FIDE Candidates Tournament Resumes In 2 Weeks In Antarctica
A unique new Candidates venue, the Neumayer GAW Global station in Antarctica. Photo: World Meteorological Organization.

FIDE Candidates Tournament Resumes In 2 Weeks In Antarctica

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259 | Chess Event Coverage

Edited April 2, 2020: Happy April Fool's everyone. Stay safe!

The chess world was universally saddened by the postponement after seven rounds of the FIDE Candidates Tournament due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic and the rapidly impending closure of air traffic in Russia. Many predicted that this postponement might last until fall and push the 2020 World Championship cycle back to 2021.

Fortunately, FIDE's evident determination to continue the Candidates tournament is not yet exhausted. Chess.com is pleased to report that the FIDE Candidates tournament is continuing in a mere two weeks, on April 15, in a first-time chess tournament venue, Neumayer GAW Global station in Antarctica.

As the only continent currently unimpacted by COVID-19, Antarctica was the perfect candidate for the rapid continuance of the event. Additionally, Antarctica is conducive to the most stringent safety measures designed to ensure player safety. With temperatures reaching as low as -50º with a "feels like" of -77º, enforced #stayhome protocols are a survival necessity with or without COVID-19 concerns. Some may, however, be concerned that practicing social distancing will be difficult as the players may need to huddle together for essential warmth.

Candidates Tournament Antarctica
CDC's official map showing nations which have confirmed cases. Photo: CDC.gov.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich thanked the players and organizers for their willingness to resume the event at the earliest opportunity and noted the admirable nature of FIDE's efforts to be the only major sporting event uninhibited by COVID-19.

FIDE also assured fans that the remote location would in no way impact the grandeur of the event, promising that stars of TV and film would be on hand for ceremonies such as making the event's opening move.

One of TV's hottest (errr... coldest...) stars is anticipated to participate in the re-opening ceremonies. Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

A major point of debate in the last week has been the status of GM Teimour Radjabov. As a duly qualified candidate, his withdrawal under pressure from FIDE has drawn criticism as the event's postponement seemed to justify his position that the event could not properly guarantee the safety of all involved and many have called for him to be reinstated in the tournament.

Fortunately for all chess enthusiasts, a proposal amenable to both Radjabov and his last-minute substitute Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has been put forward. The players will participate in a classic "Polar Bear Plunge" to demonstrate their hardiness and acclimation to the chilly sub-Arctic temperatures. Whichever player can remain submerged longest will earn the right to continue the event with Vachier-Lagrave's current score of +2.

Initially, Radjabov voiced his concern in an open letter to Dvorkovich regarding FIDE's ability to guarantee the participants' safety against aggression from polar bears, but after being assured that polar bears were natively only to the northern hemisphere, and the "Polar Bear Plunge" would feature no actual bears, Radjabov happily withdrew his concerns and voiced enthusiasm for the proposal.

Polar Bear Plunge
A traditional polar bear plunge in which persons of questionable mental stability dive into frozen waters. Photo: Wikipedia.

It is worth noting that this is not the first Antarctic chess event to be recorded. Previously a classic "Man vs. Machine" match was held between one R. J. MacReady and the early chess AI, "Chess Wizard." In that match, the AI gained the upper hand early before MacReady revealed a previously unexposed aquatic vulnerability in the machine's hardware.

The players expressed some initial reservations regarding the unorthodox resumption, but in the face of rapidly escalating boredom at the prospect of being interred indoors for some months, all have agreed to participate and to travel with all due haste to the venue.

Players traveling from Europe and Asia will be booked on charter flights direct to Antarctica while Caruana who travels from the United States may be able to attempt a largely overland route.


A possible route for Caruana. If anyone knows Drake, please ask how he crossed the blue part.


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