Twice-A-Day Medical Checks At FIDE Candidates Tournament
Yekaterinburg. Photo: Peter Doggers/

Twice-A-Day Medical Checks At FIDE Candidates Tournament

| 81 | Chess Event Coverage

Amidst sporting events being canceled around the world, the FIDE Candidates Tournament is still scheduled to start on Tuesday. Everyone involved in the tournament will undergo medical checks twice per day.

It looks like the Candidates Tournament will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest sporting event in the month of March, now that the coronavirus is causing sports organizers around the globe to cancel their events. No football, cricket, hockey, or tennis...but chess? Yes.

It remains to be seen whether the decision by the Russian authorities and the International Chess Federation is the correct one. The question is not whether the tournament can start, but whether it will make it through the final round now that the virus is also starting to spread in Russia and the calls for action are getting stronger. 

Earlier this week, Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin, warned about the exponential spread of the virus and called for a nation-wide quarantine. The Yeltsin Center, a social, cultural, and educational center located across the street from the tournament venue (the Hyatt Regency) was closed two days ago because of the coronavirus.

Oleg Matytsin, the Minister of Sport of Russia, said on Friday that he cannot easily cancel the tournament: "As for the international tournaments in the territory of the Russian Federation, we cancel such events only if we are contacted by the corresponding international federation or the European federation."

Earlier, FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky had told that cancellation from their side is complicated: "FIDE acts according to formal requests and instructions of Russian and local health authorities."

FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2020
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At the same time, it should be noted that the situation in Yekaterinburg is not alarming at the moment. According to the official numbers, there are 54 cases of people contracting the virus in Russia but no one yet in the host city.

In addition, the organizers are taking strict health and safety measures. For instance, everyone involved in the tournament—players, seconds, arbiters, organizers, and officials—are being checked twice per day.

Jeroen van den Berg, the Tata Steel Chess tournament director, is the Chairman of the Appeals Committee for the Candidates Tournament. Traveling from Amsterdam with the official tournament photographer Lennart Ootes, Van den Berg told 

"At arrival in the hotel, we were immediately tested, which is done with a cotton bud in the nose holes and throat. We also received a letter that states that we will be examined each day, in the mornings and evenings."

The twice-a-day checks are general medical examinations; actually tests for the coronavirus are done on the first day of arrival and on the 10th day as well. 

"Our second test was less intense, but definitely virus-related as well," Van den Berg said, later in the day. "My temperature was measured, the lung function was tested and the throat was examined."

At the moment, it is not clear how long it will take before the results of the actual tests on the virus will be ready.

Another measure that has been taken is the restriction of spectators from entering the playing hall. "It's a pity, because the hall is large and beautiful, with space for at least 100 people," said Van den Berg. 

Although they missed their connecting flight due to a snowstorm in Moscow, Dutchmen Ootes and Van den Berg made it to Yekaterinburg relatively smoothly. The same cannot be said for Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia, who was put into quarantine upon arrival.

"I was unlucky," Garcia said. "I was part of a group of about 10 people who all needed to fill out a long form, and then we were all tested on the virus as well. We will hear the result of the test soon, but for now I am in quarantine in my hotel room."

It is not clear how long he will need to stay in his room. "I am hoping that if the test turns out to be negative, the organizers can be more flexible. I do want to state that I am very grateful to FIDE, the Russian Chess Federation and the organisers who are doing their best to support and help me."

Meanwhile, it looks like all the international players have arrived safely in Yekaterinburg. GM Fabiano Caruana, whose flight to Russia was canceled on Wednesday, flew without problems on Thursday. GMs Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Wang Hao have arrived as well, while GM Ding Liren and the Chinese delegation will be flying tomorrow from Moscow after their two-week quarantine is completed.

And so, of all the sports fans around the world who are staying and/or working from home, keeping their social distance and thus making their small but valuable contribution to fighting the virus, the chess fans are the lucky ones. This event will truly be The Last of the Mohicans, allowing fans to follow a top-level tournament over the next three weeks.

Whether the players can clear their minds of all the coronavirus news and to what extent it will affect their loved ones at home by going into "mental quarantine" and playing one of the most important tournaments of their careers, is another question.

Correction: an earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the people involved in the tournament are being tested twice a day for the coronavirus. They are tested for this on day one and day 10, but they do undergo medical examinations twice a day.

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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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