FIDE

The players competing for the berth to challenge Magnus Carlsen will be playing the “COVID Gambit” during the second-half of the 2020 Candidates tournament. A decision was made by Russian organizers to hold the event since the government was still allowing mass gathering. Less than a month later, the organizers and FIDE agreed that the tournament would be cancelled due to Russia’s newly-imposed flight restrictions.

Here was the announcement by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich:

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. 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.

Sincerely,
Arkady Dvorkovich,
FIDE President

Candidates’ tournaments have always been very intense given the high stakes. The growing threat of the coronavirus makes the logistical execution even more intense. While the organizers had procedures in place, there were constant reminders about the virus as the news cycle was dominated by its rapid spread.

Events of major leagues had been canceled so that left everyone in the world with few options for sporting entertainment. The Candidates tournament stood alone. There was a binge on live broadcasts at FIDE, chess.com, chess24, and St. Louis Chess Club.

There were also large audiences on Twitch, Internet Chess Club and lichess. Of course Facebook was buzzing. So there was success as far as reaching a critical mass, but as the virus rapidly spread, there was more ambivalence about the tournament continuing.

For the players, they were rather insulated, but they could not escape the thought that they (and their families) may be in danger. Morale had also deteriorated among some of the players. Russia’s Alexander Grischuk had this reaction:

Even during the Candidates, there was some inconsistency on the precautions and some players shook hands, while others nodded. Ian Nepomniachtchi and Grischuk gave and “elbow bump” before their game. Nepomniachtchi had initially refused to shake the hand of Anatoly Karpov during the ceremonial first move before his game against Anish Giri. Giri obliged Karpov and later derided the elbow bump as being a bit silly.

Most understood Nepomniachtchi’s refusal of Karpov, but the moment was indeed awkward. What is most ironic is that Nepomniachtchi seem to come down with a bad cough during the tournament and didn’t look well. “I’m definitely not feeling OK today,” he said during the interview after his win over Ding. There were also others coughing in the area. Take a listen…

Video by FIDE

Even the thought that Nepomniachtchi could have been infected was also alarming since he was sharing the environment with many others. He was tested and the fortunately, tests were negative. In the final analysis, it was a very risky decision to hold the tournament with a dangerous virus blanketing the globe. FIDE Director General GM Emil Sutovsky made a statement to clarify FIDE’s decisions:

FIDE does its utmost both to minimize the risk and not to overwhelm grandmasters who are already under the pressure with all sorts of check-ups. FIDE really takes it all very seriously.

These comments give little solace since the players’ interactions were inconsistent. Nepomniachtchi declined shaking hands with Anatoly Karpov, elbow bumped Alexander Grischuk and later shook hands with Ding Liren. The fact that two Chinese players had to constantly have thoughts of home on their minds had to be unsettling. This was mentioned by Wang Hao who had recommended postponed the tournament in the beginning. He told chess.com:

I think it’s like a joke. From the start, it shouldn’t have been held. It shouldn’t be started just to be postponed. Not like this, this is just a big mess. They could have known it would cause a lot of different problems. Of course, they cannot control everything. There were a lot of reasons to postpone.

During the whole tournament, I felt I was distracted. I was worrying about flights, seeing bad news about China… Now if we enter China, we will be quarantined for two weeks. I could just have arrived from Tokyo to Beijing and quarantine at home, now I don’t think that is possible.

Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov had withdrawn from the tournament because he could not convince FIDE to postpone the event. He had full intention of participating despite rumors that he may not have the motivation. After the tournament was postponed, questions emerged on whether Radjabov should somehow be inserted or given an automatic spot in the next cycle.

Many fans and high-level players agreed with Radjabov including Hikaru Nakamura who admonished those questioning Raja’s decision to withdraw. It was a very prudent decision since the virus was in its initial growth stage and doctors had not completely figured out how to contain it. As of today, the cases exceed 700,000 with China’s cases having largely been stabilized. Meanwhile, the U.S. cases have soared given the lack of initiative conveyed by the Trump administration.


How would they treat the second half of the tournament
if one of the players became ill and could not continue?


Now there is a question when the second-half of the Candidates tournament will be played. With the Candidates tournament and Chess Olympiad being postponed, it will delay other events until 2021, most notably the World Chess Championship. The other question is how long this crisis will last. No one knows, but several of the players live in countries with the highest number of cases.

