Coronavirus: Which Chess Events Have Been Canceled?

Coronavirus: Which Chess Events Have Been Canceled?

| 81 | Chess Event Coverage

Big tournaments such as the Dubai Open and the Reykjavik Open have been canceled due to the coronavirus. Upcoming top events like the FIDE Candidates Tournament and the Grenke Chess Classic seem safe—for now.

The coronavirus pandemic is clearly affecting the chess world. On an individual level, Chinese GMs Wei Yi and Zhao Xue had to withdraw from tournaments in February, while GM Ding Liren had to travel to Russia early to spend two weeks in a cordon sanitaire before heading to Yekaterinburg for the FIDE Candidates.

In the meantime, more and more big events are canceled altogether as organizers are acknowledging the risks involved in traveling, or they are following the general policy to avoid mass gatherings.

The short version of the story:

Open tournaments, leagues canceled

The first to take the decision was the HDBank Masters in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This tournament is one of the strongest Asian opens of the year; in 2019 GMs Wang Hao and Ivan Cheparinov were the top seeds.

The tournament was supposed to start on March 6, but on February 7 it was canceled. The organizers stated that a level playing field was not possible anymore: "[A]ny strong players in countries with the epidemic area will not be able to attend the 10th tournament."

In the first week of March, three big opens followed suit: the Dubai Open and the Sharjah Open (both UAE) and the Bangkok Open (Thailand), all mentioning concern about the general safety of their participants and issues with traveling.

Last Thursday, the Reykjavik Open was removed from the calendar as well "with a heavy heart," as the organizers wrote. The list of players had Russian GMs Vladimir Fedoseev and Andrey Esipenko as the top seeds.

Reykjavik Open
The Reykjavik Open. Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni.

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) and the European Chess Union announced on March 6 that three events planned for April in Crete, Greece were canceled: the World Cadet & Youth Rapid & Blitz Championships 2020, the World Amateur Championship and the European School Championships.

On March 11, Tony Rich of the Saint Louis Chess Club told that both the U.S. Collegiate Rapid & Blitz tournament (March 14-15) and the Spring Classic (March 18-26) have been postponed. 

On the same day, the organizers of the European Senior Championship (planned for April 17-27 in Jastrzebia Gora, Poland) informed us that their event will also be postponed.

Some more examples of events that have been canceled/postponed:

  • The Bundesliga weekends March 14-15 March and April 4-5 April have been postponed.
  • All events in Denmark until April 15
  • All events run by the Asian Chess Federation until the end of June
  • All events in March in Costa Rica
  • All league games in Iceland until May
  • Upcoming youth championships (April 15-30, Sochi) in Russia
  • All chess events in Poland until at least March 31
  • The Festival Primavera and Citta di Ostia tournaments in Italy
  • The Madrid league and all events in the Comunidad Valencia (the Valencia, Alicante, and Castellon provinces) in Spain planned for before April 7, and the upcoming rounds of the Catalan league
  • The New York State Scholastics, scheduled for March 14-15 in Saratoga Springs
  • As many schools are closing, many school chess events are canceled as well. ChessKid is assisting schools all over the world with many features to keep kids active.

If you know of other chess events that have been canceled, please let us know and we'll add them to the list here.

Top tournaments not canceled yet

A number of upcoming top events are still scheduled to take place in the coming days or weeks. Although its events in March are not taking place, the Saint Louis Chess Club has not removed the U.S. Championships (April 9-23) from the calendar yet. 

Update March 18: The U.S. Championships have now been postponed as well.

Also planned for next month are the Grenke Open (April 9-13) and the Grenke Chess Classic (April 11-20). The latter has GMs Magnus CarlsenFabiano Caruana, Levon AronianMaxime Vachier-LagraveRichard RapportViswanathan AnandAlexei Shirov, Daniel Fridman, and Vincent Keymer.

Especially the open tournament, alongside the main event, is a concern as it has almost 2,000 players signed up for the open groups.

