dortmund with a classical time control promises to be a very exciting one. It will be a match of 4 games. While Kramnik has worked on this variant along with the Deep Mind team and has a better understanding of the variant, Vishy Anand's preparation skills can never be underestimated.

In their 2008 match Anand managed to beat Kramnik with some scintillating opening surprises and preparation | Photo:Christian Lünig, Arbeitsblende
IM Sagar Shah speaks about the No Castling Chess Match between Anand and Kramnik

Press Release:

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.

The place where the match will be played | Photo:Christian Lünig, Arbeitsblende

Mayor Thomas Westphal: "The Chess Days are experiencing a digital boost. This way, this extraordinary tournament, which involves world champions, grandmasters and top players as well as junior athletes and amateurs alike, will be experienced even more intensively worldwide. Direct participation from anywhere is possible via the digital Open. This fits very well into the era of a digital metropolis. I was very happy to take on the patronage of this internationally renowned tournament, which has been a guarantor of world-class chess for decades. I wish the organizers, who have succeeded in creating a good tournament mix here, every success with this novel format."                             


"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. As in previous years, Sparkasse Dortmund remains on board as title sponsor and co-organizer. Chairman of the board Dirk Schaufelberger: "I note with enthusiasm with how much commitment and innovative conceptions the organizers are at work. Chess, the City and Sparkasse Dortmund - they simply go together!" The event team is equally pleased about the longstanding support of the city of Dortmund, which has been involved since the first organization of the Chess Days in 1973.


In the duel, quite a novelty will be in the focus of the chess world from July 13 on: With Vladimir Kramnik und 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." 

Demis Hassabis is the CEO and Co-founder of DeepMind and is also a very strong chess player (Elo -2220)

Both players share an eventful history. Indian Viswanathan Anand became the 15th World Chess Champion in history by winning the 2007 World Chess Championship in Mexico City, replacing Russian Vladimir Kramnik after seven years on the throne. Kramnik, who had defeated Garry Kasparov in a legendary world championship match in the year 2000, held the world title from 2000 to 2007. The two players sat opposite each other again in the 2008 world championship match in Bonn, Germany, where Anand defended the title. The overall record of the two world champions in classical chess is even.


Vladimir Kramnik is the record winner of the Dortmund Chess Days with an outstanding ten tournament victories and is closely associated with the tournament as a representative and envoy. The fact that he will be sitting down at the board in his Dortmund "living room" once again after the end of his career at the beginning of 2019 will make chess fans all over the world particularly happy. Viswanathan Anand is still very active, but he hasn't competed in the Westphalian metropolis after 2007. At that time he finished in a shared second place behind Kramnik, just three months before his title win in Mexico. The global public will be feverishly awaiting the match between the world champions.

Mr. Dortmund is the right sobriquet given to the man who has won the event 10 times! | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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. Tournament director Andreas Jagodzinsky is looking forward to a top-class round robin tournament. 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.

Chess television und 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. Guido Kohlen will work with his team as technical director together with ChessBase on the live broadcast and interview formats for the worldwide public. This cooperation will lead to a fourth major event entitled Sparkassen Playchess Open. An open tournament will be offered, which will be held online under the umbrella of the event and will start already 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. Under the leadership of Christian Jochmann, a "hygiene concept" is continuously being developed and updated in this context. This is being done in close cooperation with the Westfalenhallen and the health authorities.

Important links:

The entire Press Release can be read on the official site here

Kramnik's interview on No Castling Chess

YouTube playlist of No Castling blitz on ChessBase India

Don't miss the Grandmaster Chess Episode 15 that will be broadcast LIVE on ChessBase India Channel at 3.30 p.m. IST. We will be discussing about Anand vs Kramnik No Castling match as well.


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