Many argued that the players were safer in Russia (1500+ cases) than their home countries. Others like Viswanathan Anand thought the tournament should have been completed. Of course, these are understandable thoughts, but without guaranteed charter flights, it would put players in a situation of being stuck in Russia weeks after the tournament. It does present a quandary. How would they treat the second half of the tournament if one of the players became ill and could not continue?

Someone suggested that the classical tournament finish online. During the outbreak, many activities have moved online, so it is an interesting suggestion, but probably not desirable. Perhaps that may be considered in the future as over-the-board chess is slowly being affected by Internet gaming. Perhaps we also will see some changes in health standards at chess tournaments. The coronavirus notwithstanding, they were long overdue.

Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Sierra Leone

Aijibola Olanrewaju
Photo by Sierra Leone Chess Federation

While many organizers have canceled tournaments worldwide, the Africa 4.2 Zone is holding the subzonal tournament in Freetown, Sierra Leone at Hotel Barmoi. According to the Facebook post, “All the measures against COVID-19, are taken for the tournament to be safe.” There are available bottles of hand sanitizer, but it is not clear what other measures have been put in place as a safeguard against infection.

There are 30 players from Nigeria, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Senegal and host Sierra Leone competing. The top seed is Olanrewaju Ajibola of Nigeria. After five rounds, Ajibola and IM Oladapo Adu are sitting atop the field. Liberia’s James Tondo is 3rd on 4/5 along with FM Simplice DeDondo and Yoboue Manan, both of the Ivory Coast. The tournament began March 15th and will end on March 21st.

This is the first subzonal since the reorganization of the African zones from June 1st, 2019. Continental President Lewis Ncube had recently announced that Zone 4.5 (Lesotho) has postponed their tournament due to threats of the coronavirus. Let us hope that the players and all involved in Sierra Leone remain healthy throughout the event.

Chess Results: http://chess-results.com/tnr525324.aspx

FIDE

For the past couple of months, the world has been facing a global pandemic dubbed as the “coronavirus.” It has resulted in scores of tournaments being canceled and rendering travel difficult and even impractical. There was a discussion about the fate of the Candidates tournament after the eight players (including two from China) were on their way to Moscow.

Organizers cleared Ding Liren of China after undergoing two weeks of quarantine. That did not alleviate the concerns of the chess community, many called for a suspension of the event. FIDE announced that only the Russian Chess Federation could cancel the event.

After some uneasiness and requests to postpone the tournament, the 2020 World Chess Candidates will officially open this evening. The eight participants will start the process of determining the challenger for the World Championship match against World Champion Magnus Carlsen. It is undetermined whether the championship match will take place this year, given the global outbreak. Still, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich stated he was 99% sure that the United Arab Emirates would be the host.

Like top-seed Fabiano Caruana, China’s Ding Liren will be looking for a shot at Carlsen. Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich (FIDE)

Only three of the players were in the 2018 tournament won by Fabiano Caruana (USA). He will be the top seed, followed by Ding Liren as the most serious challenge. Caruana won the 2018 event and faced Carlsen in London, England. That match ended in a 6-6 tie in the classical segment with Carlsen winning 3-0 in the rapid tiebreaks.

This year’s field will look very different but not less competitive. There are three Russians in the field with Alexander Grishuk, Ian Neopmniachtchi, and the surprise wildcard of Kirill Alekseenko defending home turf. Alekseenko is the only participant without a 2700+ FIDE rating. There was a minor controversy after Russian organizers gave him the nod despite there being many elite players they could have chosen. However, they made clear that they would use the pick on a Russian player. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made a plea for the wildcard, but it was rebuffed.

In an unexpected turn of events, Teimour Radjabov withdrew from the tournament only two weeks before its opening due to his concerns about the coronavirus. He qualified by winning the 2019 World Cup. In a bit of poetic justice, he was replaced by Vachier-Lagrave, the highest-rated non-qualifier.

Wang Hao, who was traveling from Japan, did not undergo quarantine and is not traveling a team. His seconds are in China, where they are subject to travel restrictions. Both Wang Hao and Ding Liren had to interrupt their training camps due to the situation in China and will be somewhat at a disadvantage. As far as health procedures, FIDE has announced that everyone involved in the tournament will be tested twice a day.

