Russia may have suspended all basketball, football and ice hockey fixtures over the coronavirus pandemic, but sports fans may find solace in a different competition beginning this week: chess.
The 2020 Candidates Tournament opened in a luxury hotel in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg this week despite a large series of suspensions of sporting events in Russia and Europe to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Europe’s football governing body Uefa said Tuesday it was postponing the EURO 2020 championship involving 24 nations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The chess tournament that began Monday sees eight players compete for 500,000 euros ($545,000 and the chance to face off against the world number one, 29-year-old Magnus Carlsen from Norway, who has held the world’s number 1 place since 2013.
The games between players from countries including the United States and China are being broadcast on a YouTube channel run by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) with commentary in Chinese, Russian and English.
FIDE has banned live spectators to limit the risks linked to the pandemic, but reported on Twitter Tuesday that one million virtual spectators had tuned in from China.
It also posted pictures of competitors touching elbows before a game rather than shaking hands.
In March, the organisation addressed concerns over the virus saying that postponement was “not legally and practically feasible,” unless ordered by the Russian authorities.
Photographers are only allowed “a distance of at least 6 metres from the players,” said FIDE, one of the last international sports organisations where Russia maintains an influence inherited from the Soviet Union.
“Being an elite, 8-player tournament, the reduced number of participants allows us to monitor their personal circumstances, health status, and provide them personal attention,” the tournament said.
Moscow on Wednesday reported 147 cases of coronavirus with no deaths, according to official figures. Russia has also closed its borders to foreigners on Wednesday until May 1 to slow the spread of the virus.