Chess: What happens if a chess player tests positive for Covid in the Candidates?: “It could happen to anyone”

Federico Marín Bellón



The masks are “in fashion” at the Palacio de Santoña, in Madrid, where the chess Candidates tournament. The first days it was rare to see the hated ‘mask’, but there have been several cases of Covid, some in the players’ environment, and precautions have been extreme. The majority of the public continues to go without protection, but it is increasingly normal to see journalists, photographers and members of the organization wearing it, especially those who have closer contact with the great masters.

The organization confirms three cases, two the first day, asymptomatic, and another with symptoms but who refused to test positive for three days. Last Monday night the contagion was confirmed.

The Russian precedent

The greatest danger, of course, is that one of the eight participants becomes infected. In everyone’s memory is what happened in the last edition of the Candidates tournament, in the Russian city of Ekaterimburg. In March 2020, FIDE decided to celebrate it, despite the risk it posed, with the uncontrolled pandemic on half the planet. Several players expressed their concern and one of them, the Azerbaijani Teimour Radjabov, went so far as to withdraw, as well as accusing the organizers of being irresponsible. When the competition had just passed its halfway point, the International Federation had to rectify and suspend the tournament, which took a year to resume.

Caruana and Firouzja arrive at the Santoña Palace, surrounded by fans – Stev Bonhage

In the 2002 Candidates the situation is less dramatic and there was never any doubt about holding the tournament. Naturally, however, possible complications have been foreseen and FIDE has published a page to answer the most frequent questions that may arise.

The doctor Maria Rubio It is in charge of examining and doing the necessary tests if someone presents symptoms. Not only the players, but also the press, volunteers and anyone related to the tournament.

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On the other hand, in the technical meeting Prior to the tournament in which the players participated, the possibility of one of the players being infected was discussed. Unlike in Yekaterinburg, where the contagion would have ended the tournament for the affected, here the grandmasters approved a more supportive solution.

collective decision

The decision adopted is that if a player is affected, he will be able to continue playing, although in a separate room, where the two chess players involved will wear a mask. “It could happen to anyone,” was the general comment. And no one wants to be left out because of a disease that, except in extreme cases, is no longer so serious, at least among people as young as the participants in Madrid. The oldest are Radjabov, 35 years old, and Nakamura, 34.

FIDE assures that “the organizers will provide all the necessary technical equipment». Likewise, the referees “will supervise the development of the games”. He does not say it clearly, but it seems that it is even planned that if there is a contagion, the two grandmasters involved in that game can play separately. They would not use the same board and could face each other telematically, although in the same room.

The risk is greater if one takes into account that many of the players, something to be applauded, stop at take photos and sign autographs fans at the entrance and exit of the game room. It usually occurs outdoors, but very few wear a mask.

Apart from all the measures mentioned, the tournament doctor takes the temperature of the players before each round, there are masks for everyone in different rooms of the Palace and pieces and boards are disinfected before each game.

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