Again, we can look at a book written by participant Anish Giri titled, After Magnus: Who Can Dethrone the World Chess Champion? Four of those he featured in the book are in the tournament: Caruana, Ding, Vachier-Lagrave and, Alexander Grischuk. Giri did not profile himself as a contender, but most certainly will be ready to compete for glory.

With so many tournaments canceled, most of the chess world will be tuning in on various servers and following the coverage on major websites. Official FIDE commentary will be handled by GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko, Daniel King, and the legendary Judit Polgar! FIDE will also have David Llada as the official photographer on site. The popular chess.com will have exclusive coverage with a star-studded commentary, including GMs Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So. Egypt’s Bassem Amin will also be one of the commentators. The St. Louis Club will feature live commentary with Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley and Alejandro Ramirez.

This tournament will serve as a respite against the dreadful pandemic sweeping across the globe. Many chess players have flocked to following and playing chess online, and some are even under travel restrictions. Since many professional sports leagues have been affected, many will go to the store, grab snacks, and log onto their favorite chess server on March 16th until the closing ceremony on April 3rd. What a wonderful way to pass the time!

Main Site: https://en.candidates-2020.com/
Regulations: https://www.fide.com/
Schedule: https://en.candidates-2020.com/about
Video Coverage (FIDE): YouTube, Twitch

2020 Candidates Chess Championship
March 15th- April 5th, 2020 (Yekaterinburg, Russia)
Participants
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
2842
2 Ding Liren GM China
2805
3 Grischuk, Alexander GM Russia
2777
4 Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM Russia
2767
5 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
2767
6 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
2763
7 Wang Hao GM China
2762
8 Alekseenko, Kirill GM Russia
2698
Main Site

One day this will be a classic photo. Photo by Amruta Mokal

Viswanathan Anand with the traditional handshake with Sergey Karjakin at the 2016 Candidates tournament. Fabiano Caruana, the top 2020 Candidates contender, looks on. On the eve the 2020 Candidates tournament in Moscow, how will things change in the face of the global pandemic known as the “coronavirus”? Photo by Amruta Mokal

The coronavirus has blanketed the world with surprising rapidity, bringing to a grinding halt many economic activities. The result has been the disruption of supply chains, the closing of school systems, and the cancellation of major events. To date, the virus has afflicted more than 140,000, including several high-profile figures.

Governments are scrambling to put into place precautions to ensure the health and safety of its citizenry. Italy has suspended its football season, as has the National Basketball Association of the U.S.A. Organizers of the Coachella music festival have moved the event to October, while the Tokyo Olympics and the Moscow Chess Olympiad are still in limbo. There are even problems in getting to events. Fabiano Caruana, one of the favorites in the Candidates, tweeted this message:

With the Candidates tournament slated to start in a couple of days, the world is on edge as the virus snakes its way around the planet. “Over-the-Board” (OTB) chess tournaments are a unique activity where interactions are rather personal. Competitors shake hands before and after the game, sit a meter away for hours at a time, and exchange ideas while handling 32 figurines over this period.

Rethinking Tournament Etiquette

Apart from the usual facial expressions and behavioral quirks, there is the coughing and the sneezing in tournaments. Some players make an effort to relieve themselves into their shirt or sleeve, while others let out their sneeze in the open. What happens in this case? Researchers at the Massachusetts of Technology found that a sneeze can travel at a speed of 100 miles per hour at up to 200 feet. The sneeze cloud can remain suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes. (link)

These frame-by-frame images from MIT research demonstrate the force of a sneeze and the massive cloud of droplets we expel if we don’t cover our mouths.

There are other hygienic issues as far as eating at the board, and bathroom etiquette is concerned. Other concerns are the smells, chewing sounds, and potential reactions of those afflicted with allergies to certain foods. Imagine ketchup or mayonnaise on your pieces from someone’s Subway sandwich, not to mention mouth to hand moisture while eating. Should there be a rule about food in the tournament hall to ensure a clean and hygienic environment? Questions. Questions.

OTB Tournament cancellations a major concern

If we have not paid much attention to these issues, the virus has forced us to address how we run tournaments. Many of the tournaments are supplying the rooms with hand sanitizer, wipes, and banning handshakes of any kind. However, there has been a rash of tournament cancellations reported on social media. The larger question is whether this virus will affect over-the-board chess after the virus eventually subsides.

