9/8/2020 The Candidates Tournament 2020 in Ekaterinburg was started when the corona pandemic had already spread around the world. However, after seven of 14 rounds it was interrupted and postponed to an indefinite date. In a press release FIDE now announced that the Candidates Tournament will resume on November 1, 2020, probably in Ekaterinburg, or alternatively in Tbilisi. | Photo: Lennart Ootes
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Press Release by FIDE, 8.9.2020
It was the only top sporting event in the world that got suspended halfway amid the coronavirus outbreak
Eight of the top players in the world compete to become Magnus Carlsen's challenger for the World Title
The International Chess Federation (FIDE) is pleased to announce the resumption of theCandidates Tournament, the event that decides who will be the challenger to Magnus Carlsen's reign. The 8th round has been scheduled for November 1, 2020.According to the contract,Yekaterinburg, the city that organized the first round at the highest level in March 2020, is still considered as the hosting city. However, considering the epidemiological situation, FIDE has designated a reserve venue: the city ofTbilisi, in Georgia, has been officially approved as an alternative, and it is ready to host the tournament in the same time frame.
TheCandidates Tournament, which gathers the best eight chess players on the planet except for the World Champion himself, kicked off on March 15 in Yekaterinburg (Russia), at a very early stage of the coronavirus outbreak. With only 8 participants, the event was deemed safe to go ahead under the condition that it was played behind closed doors, with no public present at the auditorium, and reducing staff to the very minimum. Players, arbiters, and officials were tested for COVID-19 twice a day. "The health and safety measures were very similar to the ones currently being applied at the US Tennis Open and other sporting events, but at the time, all this was uncharted territory", explains the President of the International Chess Federation,Arkady Dvorkovich.
However, the event came to an abrupt end when the worsening of the pandemic situation forced the Russian government to preventively close its borders. The uncertainty caused by this decision, and the risk of having the players stuck in Russian territory at the conclusion of the event, forced FIDE to suspend the competition and fleet a private jet to fly the chess players out of the country before the lockdown was inforced.
The tournament, played under a double round-robin format, was suspended after the 7th round, when the GrandmastersMaxime Vachier-Lagrave(France) andIan Nepomniachtchi(Russia) were leading with 4,5 points. Since half of the games had already been played, the regulations establish that the results stand, rather than having the tournament re-started from scratch.
It is not the first time that an international chess event is interrupted in exceptional circumstances like these. In 1914 a tournamentMannheim(Germany), with 18 of the best players of the moment, was interrupted when Germany declared war on Russia. Most of the participants rushed to travel back home, with a notable exception: the RussianEfim Bogoljubovstayed behind, and after he married a German woman he would stay there permanently, never leaving the country again. Something similar happened during theBuenos Aires Chess Olympiadin 1939, when World War II broke out halfway into the event. The English team abandoned the competition immediately, but most others kept playing. Germany won the gold medal, but famously lost the war. A number of participants stayed in South America for some time, while a few of them would find a new home in Argentina, like the Polish-bornMiguel Najdorf.
"Todays announcement about the resumption of the Candidates is another positive step for chess fans and players. The World Championship cycle is one of the oldest sports traditions in the world, and it is FIDE's duty to protect it and ensure its continuity. This is also a crucial event in order to increase the popularity of chess around the world", explains the FIDE President. "We are aware that millions of fans are looking forward to seeing the best chess players on the planet back at the chess board, and we have spared no effort to make it possible despite the challenging circumstances. As weve stressed on several occasions, we would resume the competition only when it is considered safe to do so under the guidance of the leading public health authorities.
"Apart from Tbilisi, we are also in touch with other potential host cities from several countries where the event could be moved to, in case additional restrictions reappear in Russia and Georgia", explainsEmil Sutovsky, FIDE's Director-General.
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