Alexander Grischuk says he’s willing to play the Candidates Tournament “in a garage, basement, zoo or train station” but doubts whether the event can be completed at all, pointing out that the World Chess Federation FIDE is trying
to satisfy the conflicting wishes of eight participants. The current best-case
scenario is that the second half of the event, intended to decide Magnus
Carlsen’s next World Championship Challenger, will take place in Spring 2021, a
full year after it began.
The Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia was halted
after 7 rounds by FIDE on March 26th 2020, after the closing of Russian
airspace due to the coronavirus threatened to prevent the players and officials
returning home. In June, FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky suggested the event
could resume in September/October, before in September a date of 1st November
was given, with Tbilisi, Georgia a backup location if Yekaterinburg was
impossible. To no-one’s great surprise, however, on Friday it was announced
that the tournament had been postponed again, this time to “Spring 2021”.
One of the participants, Russia’s Alexander Grischuk, gave the initial
response to RIA News:
FIDE’s decision on the Yekaterinburg Candidates Tournament doesn’t
depend on me, but in general it’s the decision I expected. Will
the tournament be
completed? I don’t
He’s now elaborated on
It seems to me that the fundamental problem is that the FIDE leadership
is trying to satisfy all the participants of the event, and that’s simply not
possible, not even theoretically. I’ll give one example. Many of the players
are really worried about the coronavirus, the conditions for guaranteeing their
health and safety, and some medical questions. But
my position, for
example, is completely
different. I’m ready to play, so to speak, in a garage,
basement, zoo or train station. I don’t need any kind of medical insurance,
luxury hotels and comfortable conditions for holding the event.
That doesn’t matter to me at all, and I’m also calm about the situation
with the coronavirus, but I won’t play in a mask and gloves, or if I need to
sit in quarantine for two weeks before the start of the event. Or to play in a
so-called “bubble”, when during the tournament you’re not allowed to leave the
territory of the hotel or some other premises. And how, in such a situation,
can you satisfy both me and the other players? If we have exactly the opposite “demands”?
The hardest player to satisfy appears to be Wang Hao, who responded to
the question of whether he would be willing to play in spring, “Yes, but only
if there are vaccines”. Whether effective vaccines will be available to the players by then is
anything but clear.
There’s also the question of the venue. If the tournament had begun on
1st November it seems clear it would have been held outside of Russian, most
likely in Georgia, while now the organisers in Yekaterinburg once again
expect to be the hosts. 12th World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov, who attended
the original opening ceremony, told
Yekaterinburg hasn’t, of course, abandoned its intentions or given up
its right to host the tournament in 2021. But now the problem with the
coronavirus has arisen again, and more in Europe. The situation isn’t great in
Russia, but we’re dealing with it, but look at France – it’s all red, and that’s
not to even mention America.
Plus there’s the problem with logistics. Not everything has opened up in
Europe, and there’s no freedom of movement.
All in all, the fate of the tournament remains shrouded in mystery, and in hindsight it’s hard to disagree with another view expressed by Grischuk:
The only strong opinion I have is the following: it is MUCH better not to start the tournament at all than to start and then interrupt it.