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

The Continental Chess Association (CCA) has been updating its site and provided instructions on how to deal with the coronavirus. It encourages players to bring hand sanitizer but will provide some if needed. However, there seems to be only one cancellation (New York State Scholastic Championship). At this point, there are no plans by the CCA to cancel the Chicago Open and World Open. The St. Louis Chess Club has also canceled a slate of events, but the U.S. Championship is not one of them. There is a litany of cancellations of major events, including the popular Reykjavik Open. Peter Doggers of Chess.com compiled a list of other cancellations.

With the chess world becoming more acclimated to online play, will this outbreak have a lasting impact on OTB play? Will players feel a bit skittish about playing in these tournaments and increasingly preferring to play in online tournaments? These defections are a real issue given that the chess clubs already struggle to compete with the online communities. What will be interesting is how chess organizations will handle the publicity damage as players understand that chess events can be a breeding ground for all types of pathogens.

Crossroads for Tournament Organizers

There are a number of questions that will be posed given the mandatory attention to cleanliness to stem the tide of the virus. Will there now be regulation requiring sports bodies to supply materials that help control the spread of germs? Will there be a change in policy on handshaking before games? The evidence on germ exchange precedes us. Some tournaments are making the ceremonial greeting “optional,” which is different from the 2007 FIDE rule requiring a shake of hands.

Nigel Short won a game via forfeit because Ivan Cheparinov refused to shake hands. Maybe such a rule change is afoot for more reasons than mere sportsmanship. Will the formal handshake give way to the informal and friendly fist bump? Will there be a market for hypoallergenic chess sets? Should there be a policy of players wiping (or spraying) down their chess set after every game? GM Ian Rogers raises the point:

Online chess will boom during this unfortunate time, but what will become of the already-challenged, over-the-board chess tradition? Could it be that this outbreak could make chess tournaments safer, and thus more appealing? Maybe. If there is a silver lining in all of these cancellations, perhaps it will force us to take a closer look at the rules, etiquette and overall conditions in which players play.

Tani Adewumi on the rise!
Photo by Angel Lopez

Just after the recent announcement of the upcoming book, Tanitoluwa Adewumi continued his rapid rise. Last weekend at an Action tournament at the Marshall Chess Club, Tani scored 3/4 including wins over three masters including IM Jay Bonin. He would lose to eventual winner GM Michael Rohde, but this performance would net him 96 rating points and he would soar over 2000. When seeking rating goals, it is a common practice to crawl over the rating barrier to meet the qualification. In Tani’s case, to get to 2059 means his improvement trajectory is still on a steep incline.

Playing in his first tournament in 2018, he received national acclaim after winning the 2019 New York Primary Championship. His story of living in a homeless shelter with his family went viral and an outpouring of support followed. He started appearing on TV shows and giving interviews. Many have wondered if all of the attention would be overwhelming and have reflected on the story of Josh Waitzkin of the “Searching for Bobby Fischer” fame.

Waitkin became an International Master, but later stated that the pressure was more than he could handle and he found himself not enjoying the process. He successfully rechanneled his energy to martial arts. Of course, the New York community will have to ensure that lessons have been learned from Waitzkin. Besides the upcoming book release in April, Trevor Noah is set to produce a movie about the young Nigerian immigrant.

As he continues his march toward National Master, he will require a more measured approach to his training. New York, the nation’s historic chess Mecca, seems to be the right place for him. He has the support of his coaches Angel Lopez and Shawn Martinez as well as The Chess Drum community. We salute you!

US Chess: http://www.uschess.org/msa/MbrDtlTnmtHst.php?16649696.1

Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)

The chess world gasped as Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov suddenly withdrew from the Candidates tournament with less than two weeks remaining before the opening round. Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who had barely missed out qualifying, will replace him (per FIDE regulations… articles 2.2 and article 2.1.E).

While this will certainly shake things up, there is another factor that threatens the tournament to its core. It turns out that Radjabov’s rationale for withdrawing was not due to lack of chess ambitions (or “personal reasons“), but specifically the omnipresent COVID-19 known as the “coronavirus.”

Statement of Teimour Radjabov’s statement (from Peter Doggers at chess.com):

Teimour Radjabov
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

“From March 15 to April 5, 2020, I was supposed to participate in the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia. As you know, there is currently a growing epidemic of the coronavirus worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the highest scale for an epidemic: red. Many tournaments and other significant events in the world have been canceled or postponed to a later date, based on the latest situation.

