Coronavirus Affecting Chinese Candidates Preparation
Ding Liren (right) and Wang Hao. Photos: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Coronavirus Affecting Chinese Candidates Preparation

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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131 | Chess Event Coverage

The new virus in China has been affecting GM Ding Liren and GM Wang Hao's preparation for the Candidates Tournament. Speaking to Chess.com, both stated they had to cancel plans for a training camp.


Editor's note: on February 10 it became clear that the organizers have communicated to the Chinese Chess Association that an early arrival for Ding and Wang is recommended, now that Yekaterinburg has implemented a strict quarantine policy.


The coronavirus has claimed almost 500 lives worldwide and infected more than 24,500 people across 25 countries, at the time of writing. Public life is in lockdown in China, where over 15 sports events scheduled have been postponed or canceled.

As it turns out, the situation is also affecting the two Chinese participants in the upcoming Candidates Tournament.

Ding is currently preparing at home in Wenzhou, where he lives with his parents. The coastal city in the southeastern Zhejiang province has nine million inhabitants; an estimated 300 people are currently hospitalized there with the virus.

On Sunday the city government has restricted the movement of residents and closed roads, even though the city is located 800 km away from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus.

Ding hasn't been outside his apartment building for three days now. "Today I went downstairs and walked around in the building, but I didn't go into the street. For that, you need to inform the building manager and your temperature will be measured."

The 27-year-old grandmaster, who is considered to be one of the favorites to win the tournament (which would earn him the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a title match), says he had to cancel some of his plans to prepare.

"I was planning to train together with my seconds. Now we connect through the internet," he said, adding that it's "not a big deal."

Top grandmasters are used to being in touch with their assistants online all the time, but there's an added value to seeing them in person, especially when preparing for such an important event. Ding is taking it lightly, saying the situation "doesn't make it harder" to prepare.

See also our recent interview with Ding Liren here.

Ding Liren
Ding Liren. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Wang, the other Chinese participant, lives in Beijing but is currently in Tokyo for business matters. Like Ding, he had to cancel plans for preparing for Yekaterinburg. "I managed to create a team and was planning a training camp, but the budget of the federation and the sponsor was all based on holding it in Beijing, so it had to be canceled."

The 30-year-old Wang, who came second in the Gibraltar Masters last week, plans to stay in Tokyo until the end of the month. He will briefly go back to Beijing before traveling to Russia, where the tournament will begin on March 15. 

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

Could the new virus in China also affect Ding and Wang's travel to Russia? A tweet by the Australian chess journalist GM Ian Rogers on Tuesday suggested so. He claimed that the two Chinese participants had been asked to arrive in Russia two weeks before the event and "sit out the quarantine period."

Although Rogers didn't state that the 14-day request had come from the International Chess Federation, FIDE's official Twitter account contested the claim by sharing an email sent to the players by their legal advisor. There, 14 days of quarantine was not mentioned and instead the players were asked: "Do you consider the possibility about an earlier arrival to Russia?"

Albert Stepanyan, the organizer of the Candidates Tournament next month in Yekaterinburg, denied that he had asked players to come to Russia 14 days in advance and stay in quarantine.

"We haven't asked the Chinese Chess Association or players to arrive earlier—in fact, we did not send them any request. We will apply recommendations of the  Russian state and FIDE, and currently, there is no quarantine recommendation issued."

Both Ding and Wang denied having been asked about the 14 days and confirmed that they had seen the email from FIDE. Both players plan on arriving only a few days in advance.

Wang called the period of 14 days "totally unfair" and said he wouldn't comply if asked to do so.


Update February 6, 2020: Rogers has now tweeted a correction to his earlier tweet.


According to the players, the Chinese Chess Association is supposed to arrange their visas. Currently, official administrative channels in China are running slow as the New Year holiday period has been extended due to the virus.

Meanwhile, Russia has taken a number of measures related to Chinese people entering the country. It has stopped allowing charter flights from China, and regular flights are only allowed to land at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport currently. All Chinese tourists now require a visa. Chinese people who work in Russia and returned from celebrating the Chinese New Year have been placed in quarantine.

2020 Candidates Tournament Chess.com
This year's Candidates field brings two Chinese players. Coverage of the event can be found on Chess.com/TV.

Ding and Wang are two of a total of eight participants of the Candidates Tournament. The others are Kirill Alekseenko (Russia), Fabiano Caruana (USA) Anish Giri (Netherlands), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) and Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan).

The tournament takes place March 15-April 5 in Yekaterinburg, a city in central Russia, located about 1,420 kilometers (880 mi) to the east of Moscow.

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