OTB chess resumes!

Chess & COVID-19

Over-the-board (OTB) chess resumes as things are beginning to normalize as far as social interactions are concerned. The COVID-19 virus is still wreaking havoc in parts of the world including India, one of the top chess countries in the world. However, medical authorities have begun loosening restrictions on masks and social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

Chess organizations had already started to host in-person tournaments as the Tata Steel tournament (won by Jordan van Foreest) and World Candidates tournament (won by Ian Nepomniachtchi) went on without a problem. There were many small OTB tournament this year with mask requirements… not adhered to strictly by some players.

The World Championship will take place in Dubai, UAE this fall with Magnus Carlsen defending his title against Nepomanichtchi. In addition, the Olympics and the Olympiad are set to take place. Apart from this, smaller tournaments have increased as the Continental Chess Association (CCA) has announced the holding of its Chicago Open with a limit of 800 participants… one game per table.

Wheeling Westin

Westin Chicago North Shore Hotel, Wheeling, Illinois
Home of the Chicago Open

Masks required – entry is limited. We expect to play 1 game per table, and will need to close entry if capacity is reached. We are not yet sure what that capacity will be, but estimate about 800 players.

While online chess realized a surge in activity, players were ready to resume OTB play. Bill Goichberg has already announced a full slate of tournaments including the marquee event, The World Open. He has stated that masks will be required. So far there is no limit posted on the number of participants. The key point in this transition is to ensure the safety of the participant which will include avoiding crowds by the pairing charts. More from the CCA…

COVID precautions: Masks required, temperature checks, no spectators, no eating in tournament area (drinks OK). Players are urged to receive pairings by text or email; some sections have different starting times to minimize crowding before rounds begin.

Hand sanitizers have become a fixture at chess tournaments. Photo by Kevin Pryor (Florida Chess Association)

Latest guidelines from the Center for Disease Control say that those fully vaccinated can go without masks indoors and do not have to abide by “social distancing.” Yet it is hard to distinguish the maskless who are fully vaccinated and those who are not. There are also those who never wore masks and do not believe the virus is dangerous. To complicate matters, there is news of infections of those fully vaccinated, but with minimal symptoms.

What does all this mean? It means that players should still take precautions at tournament sites and follow hygienic guidelines for disinfecting chess pieces after each game and perhaps limiting large crowds in the event that there are those who simply don’t understand the danger. Some vow to continue wearing the mask since the information from medical organizations seem to be changing frequently.

Chess is an inherently social experience and we all look forward to resuming play this summer. The COVID-19 outbreak has changed chess in that there are more options and some organizations may offer multi-site tournaments where one can choose to play at the physical site or virtually.

Are you ready? Let’s get it on!


  1. Justus Williams is back at it. He just went 6/9 with some pretty heavy hitters and beat GM Awonder Liang along the way. That’s gotta suck for Awonder. Being younger and catching up to Justus and passing him by and becoming a young GM. The last time they played they may’ve both been in the 2200s USCF.
    So Justus picks up right where he left off and beats Awonder with the black pieces. LOL

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