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Norway Chess Oct. 5-16 With Reduced Field Of Participants
Norway Chess in 2019. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Norway Chess Oct. 5-16 With Reduced Field Of Participants

PeterDoggers
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22 | Chess Event Coverage

Originally rescheduled due to the coronavirus crisis, the Norway Chess tournament is planned to take place October 5-16. The original list of 10 participants has been reduced to six players but still includes GMs Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.

The other four players participating this year are GMs Levon AronianJan-Krzysztof Duda, and Aryan Tari (who were also in the original field) as well as GM Alireza Firouzja, who is a new addition.

These six players will be playing a double round-robin. Otherwise, the format of last year is maintained: in case of players drawing their game, an armageddon game is played. A classical win yields three points, a loss 0, a win in armageddon 1.5 points, and a loss in armageddon one point.

Altibox Norway Chess 2020 | Participants

# Fed Player Rating Ranking Born
1 Magnus Carlsen 2863 1 1990
2 Fabiano Caruana 2835 2 1992
6 Levon Aronian 2773 7 1982
8 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2753 16 1998
9 Alireza Firouzja 2728 22 2003
10 Aryan Tari 2634 154 1999

The players on the original list of participants who are no longer participating are GMs Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

The reason for this is that some of the players are prevented from entering Norway due to border restrictions related to COVID-19. Benedicte Westre Skog, project manager for the tournament, explained:

"The Norwegian border is open for people with passports from the EU or Schengen member countries or for people that have a residence permit in EU/Schengen. So, unfortunately, Ding, Mamedyarov, Nepomniachtchi, and So are not able to participate because of this."

The reasons that Caruana can play are that he has a dual passport (Italy as well as the U.S.) and he plans to be in Germany ahead of the tournament, a country from where people can travel to Norway without a 10-day quarantine period.

"I'm not too concerned because Norway is one of the least affected countries and the tournament is not especially big," Caruana said. "I'm sure the organizers will be responsible and take any necessary precautions."

Fabiano Caruana Norway Chess
Caruana at the 2019 Norway Chess tournament. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

According to the organizers, all players have signed their contract but on August 19, Giri tweeted: "I have indeed signed the contract of participation under the condition that the COVID-19 situation will be safe. I have not yet confirmed my participation to organizers, due to safety concerns."

Right now, travelers from most EU countries, including the Netherlands, arriving in Norway from abroad need to be in quarantine for 10 days. That means Giri would need to travel to Norway on September 26 at the latest.

The top Dutch grandmaster told Chess.com that such a quarantine period is "one of many things to take into account" before making a final decision to play. He emphasized that if both the Netherlands and Norway are declared relatively safe around that time, without travel restrictions and such, he would have no reason not to play.

Update August 25, 2020: Originally GM Anish Giri was on the tournament's participants list. He was given a deadline by the organizers and since he couldn't guarantee participation due to the many uncertainties, he was replaced by Duda. "I haven't withdrawn, rather I have not accepted the latest invitation," said Giri.

Anish Giri
Giri: "I haven't withdrawn, rather I have not accepted the latest invitation." Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

For Norway, France falls in the same category as the Netherlands. Firouzja, who lives in France, will have to follow the quarantine requirement. Vachier-Lagrave could have participated under the same conditions but is not playing as he felt the tournament would be too close to the Candidates tournament.

FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky couldn't provide details just yet about the dates for the second half of this major tournament but said it was "unlikely" to start before November.

Now that the Sinquefield Cup has been quietly canceled as well, Norway Chess will be the first super tournament since March, when the coronavirus started to cause global lockdowns. The strongest tournament held this summer was the Biel Masters, where players were playing with plexiglass between them or with face masks.

It's not clear yet if that will be the case in Stavanger, but Norway Chess will have its measures as well. Besides the 10-day quarantine for players, their team members, and crew (which can be done at the hotel), the number of people at the playing venue will be limited.

"There will also be a limitation on the physical audience; possibly there will be no physical audience at all," said Skog.

Benedicte Westre Skog
Benedicte Westre Skog: "The health and safety to our players and our crew are essential, and we are organizing the event so that the players can feel safe and comfortable and focus on their job." Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com. 

Apart from arranging the playing hall differently, with more space between tables and such, the organizers have invested in protection equipment and are in touch with health professionals.

"We have had much communication with government health officials about preventative measures, both nationally and locally," said Skog. "We also have people involved such as medical doctors and other staff that will be there to make sure that our corona preventive measurements are followed."

Norway has had 10,162 total cases of patients with COVID-19, from which 8,857 have recovered. With a population of 5.4 million in the country, 264 people have died from the virus.

The Norway Chess tournament is one of the strongest chess tournaments where usually the top 10 players in the world are playing. This year, it will be held for the eighth time.

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