Mumbai: All is not well at the 2020 Candidates Tournament, which opened at a luxury hotel in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, 1,400 kilometres (885 miles) east of Moscow, as one Grand Master Teimour Radjabov from Azerbaijan pulled out, bringing the eight-candidate championship down to seven. The tournament will run until April 3.
According to sources, COVID-19 was the reason behind Teimour Radjabov's pullout, as he felt that staying away from the contest was the best way. “The Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) or World Chess Federation has taken all precautions, but Radjabov thought otherwise,” said the source, talking to The Free Press Journal on Thursday.
Despite all sporting events having been laid to rest by international federations, the FIDE, along with the Russian Chess Federation, has gone ahead with this championship, with the winner to take on the world champion in the next contest.
FIDE has banned live spectators, to limit the risks linked to the pandemic. While the federation has not made it mandatory to shake hands, if the players so wish, they need not do so, said the sources. The competitors can touch elbows before a game, rather than shaking hands.
The tournament has at stake 500,000 euros ($545,000) and the chance to face off against World No. 1 29-year-old Magnus Carlsen from Norway, who has held the world's number 1 place since 2013.
Games between players from countries including the United States and China, are being broadcast on a YouTube channel run by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), with commentary in Chinese, Russian and English.
In March, the organisation addressed concerns over the virus saying that postponement was "not legally and practically feasible," unless ordered by the Russian authorities.
Photographers are only allowed "a distance of at least six metres from the players," said FIDE, one of the last international sports organisations where Russia wields influence, a legacy from the Soviet Union.
"Being an elite tournament, the reduced number of participants allows us to monitor their personal circumstances, health status, and provide them with personal attention," said a FIDE authority of the tourney.