The 44th Chess Olympiad, scheduled for August in Moscow, is canceled. Instead, the first online Chess Olympiad could be staged in 2020, the first major international chess event to be held on the Internet. “We are thinking about it,” confirmed FIDE director Emil Sutovsky on Facebook. “Going online is the strategy we employ throughout the next few months.”
It’s been evident for days that the 44th Chess Olympiad was no longer a safe bet. Already on March 20, according to a tweet by journalist Stefan Löffler, FIDE advised all chess federations not to buy tickets, at least none that cannot be refunded.
It is obvious why the Chess Olympiad is cancelled – as an offline tournament at least. The corona virus makes major events impossible and it is unclear how long it will stay that way. Of course, a chess Olympiad with more than 2000 players, coaches, referees from all over the world would fall into the category “impossible”.
The decision, originally planned for May, was made on the same day that Japan’s Prime Minister announced that the Summer Olympics would be postponed by a year. And it fell a few days after the European Football Championship was postponed. Under these circumstances, FIDE could no longer wait to demonstrate its concern about the spreading pandemic. The World Chess Federation is under pressure to justify the current Candidates tournament anyway.
The Quarantine Bundesliga
Chessplayers can move their games to the internet, an advantage over all other sports. While regular chess leagues have shut down everywhere the game has long since arrived online. The two largest chess platforms, chess.com and lichess.org, recorded 30 to 40 percent more traffic than usual in March, and the trend is rising.
Federations as well as clubs around the world organize competitions online each day for weeks now. While the regular Bundesliga for instance has taken a break (and is worried about its final round), RochadeEuropa editor-in-chief Jens Hirneise’s German Quarantine Bundesliga baits hundreds of players every night on Lichess, again with an upward trend.
A replacement Olympiad online would now be the first regular international tournament to be brought online. It’s an ideal candidate for a first attempt: The Chess Olympiad is not part of a cycle with different sections that must be played under the same conditions.
The effort for the federations would be manageable. They would have to assemble their teams of four in one place with stable internet under the supervision of a referee. And every federation would be free to transform “their” chess Olympiad into an offline event for spectators.