Chess vs COVID 19: All the wrong moves
On the edge of Siberia, chess is struggling to make a move against coronavirus.
The event: The Candidates 2020, where eight of the world’s top players are pitted against each other in a round-robin format. The winner will get to challenge reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen later in the year for the title.
The place: The freezing city of Yekaterinburg in Russia.
The move: The international chess federation (FIDE) going ahead with the tournament even as sports events across the world has ground to a halt. “The decision by the Russian Sports Ministry to cancel all international events has provoked an understandable alarm among chess fans,” FIDE posted on Twitter. “But this decree won’t impact the #FIDECandidates. The Fide President has received assurances that the event is deemed safe and can go ahead.”
As one Twitter user posted on that thread: “Last men standing. Chess. The game of real men.”
Move 2: Inviting close to five thousand people into a packed hall for the opening ceremony, and then posting a photo of it. And then taking the photo down. And then posting this tweet: “Please note the players were not present. With just 93 cases registered in Russia, these kind of public gatherings were still allowed in Russia.”
FIDE—suggesting that it’s OK for non-players to be under threat, and displaying a remarkable degree of ignorance on how the virus spreads—all in one sentence.
Move 3: A truly bizarre one. The organisers announced that they have made 5-inch replica dolls of all eight players, complete with their signature clothes, so that, “(The) replicas sitting at the chess tables can be photographed shaking opponents hands, while the real players will avoid doing that based on the recent health advisory.”
At the start of the opening match, Dutch GM Anish Giri shook hands with Anatoly Karpov, while his Russian opponent, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, refused with a smile. The two players were not sitting six feet away either, but across a normal competition table.
So much for the dolls.