Grenke Chess Classic Open
The Grenke Chess Classic & Open. Photo: Georgios Souleidis/Grenke Chess.

The German national government currently advises against public gatherings bigger than 1,000 people, but it's up to local authorities to decide. For now, the organizers plan to hold the tournament. With many other major sports events not taking place in the country, the cancellation of Grenke seems likely.

UPDATE March 14: The Grenke Open has now been canceled but the Grenke Chess Classic is still scheduled to go on.

Candidates Tournament: health and safety measures

Earlier this week the International Judo Federation canceled all Olympic qualification events until the end of April, including a Grand Prix tournament upcoming weekend in Yekaterinburg. The FIDE Candidates Tournament, which is starting on March 17 in the same city, is still scheduled to go on as planned.

Two players, GM Wang Hao and GM Teimour Radjabov, openly expressed their opinion that the tournament should be postponed due to the coronavirus. The latter withdrew when he was told a delay was not going to happen.

FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament

The International Chess Federation argues that a tournament with eight players is not a mass gathering, even though the total number of people attending can easily be over a hundred with players, seconds, arbiters, commentators, VIPs, sponsors, journalists, and spectators. Many of them might meet each other in the Hyatt hotel, which serves as both the tournament venue and accommodation.

"FIDE acts according to formal requests and instructions of Russian and local health authorities," said FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky, adding that it's difficult to cancel: "We have legal and financial obligations."

Health and safety measures have been taken, as listed in a March 12 press release:

  • A checkpoint with a qualified nurse will be created for all participants of the tournament, and officials and visitors in the auditorium. At this point, visitors will be checked for symptoms of Covid-19 before entering the game room, including checking their body temperatures.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be available at all times.
  • N95 face-masks will always be available in the required quantity. Depending on the assessment of the situation, the wearing of masks may become mandatory for visitors in the auditorium.
  • Handshakes before and after the game are optional.
  • Spectators who come to the venue will not have access to the playing area.
  • Preventive measures (masks, disinfectants) must also be provided in all hotel rooms where participants and officials will be staying, as well as in all vehicles used for the tournament.

"Spectators are not allowed in the playing hall but they can sit in a commentary studio, play some blitz games or attend a lecture," clarified Sutovsky. Further changes to the playing conditions may be applied as well: "This and a few other things will be discussed depending on our update from authorities on Friday."

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich gave a similar comment to Sport 24:

"We are in contact with the authorities, we are monitoring the situation. All necessary safety measures have been provided. But, as in any country, the risk of canceling the Candidates Tournament, of course, exists. This would be the decision of the federal authorities. But from our point of view, given the small number of participants, the measures taken will be enough."

Meanwhile, Caruana tweeted that his travel to Russia hasn't started smoothly. 

View this post on Instagram

On my way to the Candidates tournament! Feeling. Completely. Ready. 💪♟⚔️😷#chess #fide #candidates2020 #corona

A post shared by Anish Giri (@anishgiri94) on

World Senior Team Championship underway

Another official FIDE event, the World Senior Team Championship, is currently underway (March 5-15) in Prague. The tournament is held in age categories 50+ and 65+, meaning that many participants are in an age group at risk as the COVID-19 disease is known to affect elderly people more severely.

USA World Senior Team Championship 2020
The U.S. team with Alexander Shabalov, Gregory Kaidanov, Joel Benjamin and Alex Yermolinsky. Photo: Vladimir Jagr/World Senior Team Championship.

Before the fifth round on Tuesday, the playing hall was divided into smaller parts and spectators were no longer allowed. This measure was taken after the Czech Ministry of Health had announced that all public events with more than 100 people would be called off.

Update: The World Senior Team Championships will end early after only seven rounds.

It can only be hoped that such measures will be enough to avoid infections among the participants. Experts emphasize the need to avoid public gatherings and keep social distancing, especially at the early stages of the virus spreading. Every day such decisions are postponed is costlier than the previous.

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.

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