The FIDE Chess Candidates 2020 tournament to decide the challenger for World Champion Magnus Carlsen has been finally halted at the half way stage with the remaining rounds to be played at a later late, the world body announced on Thursday.

The tournament being played in Yekaterinburg, Russia, was the only top billing competition being held across the world despite all other sporting events coming to grinding halt following the coronavirus outbreak.

Announcing the decision, FIDE said, “Today, the government of the Russian Federation announced that starting March 27, 2020, Russia interrupts air traffic with other countries without indicating any time frames.

“FIDE can not continue the tournament without guarantees for the players’ and officials’ safe and timely return home. In this situation and on the basis of clause 1.5. Rules of Candidates Tournament, the FIDE President decided to stop the tournament. It will be continued later, with the exact dates to be announced as soon, as the global situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic will allow.”

Russia recorded 163 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, forcing the country to take drastic measures.

“As it was stipulated by the special rules agreed with the players before the start of the event, the results of the 7 rounds played remain valid, and the tournament will be resumed in the same composition starting with the games of the 8th round. FIDE is grateful to the players, officials, volunteers and the entire team of organizers, including the Chess Federation of Russia and the main partner of the tournament - SIMA-Land,” the release added.

In the seventh and final round played on Wednesday, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated local hope Ian Nepomniachtchi to hold the joint lead together with 4.5 points.

Though the tournament was going on in a sanitised environment, players were definitely worried about the prevailing conditions across the globe and Fabiano Caruana had even wondered about how he will get back home after the tournament.

“I have a situation where I’m usually away from home for three months at a time, but now I’m not actually sure I’ll have anywhere to return to at the end of this tournament. I might be stranded somewhere, and I’m not exactly sure where, because the US State Department said that American citizens have to come back to the US or won’t be able to come back if they don’t come back right now. I’m not exactly sure, but I’m not really thinking about it now - where I’ll have to go at the end of this event,” he was quoted as saying by after the fifth round.

One of the competitors, Ding Liren, had a tough time before starting the competition as he was in lockdown in China and had to spend 14 days in quarantine near Moscow before travelling to Yekaterinburg.