Hybrid Chess is here to stay

3/24/2021 – In a world under the shadow of Covid, Hybrid chess is becoming increasingly popular. It is arbiter-supervised Internet tournaments in which players gather at a venue to play against opponents similarly gathered elsewhere. That’s a whole lot cheaper than schlepping from one end of the country to another, and it certainly reduces the carbon footprint of chess events. Perhaps it will reinvigorate competitions that have generally declined over the years.

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The editorial below has been taken from the April 2021 issue of Chess Magazine, with kind permission of the editor.

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

Featuring all the latest news from the chess world – Coverage of all major tournaments - Features on Opening Theory (mainline & offbeat) - Interviews with top GMs - Instructional articles by top players - three pages of tactics puzzles every month! - Features on Chess History - Chess Studies & Problem. Contributors include: GM Gawain Jones, GM Michael Adams, GM Daniel King, GM Danny Gormally, GM Simon Williams, GM Jon Speelman, GM James Plaskett, John Saunders, John Henderson, and more.

Every subscription includes not only a printed copy delivered direct to your door every month but also all the games, annotations and analysis from the issue as a free download (.pgn and .cbv formats). Subscribers also receive a 10% discount on each and every order from the London Chess Centre. CHESS is mailed to subscribers in over 50 countries. You can subscribe from Europe and Asia at a specially discounted rate for first timers here, or from North America here.

An electronic edition (PDF format with electronic database) is also available at just £3.95 per issue.

The 2021 London Outdoor Chess Festival

It’s the London Chess Classic, but not as you know it. I am delighted to announce that Chess in Schools and Communities will be staging a three-day outdoor chess festival in London on Friday July 16th, Saturday July 17th and Sunday July 18th. I am working on securing venues and the program is being finalised, but save the dates. Events will be themed around Alice Through the Looking Glass as it is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s children’s favourite. We’ll have live chess and the unofficial British Giant Blitz Chess Championship played on giant sets in a test of chess skill, speed and stamina. There will be some tournaments outside or in marquees if the weather is inclement. More next month.

The summer outdoor festival will include living chess, like this from the Barclaycard Yes2Chess finals which took place in Hyde Park in the summers of 2014 and 2015. Chess in Schools and Communities will be organising and there will be events for adults, as well as children, players and non-players.

Step-by-Step

Over-the-board chess in the UK should return step-by-step in tune with UK Government guidelines with the key date being June 21st (at the earliest), when everything, hopefully, will open up. A 4NCL Congress from 9-11 July in Leamington Spa and the Northumbria Masters at the Novotel Newcastle Airport in August have already been announced.

Before then, no earlier than 17th May, some limited indoor gatherings will be possible with up to six people, which will give the possibility to play some internal competitions and even league matches involving the Hybrid Chess format – more of Hybrid Chess lower down. There is comprehensive guidance on the ECF website.

At the outset of the pandemic, the ECF Board, on which I sit, was concerned that the ECF could be bankrupted by the loss of revenue from membership, but all thanks are due to the ECF members who renewed their membership. On March 1st 2020 the ECF had 10,512 paying members; on the same date in 2021 there were 6,756. This represents a 64.2% retention rate.

Many took advantage of the offer made by Chess & Bridge of discounts on purchases when renewing, and we will make another offer this year.

The timing of the relaxation of lockdown rules has forced the postponement of the British Championships and these have been delayed to October, and will take place piecemeal in a variety of venues. The booking of the popular Riviera Centre in Torquay has been pushed back to 2022.

Gift of the Jab

No such problems in Israel where vaccination has proceeded faster than anywhere in the world. The Israeli Chess Federation took the opportunity provided by the successful roll-out to stage the national championship in Haifa for the first time in the second week of March. The tournament was sponsored by the Israeli national lottery and sanctioned by the government. All players and officials needed to have a ‘green pass’, which allows Israelis access to public events, theatres and museums.

This has got me thinking, and I would be interested in readers’ opinions. If I was playing a tournament in the near future, I’d certainly like the comfort of knowing my fellow competitors had been vaccinated, as even though I am getting my first shot, as I write, the day after tomorrow, I would want to be sure the tournament was being conducted with minimal risk to others. Of course, this raises the issue of how to handle junior players. For Hybrid events, being conducted in one room and socially distanced, having all players vaccinated would be very reassuring. I am seeking a legal opinion on whether organisers can demand proof of vaccination.

Hybrid Chess – Here to stay

Hybrid chess will become increasingly popular as it enables play over the internet while eliminating the possibility of cheating. It is arbiter-supervised play from a venue where many players gather to play against opponents similarly gathered elsewhere.

It had already been successfully trialled by the European Chess Union in junior events, but for the first time in early March, a Hybrid Chess event was approved by FIDE and also FIDE-rated. Teams from four cities played each other over four boards with a classical time control. The increment per move was 35 seconds instead of the usual 30, to account for players having to make their opponent’s moves on the sensory board.

The victorious Barcelona team of five GMs (Edouard, Alvar, Peralta, Narciso Dublan and Moskalenko) played from the headquarters of the Catalan Chess Federation. Bratislava played from the Mayor’s Palace, Malmo at the Hipp Theater, and Oslo at the Offerspill Chess Club that was founded by Magnus Carlsen in 2019.

A delightful miniature

In the early rounds of the Israeli Championship an untitled player, Ohad Kraus, defeated GM Ilya Smirin and won this miniature:

 

Two women opted to play in the open event and one of them, WGM Marcel Efroimsky, battled Israel’s youngest IM Eytan Rozen for seven and a half hours and 233 moves in a game that ended an hour after the conclusion of the prize giving. Our regular contributor, IM Yochanan Afek, believes this is longest classical game ever played in Israel and the third longest game in the history of competitive chess.