The International Chess Federation has taken a number of precautionary measures, but not all. It was stated that the Chinese players, their coaches and accompanying persons will be quarantined for 14 days in Russia. One of the Chinese chess players [GM Ding Liren – PD], the coaches and the delegation have indeed been quarantined. However, the other participant from China [GM Wang Hao – PD] will not be quarantined and will arrive shortly before the start from a country [Japan – PD] where the coronavirus epidemic is growing every day.

Also, there is no explanation from FIDE how the tournament will proceed if a participant or coach or accompanying person, a journalist, an interviewer, or an arbiter has signs of a cold or influenza, or, God forbid, if a coronavirus will be diagnosed. Will participants will be quarantined, and how much time and steps are needed to analyze and determine the exact presence or absence of the virus?

The Candidates Tournament is a chess marathon, consisting of 14 rounds over 22 days. How the tournament will develop during this global epidemic, what measures will be taken in case of detection of the virus and what measures will be taken in relation to a sick participant, no one has explained to me. Due to the complexity of all these points, I turned to FIDE [and] asked to postpone the tournament to a later date. This was denied. In connection with the above, I considered that such conditions can greatly affect the necessary level of concentration and mood required for the best possible play in such an important tournament as the Candidates, and a possible danger to the health of the players. As a result, I was replaced by another participant.”

This well-stated concern by Radjabov raises a number of important questions and they have been echoed by other players, including Wang Hao of China. For the past couple of months, the world has been gripped in a battle against against the coronavirus.

A number of high profile tournaments have already been cancelled. Federations are now scrambling with contigency plans to ensure that players are taking the appropriate measures to prevent the transmission of the virus. Some organizers of world events are establishing criteria based on number of participants.

The European Chess Union announced that the following events have been cancelled in Crete, Greece…

  • World Cadet & Youth Rapid & Blitz Chess Championships 2020
  • World Amateur Chess Championship 2020
  • European School Championships 2020

In addition, word circulated that the following events have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus:

  • HD Bank Cup (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  • Dubai Open (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
  • Bangkok Open (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Reykjavik Open (Reykjavik, Iceland)
  • Sharjah Open (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)

The U.S. Chess organization had released a statement ahead of their National K-12 Championships that dealt with hygiene prescriptions. The usual advice of washing one’s hands and covering one’s mouth are standard, but also wiping down the chess pieces after every game!

Many will glad to know that the Candidate’s tournament will begin this week in Yekaterinburg, Russia, but is it a wise choice? There was some apprehension that Ding Liren (coming from Shanghai, China) and Wang Hao (traveling from Japan) would somehow be affected due to the national emergency, but FIDE posted the following message on social media.

Ding went through the quarantine process, while Wang did not. There is a brewing controversy as to whether proper procedures are being followed by FIDE to address the outbreak. Many players traveling to Moscow will be traveling on planes and it is not clear whether there is any allowance for the 14-day quarantine.

FIDE has issued a statement for the World Senior Team Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. The senior age group is said to be the most vulnerable to the virus. The protocol included such precautions as “social distancing,” handwashing, and optional handshaking.

Cases have already soared to over 100,000 worldwide with nearly 3,700 deaths, mostly in China. One important question that looms pertains to the Chess Olympiad. How will the biennial event be affected? While we wait on word about the Tokyo Olympics, FIDE does not have much more time than the Tokyo IOC to make a decision.

The next month will be crucial in determining which major tournaments will be scuttled as a safeguard measure against the virus. One thing is for sure, the pandemic will have a crushing effect on travel and the global economy at-large.

FIDE World Candidates: https://www.fide.com/news/411
FIDE World Seniors: http://www.wstcc2020.net/information/fide-medical-security-protocol/
CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html
COVID-19 world meter: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi, UAE… site of the 90th FIDE Congress

A total of 195 federations from 195 countries were represented by their delegates at the 90th FIDE Congress held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The General Assembly and Executive Board Meetings were held on February 28-29th.

The General Assembly opened February 28th, 2020 at around 9:00am by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. It was the first meeting since the 89th Congress was held in Batumi, Georgia in 2018. The anthems of both the UAE and FIDE were played followed by Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nehyan, who welcomed the august body.

Arkday Dvorkovich

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich

Dvorkovich gave a 500-day update of his administration’s work which included a doubling of the budget, the support of national federations through the FIDE development fund and new corporate partnerships. There was mention of the presence of FIDE at the All-Africa Games in Morocco. Also discussed was the FIDE World Championships with the synchronizing of the open and women’s cycles. Some of the other accomplishments were detailed by Allen Priest, CPA who headed the U.S. delegation and serves as the President of U.S. Chess.

