The proposal originated from the Greek Chess Federation, one of the few that are openly not supporting the current leadership in FIDE. Nonetheless, the idea was embraced by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. Checkmate Coronavirus means online tournaments around the clock with prizes not going to the top-scorers but being raffled among all participants.
The top prizes are 64 trips with airfare and hotel to the Chess Olympiad in Moscow, that has been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic. FIDE didn’t want to delay the campaign until sponsors could be found and is underwriting the risk under the expectation that the Russian organisers will take care of it. Other prizes are matches against grandmasters, masterclasses and souvenirs.
Originally planned to go through June, the team moved so fast that the campaign was ready to start on 18 May, says project coordinator Ilya Gorodetsky. “It was a real quarantine effort”, with everyone working from home, be it in Russia, Greece, Serbia, Belarus, Spain or Switzerland. This Monday was the first time since the lockdown that he left his house in order to give an interview to Russian TV.
Establishing the co-operation with the key platforms was among FIDE’s objectives. About eighty tournaments a day were played on Chess.com, Lichess, chess24 and to a smaller degree on Playchess and the FIDE Arena. The ICC contacted the organisers after the start and was invited to join but didn’t follow it up.
Another goal was to activate federations. Many in Africa organised their first online tournament. Gorodetsky points out that events run by some Latin American federations went especially well. Altogether half a million entries have been counted, with some players participating more than once. Close to 400 grandmasters and woman grandmasters participated.
The campaign website doesn’t mention cheating cases. Even though prizes didn’t depend on results, there were a few, confirms Gorodetsky. Some players resigned all their games early and were just in to get a ticket for the raffle. Others had been caught in other events and were therefore ineligible to win a prize.
FIDE used the campaign to reach out to general news media, many of which reported on the online chess boom. The campaign communications were not about the results but covered the diversity of chess, not least through Instagram. Compilations of movie or cartoon scenes with chess were very popular. According to Gorodetsky, everyone was surprised that the most shared postings were about puzzles and mysteries.