Few of the world’s top chess players have pulled out of next week’s Grand Swiss tournament in Riga, Latvia, citing health concerns following the country’s four-week lockdown due to an outbreak of Covid-19.
From Thursday, October 21 to Thursday, November 14, there will be a curfew in effect between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., with non-essential stores remaining closed and stores providing essential goods open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Since the beginning of October, the country has been dealing with an increase in Covid-19 cases and low vaccination rates. The government declared a three-month emergency on October 11 to stop the spread of the infection and relieve the pressure.
The Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss tournaments, however, have been approved by the Latvian government after it approved international top-level sports events to be held during the month-long lockdown, according to a statement released by the International Chess Federation (FIDE).
On December 28, 2019, Nakamura considers his next move during a rapid chess game at the Open World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Moscow.
The Grand Swiss, the Tal Memorial (another chess tournament honoring the legendary Latvian player Mikhail Tal), and basketball events are among the 30 events on this list.
Given the high prevalence of Covid-19 in Latvia, the Grand Swiss will impose a number of restrictions. The event will be closed to the general public, with only a few accredited journalists allowed to attend.
“Breaking the rules of the Protocol may lead to disqualification of a player or even termination of the Tournament,” the FIDE statement said.
Despite FIDE’s assurances that “the event in Riga will be hosted in a secure and comfortable manner,” some high-profile players have withdrawn due to health concerns.
Initially, 114 players representing 39 federations qualified for the Grand Swiss, with 50 women representing 26 federations qualifying for the inaugural Women’s Grand Swiss.
Hikaru Nakamura, an American grandmaster, will not be present.
Ranked 19th in the world, Nakamura said on Twitter: “If there is indeed a hard lockdown in Latvia starting in a few days, out of respect for Latvians suffering with Covid and for the health and safety of myself and my trainer, I will not be competing in the Grand Swiss chess tournament in Riga.”