The coronavirus seems to have caught up with the Candidates chess tournament, too.
Until it was stopped mid-way at Yekaterinburg on Thursday, it was the world’s only major sporting event that went ahead as planned. But, the Russian government’s ban of international flights forced the world chess governing body, FIDE, to adjourn the tournament.
That decision, however, has thrown up a new problem for FIDE. And it could go all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (when normalcy returns, of course).
Teimour Radjabov, who had pulled out after FIDE turned down his request to postpone the tournament in view of the virus outbreak, is considering legal options. The World No. 9 feels he should be allowed to compete in the Candidates now that FIDE has adjourned the event because of the pandemic.
There are top players who feel Radjabov has been denied justice. Among them are Russia’s Sergey Karjakin and India’s P. Harkrishna, ranked 17th and 27th respectively in the world.
“I hope at least now FIDE will accept responsibility and apologise,” Harikrishna tweeted.
Radjabov wants more than an apology, of course. “Once you are considering starting the event in these circumstances you, first of all, have to make some kind of analysis in the General Assembly of FIDE. There are people who have to talk to each other and decide on the situation,” the World No. 9 from Azerbaijan told chess.com.
He added: “I think FIDE should take some action to include me back in the tournament. I think I have did everything possible – asked them, warned them. I also warned the chess community.”
But, allowing Radjabov back into the tournament may not be easy. After he withdrew, FIDE invited Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France.
“If Radjabov were to be included in the field, he would have to play all eight participants and only after that the second half of this round-robin tournament could be conducted,” Mumbai-based Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay told The Hindu.
“I don’t think FIDE could be blamed entirely for the situation.
“Things weren’t this bad when the tournament started. Nevertheless, I feel FIDE should compensate Radjabov financially.”
The Azerbaijan national team, comprising five GMs, has also come out in support of Radjabov, through an open letter to FIDE, demanding his re-instation in the World championship qualifying cycle.