- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2020

Bowing to the inevitable, world chess officials on Thursday suspended play halfway through the elite tournament meant to pick a challenger to world chess champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway because of the mounting coronavirus crisis in host nation Russia.

FIDE, the international chess organization, called off the troubled event — one of the few in the sporting world to proceed as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the globe — with seven of the 14 scheduled rounds still to be played.

One of the eight qualifying grandmasters refused to come to Yekaterinburg for the candidates tournament, and several players, including top-seeded American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, had raised questions about the wisdom of staging the event even as the tournament was going on.

FIDE said in a statement that looming travel restrictions were a major factor in the decision.

“Today, the government of the Russian Federation announced that starting March 27, 2020, Russia [will halt] 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.”

At the time of the suspension, France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Russian grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi were tied to the lead with scores of 4½- 2½.

No date was given for resumption of play. The winner was supposed to meet Mr. Carlsen, the world chess champion since 2013, in a 12-game title match this fall.

FIDE officials earlier this week called off this summer’s biennial open and women’s Chess Olympiads, which attract teams from almost every country in the world.

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