Magnus Carlsen Breaks a Rule for Equality

In chess, white always goes first. But why should colour determine who starts and gets the advantage? On this BBDO Düsseldorf campaign for the German Chess Federation,the rules of chess are being rewritten for a day in the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Four-time Chess World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, and his rival, Anish Giri, flipped the board and turned the game upside down by breaking a key rule: white moves first.So, on this special day, black pieces make the first move.They have made it clear, through their symbolic move, that nobody should have an advantage or disadvantage because of colour. The campaign is an initiative by the German Chess Federation, with support of UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities.

The federation’s  president, Ullrich Krause, says: “Chess has always been a tool to make people think. That’s why it’s almost an obligation to help this generation think of the world as a more equal, and, to put it in Magnus Carlsen’s own words, a smarter place.
We really hope that we can inspire people to build a better society and help chess to be perceived as a more inclusive game.””We can not change the rules of chess permanently, but we flipped the board for one game to use chess to bring a new perspective to the discussion about equality.” Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen, who also creates his own chess apps through the company Play Magnus, has also temporarily changed the rules in the ‘Play Magnus’ app to show his support for the campaign. The limited-time update will allow players to decide for themselves which colour they want to start the game with. In addition, users of the Magnus Trainer app will be able to play through ‘The Immortal Game’ – a famous game from back in 1851 which also started with black moving first.

Additionally, the chess community is supporting the message of equality. The website is hosting a black to start “Banter Blitz Marathon,” in which chess grandmasters play with the temporary change of rule against non-professionals on the site.

The BBDO campaign, for the first time in history, features two chess grandmasters breaking a rule in modern chess – creating amplification tools such as a campaign hub hosted in, social media videos and other pieces.

With the breaking of a single, but decisive, rule, as well as the hashtag #MoveForEquality, the campaign not only writes a new chapter in chess history, but sends a strong message to both chess lovers and the rest of the world on an international day against racism.
The accompanying film, as well as further information and material, can be found at

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