Chess players withdraw from Grand Swiss amid Latvia’s Covid-19 lockdown


From Thursday October 21 to November 14, a curfew will be in place from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., non-essential businesses will remain closed and stores offering basic necessities will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The country has been grappling with the surge in Covid-19 cases and low vaccination rates since early October. On October 11, a three-month emergency was declared by the government to stop the spread of the infection and ease the strain on the healthcare system.

However, a statement issued by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) announced that the Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss tournaments have been authorized by the Latvian government after approving high-level international sporting events to be held during the lockdown month. .

This list includes a total of 30 events, including the Grand Swiss, the Tal Memorial – another chess tournament in honor of legendary Latvian player Mikhail Tal – and basketball events.

Greater Switzerland will put in place a number of restrictions given the high incidence rate of Covid-19 in Latvia. It will be closed to the public, with only a few accredited accredited journalists.

“Failure to comply with the rules of the Protocol may result in the disqualification of a player or even the termination of the Tournament,” said the FIDE statement.

Although FIDE said it was trying “to organize the event in Riga in a safe and always comfortable way”, some high profile players withdrew citing health concerns.

No less than 114 players from 39 federations had initially qualified to participate in Grand Swiss, with 50 players from 26 federations qualified for the first women’s Grand Swiss.

However, the great American master Hikaru Nakamura will not be there.

Ranked 19th in the world, Nakamura noted on Twitter: “If there is indeed a hard lockdown in Latvia from a few days, out of respect for Latvians suffering from Covid and for my health and safety and that of my coach, I will not participate in the Grand Tournament of Swiss chess in Riga. “
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Grand Indian Master Vidit Gujrathi tweeted Wednesday that he felt “reluctant to travel to Latvia” due to the lockdown restrictions, also asking if any of his “colleagues shared the same concerns”.
Gujrathi subsequently tweeted saying had decided not to participate in the tournament.

“After reflecting on the current situation in Latvia over the past few days, I have decided to withdraw from the tournament. There is a lot of uncertainty and health is the first priority. I hope Latvia will overcome this wave soon. “

On Thursday, the press secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia said the incidence of the virus increased by 48.8% over the past week, in a statement to CNN.

The 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population reached 1,400 on October 20, the press release added, making it the highest incidence rate in the world.

Niamh Kennedy and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this report.


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