In anti-racist statement, chess champs let Black move first

April 6, 2019 GMT

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen and Dutch rival Anish Giri are marking a U.N. international campaign against racism by playing a game in which contrary to the longstanding rules of the game the player with the black pieces made the first move.

A video of the encounter was released this week on Mr. Carlsen’s Facebook page. The players said the game was being played as a “symbolic gesture” to mark the U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Racism March 21.

“We broke a rule today,” Mr. Carlsen said.

“To change minds tomorrow,” Mr. Giri, the world’s fourth-rated grandmaster, added.


The rule that White plays first roughly the equivalent of having the advantage of the serve in tennis dates back to the late 1800s and the emergence of the modern game, according to the website, which carried an account of the Carlsen-Giri video. Before that, the player who moved first had his choice of colors.

A U.N. website,, said it did not mean to imply that the modern rule was racist in origin. But it said a symbolic switch between two of the world’s greatest players carrier symbolic weight.

The campaign “highlights what happens when you step away from the board, where a fair world is not a reality for many, and the dream of having perfect equality between races is still far from coming true.”

Playing the black pieces, Mr. Carlsen starts the game by moving his queen pawn ahead two squares. The video, lasting just over a minute, does not show which player won the game.