Queen’s Gambit Joy

The chess world can bask in even more of the reflected glory from the unprecedented success of The Queen’s Gambit. The Netflix mini-series received two nominations at the 78th Golden Globes that celebrate achievement in the world of TV and film – and won in both categories.

The Golden Globes Awards, like so much over the past year, were forced largely online, but that didn't prevent Anya Taylor-Joy (aka Beth Harmon) from stealing the scene in her green Dior dress.

The Queen’s Gambit was voted best limited series anthology or TV movie and Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the main character Beth Harmon, earned her first Golden Globe as best actress in a mini-series or motion picture made for television, as she beat off firm favourites Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America) and Nicole Kidman (The Undoing).

Woman of Courage

Shohreh Bayat is now safely ensconced in the UK with permission to remain, and we are honoured to have her. Shohreh is now our fourth Category A arbiter and the only one to have presided over a world championship match. Shohreh was forced to flee Iran when articles criticising her hijab appeared in the Iranian press. It was quite clear her life was in danger.

Chief Arbiter Shohreh Bayat headed straight from the women's world chess championship in Vladivostok to a new life in the UK after electing not to return to Iran after public criticism of the positioning of her hijab. She dispensed with what is for her, a symbol of oppression, for the final games.

I and others engaged in some frenetic efforts early last year to assist Shohreh in gaining entry to the UK, where she came from Vladivostok after the conclusion of the WCC Women’s final between Ju Wenjun and her challenger, Aleksandra Goryachkina.

Shohreh’s bravery has now been recognised by the United States Government in the form of Dr. Jill Biden, the First Lady no less.

On March 8th, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken hosted the 2021 International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world. Dr. Biden delivered the following remarks to recognise Shohreh’s courage.

“When Shohreh Bayat boarded her flight on her way to the 2020 Women’s Chess World Championship, she had no idea she might be seeing her native Iran for the last time. Shohreh, the first female Category A international chess arbiter in Asia, was photographed at the Championship without her hijab visible, which is compulsory in Iran.

“Within 24 hours, the Iranian Chess Federation – which Shohreh had previously led – refused to guarantee Shohreh’s safety if she returned to Iran without first apologizing. Fearing for her safety and unwilling to apologize for the incident, Shohreh made the heart-wrenching decision to seek refuge in the UK, leaving her husband – who lacked a UK visa – in Iran. In that moment, Shohreh chose to be a champion for women’s rights rather than be cowed by the Iranian government’s threats.”

Guildford Go for Gold

As the magazine arrives with UK readers, the European Online Club Cup will be taking place with, for the first time, the UK’s pre-eminent team Guildford taking part. Guildford have dominated the 4NCL in recent times, but never played in the European Club Cup. Having it online enables them to participate as third seeds behind Novy Bor of the Czech Republic and Russia’s Mednyi Vsadnik.

Guildford will field the England team: Michael Adams, David Howell, Luke McShane and Gawain Jones, with Ivan Cheparinov on board five. Wood Green are fielding two teams and Celtic Tigers are also in the mix.

Carlsberg don’t do chess clubs, but if they
did we imagine the teamsheet would look a
lot like Guildford’s, with all their England stars.

We'd love to see a UK chess player shortlisted for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but Humpy Koneru has become BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year, seeing off competition from shooter Manu Bhaker, sprinter Dutee Chand, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and India's hockey captain, Rani Rampal, to the award. Humpy won the 2020 Cairns Cup after returning from a maternity break.

Wesley So has been living in America for many years and has now become a U.S. citizen. He is pictured with the proof outside the Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in St. Paul/Minneapolis. So has been playing in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour from his home in Minnetonka. He is often accompanied by one of his cats and has even enjoyed an early-morning shave on air during the Magnus Invitational which was under way as we went to press.

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CelticParadise CelticParadise 3/25/2021 02:53
Guildford might have been dominant in the 4NCL but the current champions are ChessPlus Kington.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 3/25/2021 12:33
I agree that vaccination requirements should be up to the organisers/sponsors but the government always tries to get involved.

I do not see the issue of different requirements in different locations because the situation is very different. In New Zealand where there is no lockdown and masks are not required, it does not make sense to require vaccination, but in the US it would. The contract should clearly specify requirements for all levels of the event. Also the organisers should verify the vaccinations. But the players always have to be aware that there is a risk - maybe a player forges a vaccination or a player who got vaccinated still contracts covid (vaccines are 80-95% effective). That cannot be blamed on the organiser.
adbennet adbennet 3/24/2021 08:03
"I am seeking a legal opinion on whether organisers can demand proof of vaccination."

Well I am not a lawyer, but my useless opinion is I don't see why not. Isn't it a matter of contract? There might be some jurisdictions that will forbid this -- but who would want to play chess there anyway? Difficulties of fairness could arise if in a hybrid event one organiser demanded this while another (at a different location) did not. Or if a qualifying event did not require it, and then later the organiser of the final tried to require it. One thorny problem I could see is if the organisers required it, but did not diligently verify it. Then a different participant (or heirs) might have a claim based on an unmet expectation of safety. And considering the consequence might be hospitalisation or even death, it could be a hefty claim.
e-mars e-mars 3/24/2021 07:28
@bscaccia and for those who can't afford a DTG what about online + a regular board? (on longer time controls one can afford to reproduce both sides moves on a real board)
I guess if this hybrid thing becomes more and more popular, a big if, more answers will come...
bscaccia bscaccia 3/24/2021 04:41
I'm wondering if using a DGT smart board would be considered 'OTB' or 'something else. Playing 'online' is a different experience than playing online with DGT which is different than playing in person.
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