Dvorkovich on “tough call” over Candidates

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich calls the decision to postpone the Candidates tournament “a tough call” and says Dubai remains the venue for Magnus Carlsen’s next World Championship in November/December 2021. Meanwhile, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for over-the-board chess.

On October 16th FIDE announced that the remaining seven rounds of the Candidates Tournament had been postponed until Spring next year. Some of the Candidate players, speaking to chess24, called the decision “very understandable” and “more reasonable” as the original plan was to resume November 1

Alexander Grischuk, who has been among the most critical of the decision to let the tournament take place in the first place, said he was ready to play in a “garage, basement, zoo or station”, but not wearing a mask, undergoing quarantine or playing in a “bubble”. He doubts it’s possible to find a compromise that suits all the players. 

In a new interview with Russian state news agency TASS, Arkady Dvorkovich said the decision to postpone the event was not taken lightly.

We had a long discussion. It was a tough call. The decision to postpone the Candidates to spring did not come easy. We did hope to complete the competition this year, which would be both logical and fair. However, given a combination of factors detailed in FIDE’s statement, we came to the conclusion that there were more risks than benefits in completing the event this year.

When the Candidates was stopped at the end of March, Dvorkovich said that their risk assessment was correct and that the decision to cancel the tournament “had nothing to do with a player’s health or safety” and that “99% of it was associated with the cancellation of international flights in Russia”. He also said “athletes tend to experience psychological pressure, they must be ready for this, whatever it may be.”

Russia experienced the biggest daily growth with 17,347 new COVID-19 cases and keeps breaking records, just like most of Europe. Dvorkovich says:

The disease rate has gone up so sharply that taking such risks is simply reckless. The situation in Russia is quite difficult right now. We could provide safe conditions for the tournament, but from a psychological standpoint, the players are under pressure. Unfortunately, we can’t eliminate this negative factor.

The FIDE President also reveals that while Yekaterinburg remains the main venue for the event, they also worked on the small Georgian village of Borzhomi, some two hours drive from its capital Tbilisi, as a backup.

Asked when the dates and venue will be announced, he responds:

We will make an announcement no later than two months before the start. Maybe we will do it even earlier – this winter, and then will stick to these dates.

With the Candidates postponed until March or April, the dates for the World Championship match also had to be changed. As was announced in February, the venue remains Dubai and the match is planned to be hosted as part of the World Expo 2020 exhibition, which is now scheduled for October 1, 2021 until March 31, 2022.

While most major tournaments have been taken off the calendar, there is some positive news for over-the-board events. Last week it was announced that Gibraltar will host the final stage of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in the second part of January. 

FIDE says The Caleta Hotel will be turned “into an isolated environment to ensure the safety of the participants, and avoid any risks associated with COVID-19”.

The event replaces the popular Gibralter Chess Festival, which has been held every year since 2003.

There are plenty of events to enjoy online on chess24, with the US Chess Championship starting today. At 19.00 CET there is also Banter Blitz with Indian Grandmaster P. Sethuraman.

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