Following the announcement of the government of the Russian Federation about suspending all flights to and from the country as of March 27, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) has decided to halt the 2020 Candidates Tournament which was taking place in Yekaterinburg. In an interview for the Russian news agency TASS, FIDE President explained his decision.
Q: Has FIDE discussed this decision to stop the event with the players, what do they think?
Arkady Dvorkovich: We have been in touch with the players every day during the event and we were weighing all the risks all the time. FIDE believes that this is the best course of action under these circumstances. We remain committed to popularising chess and raising the spirits at this grave time, but we have always said that people's lives and health are a priority for us.
Q: Air traffic with other countries has been suspended by Russia. Won't it be a problem for all the chess players to go home?
Arkady Dvorkovich: This unique situation transpired suddenly. We are doing everything we can to provide the necessary support to everyone and get them home safely. Tickets for all the players and most other people involved in the tournament have already been purchased, and we are organizing all necessary logistics. FIDE is organizing and paying for all the travel costs and is working closely with everyone to ensure all is done safely and efficiently.
Q: In your opinion, will the tournament be finished this year or when? Will Yekaterinburg remain the host?
Arkady Dvorkovich: We will do our best for everything to be sorted out as soon as possible, following regulations and protecting the safety and interests of all involved. We remain confident that the event will be completed this year, in cooperation with our main partner – SIMA-land. The issue of exact dates and locations will be resolved in the near future, as soon as the global situation stabilizes.
Q: Why did you decide to start the tournament when the virus was already spreading strongly around the world?
Arkady Dvorkovich: This is a very important event for the players and the chess world. The situation in Russia was different at the beginning. We looked at different trajectories of the situation, including potential cancellations. At the same time, in terms of the medical safety measures, the Candidates Tournament was well prepared.
All the players, arbiters and staff had medical checkups twice a day, tests for the detection of COVID-19 have been done and all came back as negative. Also, the spectators have been banned from the venue and the interaction between the players and the media has been put to a minimum.
However, we concluded that the flight ban announced this morning would put too much pressure on the players and participants in terms of how and when they will be able to return home. Unfortunately, the situation with the pandemic is developing in the most negative scenario. We, therefore, believe that our decision to suspend the Tournament at this moment was correct. Again, we are doing everything we can to ensure the safe and secure return of everyone to their homes.
Q: Is there a significant financial loss for FIDE due to the transfer?
Arkady Dvorkovich: Our priority was and remains to make sure that everyone involved is safe and returns to their home. Losses are minimal and definitely not a factor in making this decision. We have a mutual understanding with our partners and sponsors, and we are grateful for their support.
Q: In general, what is your view of what is happening in the spirting word and how things will develop?
Arkady Dvorkovich: It is difficult to give estimates - no one knows for how long the acute phase of the crisis caused by the coronavirus will last. There are different opinions about how long the events should be postponed – 2-3 months or six months to a year. I believe that with the joint efforts of all countries and tough measures, we will be able to defeat the pandemic. Of course, it will be a slightly different world afterwards, but we will be stronger.
The coming period will be used by FIDE to search for and find new ways and ideas, expand links between national federations, strengthen partnerships and share experiences. Nowadays we must use all the latest online formats to communicate with current and potential chess fans. We will, therefore, step up our online activities and do more to attract chess audiences to our online services and platforms through training, tournaments, and conferences.
These are challenging times, but we see this as an opportunity and want to do our best to help the chess community and promote the game.
Q: And an important question about the match for the title of World Champion. Is the match also being postponed?
Arkady Dvorkovich: The match for the chess crown is due to take place at the end of the year. There is no question of changing dates.