French Chess Players Return Home After Quarantine In Murmansk
The quarantine on the French players is lifted. Photo: Ministry of Information of the Murmansk Region.

French Chess Players Return Home After Quarantine In Murmansk

| 25 | Misc

A group of young French chess players was quarantined in Murmansk, Russia when one Irish participant of their tournament was tested positive for the coronavirus. After two weeks, the French players were finally able to travel back home.

The tournament, called ChessMates BASAMRO 2020, was a three-day international youth event with about a hundred participants from countries such as Estonia, France, Ireland, and Russia. It started on March 15, two days before the Russian Ministry of Sport canceled all international sports competitions in Russia until further notice due to the coronavirus.

The event took place at Hotel Meridian in the arctic city of Murmansk, 1,480 kilometres (920 miles) north of Moscow. During the tournament, all participants were tested for the coronavirus. This was part of some early, restrictive measures set in the Murmansk region to minimize the spread of the virus. 

On March 16, after the tournament ended, one participant from Ireland was identified to have the virus. He was already at the check-in area at the Murmansk airport. From there he was taken to the regional hospital.

Both the airport terminal building and the hotel were temporarily closed and sanitized. All tournament participants who were still in Russia were put into isolation, including the mayor of Murmansk, Yevgeny Nikora, who had been at the tournament on the opening day. 

A group of 14 French participants (including eight minors) that were still in Murmansk because of a canceled flight ended up being quarantined for two weeks along with 57 other persons. Initially, the players moved to a local campsite outside the city while waiting on test results and a new flight, but after the Irish player tested positive, they were picked up by police and taken to a hospital to be quarantined.

The French players were tested three times in total. All tests were negative. They were allowed to leave the country on March 30, after the Russian government had closed its airspace for international flights. However, exceptions are made for special cases, and the players eventually returned home via an airplane arranged by the French government.

The story was picked up by mainstream media after the international press agency Reuters reported on it, saying that in addition to playing chess during their quarantine, the group followed their school curriculum, practiced English, and held a French dictation.

Correction: an earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the name of the tournament was "Polar Gambit 2020."

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.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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