This summer, as part of the Sparkassen Chess in Dortmund, Viswanathan Anand will play the first match in chess without castling in the duel of the world champions against Vladimir Kramnik. After Vladimir Kramnik had already talked about the special features of the No Castling Chess variation in an exclusive interview, Anand was now the guest and looked ahead to the big match. He also talks about his current projects in the pandemic and explains the personal significance that both Dortmund and Germany in general have for him.
Viswanathan Anand gives exciting insights into his view of the chess world in 2021. He talks about his current projects, explains the exciting format of No Castling Chess and looks ahead to his match against Vladimir Kramnik at the Sparkassen Chess Trophy.
Vishwanathan Anand about No Castling Chess
Vladimir Kramnik about No Castling Chess
Two World Champions face-off at Sparkassen Chess Trophy 2021
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.
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.
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 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.“
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.
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.
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. The event is supported by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with its “Sportland NRW” campaign.
In its 47 editions so far, the International Dortmund Chess Days have contributed to raising Dortmund’s worldwide profile in a positive sense. Apart from the soccer club Borussia Dortmund, there is no single event in Dortmund that sparks greater international media interest year after year than the Sparkassen Chess Trophy.
To ensure that Dortmund can continue to occupy an international position as a chess location, not only is the tournament format being revolutionized, but also the entire communications sector is being intensified together with partners – first and foremost Sparkasse Dortmund, the City of Dortmund and Westfalenhallen. This applies both to the classic public media and to the specialist media, for which Dortmund’s homegrown International Master Patrick Zelbel has been recruited as the new press spokesman. Twenty-seven-year-old Zelbel has set himself the particular task of further developing communication in the field of digital media for the interested target group.
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.
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 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, who has chosen Dortmund, 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.