FIDE Candidates Tournament Postponed
The playing hall in Yekaterinburg. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

FIDE Candidates Tournament Postponed

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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295 | Chess Event Coverage

The second half of the FIDE Candidates Tournament has been postponed. The imminent interruption of air traffic between Russia and other countries forced the decision, according to a statement by FIDE.

The players were informed of the postponement this morning and were told to start packing their bags. For some of the players and others involved, the organizers have arranged a charter flight from Yekaterinburg straight to Amsterdam.

There will be a special "postponement show" on Chess.com/TV on Thursday, March 26 at 16:00 local time which is 12:00 Central Europe, 7 a.m. Eastern and 4 a.m. Pacific. You can find the games played so far on our dedicated page on Chess.com/events. Find all the information about the Candidates Tournament in our info article.


Here's FIDE's statement:

Today, the government of the Russian Federation announced that starting March 27, 2020, Russia interrupts air traffic with other countries without indicating any time frames.

FIDE can not continue the tournament without guarantees for the players' and officials' safe and timely return home. In this situation and on the basis of clause 1.5. Rules of Candidates Tournament, the FIDE President decided to stop the tournament. It will be continued later, with the exact dates to be announced as soon, as the global situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic will allow. As it was stipulated by the special rules agreed with the players before the start of the event, the results of the 7 rounds played remain valid, and the tournament will be resumed in the same composition starting with the games of the 8th round. FIDE is grateful to the players, officials, volunteers and the entire team of organizers, including the Chess Federation of Russia and the main partner of the tournament - SIMA-Land.

Sincerely,
Arkady Dvorkovich,
FIDE President

The tournament will resume at a later date and continue with the current standings.

Round 7 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score SB
1 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2767 2876 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5/7 15.25
2 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2774 2875 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 4.5/7 14.25
3 Caruana, Fabiano 2842 2764 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 3.5/7 12.25
4-5 Giri, Anish 2763 2775 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5/7 11.25
4-5 Wang Hao 2762 2775 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.5/7 11.25
6 Grischuk, Alexander 2777 2773 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/7 12.25
7 Ding Liren 2805 2667 0 0 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 2.5/7 8.25
8 Alekseenko, Kirill 2698 2683 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 2.5/7 9.25

Speaking to Chess.com, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, who is celebrating his 48th birthday today, said: 

"The second half will take place when the situation will normalize. We are hoping it can be held in the same location. We have an agreement with our main partner Simaland, and we try to make this happen. We should be in time to determine the runner-up and prepare in time for the world championship match that will start in December in Dubai.

"The decision was based on a combination of factors, the main one being that a few hours ago it was announced that for the time being, flights from Russia abroad, including charter flights, are stopped. We could not take the risk to keep the players for a long time in Russia after the tournament ends since we don't know how long it will last. Combined with the risks we were dealing with all through the tournament which we were able to minimize, there was enough reason to postpone.

"There was not a growing risk for the tournament itself, but the situation in the world is certainly not improving at this point. For me, after some point in time, the risks related to people getting back were higher than the risks of staying in Russia and keep playing. People in Yekaterinburg are now much safer than elsewhere, but long term we could not guarantee this will remain the same."

Arkady Dvorkovich FIDE
Arkady Dvorkovich. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Asked whether it wouldn't have been better to postpone the tournament before the start, Dvorkovich said: "I think it was the right decision. We took the decision to start from the beginning since we were able to keep risks under control, and the first seven rounds went smoothly. To postpone is also a responsible decision."

But what about the criticism from GMs Alexander Grischuk, Teimour Radjabov and Wang Hao that the situation was distracting the players? 

"Of course, we were discussing those arguments. I appreciate that players are disturbed by those things, but in any sport, professional players can be discerned by different factors. We as the International Chess Federation need to assess the real risks and take health and safety measures rather than make decisions on psychological factors. Psychology is part of the sport."

And what about the opening ceremony, where more than a thousand people attended when that would be unthinkable in other countries?

"It was not organized by FIDE. We asked local partners if they had an agreement with local authorities, and the local authorities allowed it. All the people who were present there and also the next day at the first round went through standard control procedures; for instance, their temperature was measured."

FIDE Candidates 2020 opening ceremony
The FIDE Candidates 2020 opening ceremony. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Chess.com.