  • New FIDE Website
  • Increased investments in developing nations, with 77 nations receiving funds for projects for tournaments, trainings, coaching and equipment
  • New external collaborations with the International Olympic Committee and United Nations, including a World Chess Day designation of July 20, 2020
  • First Paralympic chess tournament, to be held alongside the 2020 General Assembly and Olympiads in Russia
  • Reworked World Championship Cycle for both men and women and increased prize funds for the women’s world championship
  • Moved FIDE offices from Greece to Lausanne, Switzerland

Zhansaya Abdumalik in action in Lausanne Grand Prix in today’s 1st round. Photo by David Llada (FIDE)

There was some attention given to the threat of the coronavirus and the fact that every arrangement would be made to keep players safe. Thus the Candidates tournament and the Olympiad will proceed as planned, but precautions will be made to accommodate the Chinese players competing in the Candidates. Unfortunately, China’s Zhao Xue had to withdraw from the Women’s Grand Prix tournament in Lausanne. She will be replaced by Zhansaya Abdumalik.

As far as the African Diaspora, they were very active in the proceedings and appear to be taking a more active role in the leadership of FIDE. In fact, there were several new federations from the two regions. Cayman Islands, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis, were announced as new member federations. According to the FIDE website, it is the 4th largest sports federation by number of member countries.

Arkday Dvorkovich

Carlo Lee speaks about chess in the Cayman Islands

Dr. IzBen Williams, St. Kitts and Nevis

Dr. IzBen Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis
brings greetings on behalf of their new federation

In other major news, a new FIDE Charter was passed by the General Assembly an overwhelming majority. The reformed FIDE statutes was one of the main points brought out at the Presidential Board meeting in 2019. According to Roberto Rivello who chaired the task force,

“FIDE needs this reform, not only because the current FIDE Statutes were written many decades ago and the role of international sports federations is completely different today, as it is our society. But mainly because we need to move in the direction of a more modern, transparent, democratic and efficient institution, and the main rules of our organization have a fundamental role to play in making this possible.”

As far as the Olympiad, federations are to arrive on July 29th in Khanty Mansiysk for 91st FIDE Congress and then leave for Moscow on the August 5th. The opening round of the Olympiad will begin on August 6th. There was a very important announcement made about the World Chess Championship this fall. President Dvorkovich stated that he was 99.9% sure that the event would be held in the United Arab Emirates. There are still negotiations for dates, but most likely will take place in December. An official announcement will be made in coming weeks.

Regarding the 2024 Chess Olympiad, the FIDE President reports that Hungary and Argentina/Brazil (jointly) have expressed their interest in hosting this event. They haven’t submitted a bid yet but they sent a delegation to Abu Dhabi to gather information.

Official Site: https://www.fide.com/news/342
Title Applications: https://ratings.fide.com/title_applications.phtml

28 February 2020 – Extraordinaire General Assembly (agenda)

29 February 2020 – Presidential Board Meeting (agenda)

FIDE Congress Blitz Tournament

Inez Kelley knew just how much chess meant to her brother Armand Kelley. They were part of a chess-playing family where the activity was valued. Armand naturally gravitated toward the game and became a fixture in the New York chess scene. He was active as part of the Kingsman Chess Club.

Adia Onyango had this to say about her Kingsman teammate…

Since I have known Armand he has been one who was very supportive of all of the community initiatives that the Kingsman put together. Whether we were holding a simul, community tournament or playing in the league, one could find Armand there giving his support. Your spirit will be missed!

After a conversation with Ms. Kelley, James Jeffrey took this cue and announced a memorial tournament. His Kings County Chess Club would collaborate with Al Pertilla’s St. Nicholas Chess & Backgammon Club and Aggrey Duncan’s Chess On The Move to co-host the event in his honor.

The event will take place on Sunday, April 19th (not March 29th) and will be a 5-minute format. Both Jeffrey and Pertilla of St. Nicholas were recently featured on 107.5 WBLS to talk about their event and Inez Kelley’s “Mastermind” chess initiative in the memory of her brother. BronxNet.TV aired the segment on the program, “Open.”

