With most sport off the table due to coronavirus, fans turn to chess – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: March 21, 2020 at 2:44 am

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With events cancelled around the world due to coronavirus, what else is there for the sports-starved fan to do but turn to arguably the world's most challenginggame for the mind: chess.

The 2020 Candidates Tournament, one of the biggest events in the game's calendar, kicked off in Russia this week with an unexpected flurry of interest.

As one of the only international competitions still taking place, a peak of one million people in China alone tuned into coverage of the first day, world governing body FIDE said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the online broadcasterchess24.com, which providesmove-by-move commentary in Englishto a more Western audience, reported a 500 per centspike in viewers.

The tournament began on Monday in a luxury hotel in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg - despite Russia suspending all basketball, football and ice hockey fixtures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It sees eight players compete for 500,000 euros (460,000) and the chance to face off against the current king of chess Magnus Carlsen, who has reigned as world champion since 2013.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, Russia's former deputy prime minister, said: "This is a big event not just for the chess world but, possibly, for the whole sporting community since almost all international competitions have been canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus."

Sebastian Kuhnert, the CEO ofchess24, added: "With so many people at home and in the absence of other sports, we have seen an unprecedented level of interest in our coverage of the Candidates Tournament which is essentially a World Championship qualification event in the chess world and the second-most important chess event this year."

However, the Candidates tournament has not been entirely untouched by the pandemic. Chinese hope Ding Liren was quarantined for two weeks beforehand while the US number one Fabiano Caruana had his flight cancelled and had to reschedule.

FIDE has banned live spectators to limit the risks linked to the pandemic and announced it is testing all players and staff. Chess players in big matches also traditionally shake hands with a special guest who is given the honour of making the ceremonial first move.

But when chess legend Anatoly Karpov offered his hand in front of the cameras to fellow countryman Ian Nepomniachtchi, he awkwardly pulled back.

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With most sport off the table due to coronavirus, fans turn to chess - Telegraph.co.uk

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March 21st, 2020 at 2:44 am

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