The two former world chess champions played a four-game exhibition match in Dortmund where castling was disallowed to limit opening preparation.
What was the NC World Masters event?
As a side event of the Germany Grand Prix, Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik squared off in a small chess match titled the NC World Masters. 90 minutes for 40 moves with 30 minutes added after that plus 30 seconds per move: this may sound like standard operating procedure so far, but the twist in place was that castling was not allowed, forcing the players to throw classical opening preparation out the window without fully nullifying the theoretical background in the vein of chess960 or “Fischer random” setups where the order of pieces on the starting rows is mostly randomized.
The idea of “no castling chess” was previously explored by the AlphaZero company in conjunction with Kramnik, and this exhibition match was set up to further explore the concept featuring two high-level players, though its concurrent scheduling with the FIDE World Cup (and the lack of official commentary offered) inevitably limited its impact.
Anand’s victory: how it went down
The Indian was clearly superior in this match and could have won even more comfortably than the 2.5-1.5 scoreline suggested, with a dominant opening match victory followed up by three draws. Anand had promising attacks and excellent middlegame advantages in games 3 and 4, eventually dropped across a series of inaccurate moves which allowed Kramnik to fight back in the individual games but not in the match overall.
Anand recently finished in second place at the Zagreb Rapid & Blitz event behind Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, beating out Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi and other top-tier players for the runner-up spot after a period of absence at top tier events.