Video by WBLS 107.5 Bronx

One of the biggest viral chess stories of 2019 is about to be released in book form. The story was miraculous in itself. A royal family left Nigeria seeking political asylum and ending up in a homeless shelter. They stayed in the shelter for two years during which Kayode Adewumi took on a job as a dishwasher while adjusting to life in a new country. Typical immigrant story, right? It gets better.

Kayode’s youngest son, Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi, enrolled in P.S. 116 and was taught the game of chess at the school’s club meetings. He studied the game on the floor of the shelter and got his first rating of 105 (one zero five). After the initial training sessions, he continued to make progress and in 2019, he won the New York primary state championship with a perfect score. Amazing, but it’s not the end of the story.

After his victory, the New York media picked up the story and it went viral. New York Times Nicholas Kristof ran the story, “This 8-Year-Old Chess Champion Will Make You Smile,” which described Tani’s story. Social media picked up the buzz and Tani started to get more publicity. What happened was even more amazing.

The story that went viral!

Based on the story that was presented in the media, there was a lot of interest in helping Tani and his refugee family. A GoFundMe fundraising campaign was set up and a fairly ambitious $50,000 goal was set. Within a couple of days, that goal was met.

As the story gathered steam, so did the fundraising. Within four days, the campaign had reached $100,000. Within a week, the amount had ballooned to over $200,000. What started out as a success story for the boy, ended up with $254,448 of donations, totally crushing the initial goal.

A week ago, the boy was homeless, studying chess moves while lying on the floor of a shelter in Manhattan. Now Tani, as he is known, has a home, a six-figure bank account, scholarship offers from three elite private schools and an invitation to meet President Bill Clinton.

~ New York Times story… after a social media campaign went viral

After the campaign had closed, the family vowed not to take a cent of the money except 10% for tithes and the rest to help African refugees. Interesting gesture. The Adewumi family (Kayode, his wife Oluwatoyin, oldest son Austin and Tani) now live in a modest apartment and adjusting to life in New York.

Video by Today Show (NBC News)

Currently, Tani has continued to improve and within a year has gone from 1587 (when the story broke) to a recent high of 1983. The rise has been meteoric and on the heels of his success, a book is coming out in April 2020 titled, My name is Tani… and I Believe in Miracles: The Amazing True Story of One Boy’s Journey from Refugee to Chess Champion. It is available for pre-order on Amazon and is listed at 224 pages. The book is ghost-written by Craig Borlase and is due out April 14th.

Pre-Order!

Daaim Shabazz, “Nigerian schoolboy Tani Adewumi making waves in New York,” The Chess Drum, 18 March 2019
Daaim Shabazz, “After viral story, the work begins for Tani Adewumi,” The Chess Drum, 29 March 2019

Nikita Pearl Waligwa who played as Gloria in the Disney movie, “Queen of Katwe” has died. The Ugandan media has reported the death The 15-year old who gained international acclaim for her role in the movie. The cause of death given was a recurrent brain tumor.

Nikita was first diagnosed in 2016, but was given clearance to appear in the movie after surgery and radiation treatments. According Ugandan sources, a second tumor was discovered two years later. The movie was produced by Mira Nair starred Lupita N’yongo and David Oyelowo and received high praise including several award nominations.

Gloria (Nikita Waligwa) and Phiona (Madina Nalwanga)
Photo by Disney

This movie showed the crushing poverty in Katwe, Uganda, but throughout was the lesson of hope for a brighter tomorrow. In the movie, Gloria taught Phiona the moves and with pride explained the power of the queen. “In chess, the small one can become the big one.” Gloria’s line has so many metaphorical meanings, but in its simplicity, helped Phiona realize her destiny in chess and life.

The movie was not so much about chess as it was thinking with a broader vision and taking advantage of opportunities. It is a lesson that was missed by those who thought it was a movie about chess. In fact, many chess players were critical because the characters were not high-level players in real life.

The point of living in abject poverty was missed by those who have not had to overcome such barriers. The lessons of underdog beating the heavyweight was illustrated both in chess and life. The actors were featured in premiers around the world and Phiona later earned a scholarship to attend Northwest University in the U.S.

British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo played Robert Katende who served as the mentor and organizer of the Sports Outreach Institute, a sports club hosting local chess activities. He gave children from the Ugandan slums an opportunity to think beyond their impoverished environment. Oyelowo described Nikita as a “ball of light.”

Video by Disney

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