Wang Hao told Chess.com that the players were informed by FIDE in the morning that they had to leave Russia on Thursday because there would be no air traffic starting Friday. The Chinese grandmaster once again stated that he thinks the tournament should never have been played:

"I think it's like a joke. From the start, it shouldn't have been held. It shouldn't be started just to be postponed. Not like this, this is just a big mess. They could have known it would cause a lot of different problems. Of course, they cannot control everything. There were a lot of reasons to postpone."

Wang stated that there were just too many distractions to play chess: "During the whole tournament, I felt I was distracted. I was worrying about flights, seeing bad news about China... Now if we enter China, we will be quarantined for two weeks. I could just have arrived from Tokyo to Beijing and quarantine at home, now I don't think that is possible."

Wang Hao FIDE Candidates
Wang Hao. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave said he was less distracted by the situation: "We knew that the tournament could be called off any day. For me, it was not that difficult. I was doing my thing, preparing, it was sort of a normal tournament. And I felt the games were of pretty high quality, this was my impression."

MVL does sympathize with the players who had already called for postponing the event: "They had a point, but to me, for all the players who didn't want the tournament to start, they should have just coordinated. It's very strange if you really think the tournament shouldn't start. If three or four players start taking action...."

And what about GM Teimour Radjabov, for whom MVL substituted after the Azerbaijani grandmaster withdrew because of the coronavirus situation?

"He was right, but at the same time, he didn't coordinate. And, his letter of explanation was also a bit strange. He picked Wang Hao as the one who should be put in quarantine, but why not, for instance, another player from a country where the situation was worse?

"Essentially he was right, but once he decided to withdraw, that was it. Again, if he had coordinated with other players, it might have been different. At the same time, it's clear I am not stealing my spot in the Candidates. The coronavirus situation is what got me into it ultimately, but this is part of life. It's not the first time or last time there are some late replacements in sports and in general."

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FIDE Candidates
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The postponement happened a day after Vachier-Lagrave had just grabbed the lead (on tiebreak). He was in good form. Is this bad timing for him?

"No, I don't think so. I was aware of the situation from the start. From FIDE's point of view, it's understandable that they wanted to hold the tournament. It was looking very possible that the tournament would finish, but after today's news, it was really not possible anymore. Teimour was right but with the circumstances and without a big outbreak yet in Russia, the tournament could have finished. And lots of measures were taken by FIDE. I find it harsh to put full blame on them."


Making appearances in the Chess.com live broadcast, FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky, FIDE President Dvorkovich, and GMs Vishy Anand, Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Kramnik provided further comments. Here's a selection:

Sutovsky: "It was now when we had to decide the decision. 20 days ago the situation was obviously different, very much different than today. When you cancel you are risking an entire cycle.

On why examples of other spots were not followed: "The situation was not the same. There were no thousands of people, only eight players. Also, for these sports, they acted after players contracted the virus."

Sutovsky did admit that holding an opening ceremony with more than a thousand people together "was a mistake."

Dvorkovich: "I think at the beginning our evaluation of risks was right. It was a difficult decision to start the tournament and it was a difficult decision to stop the tournament."

On the bad atmosphere some of the players mentioned: "We are talking about professional players that should be ready to take this pressure."

Anand: "I thought once you put everyone to the trouble of coming to Yekaterinburg you should actually see the tournament through, but this was force majeure. This was an only move. I simply can't catch the idea that it should not have started. Also maybe I was also happy to have something to watch!"

Nakamura thinks FIDE did the right thing towards Radjabov, taken into account the information available at the time. However, he said: "From a moral standpoint it does look like he made the right decision."

Kramnik: "I advised FIDE in a private conversation to postpone already a week before the tournament. FIDE decided to continue and I think it was a mistake. "It was wrong for humanitarian reasons when the situation is getting like this and people are suffering, dying you know. It's really a difficult situation for all of us, for the world. We have to be humans also. In such a situation you want to stay with your family, you want to stay home, with your relatives, your beloved ones. It just feels wrong that you're playing chess when basically you must support your family. To let them play under such pressure which simply makes them nervous, negative, depressed, it just feels wrong somehow. Besides, to care of their health, you must give them the right conditions to show their mastery." 

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