Background

Ten things you haven’t seen in your chess tournament before

16 Aug 2020

Over the board chess is slowly coming back but it is not the same. Spectators, handshakes and mutual scoresheet signing are out, new equipment is in. Stefan Löffler has a list.

Not an astronaut, only the operator of the ozone cannon owned by the Spanish Chess Federation.
Not an astronaut, only the operator of the ozone cannon owned by the Spanish Chess Federation. (Patricia Claros Aguilar)

Ozone cannon

Spain is among the countries hit hardest by Covid-19. Javier Ochoa de Echaguen, President of the Spanish Chess Federation since 23 years and sure of reelection in September without a challenger in sight, has decided to spend €10,000 on ozone disinfection. By energizing oxygene an ozone canon produces the gas and is dispersing it in the tournament hall over night. Since breathing in ozone is dangerous, their operators come in gear resembling astronauts. Ozone has long been known to kill pathogens and has been credited to help keep SARS at bay in 2013. Covid-19 belongs to the same family of viruses, but kills much fewer of those it infects and spreads much more. The efficacy of ozone disinfection in fighting Covid-19 is controversial, but as this report in the blog of ABC shows the Spanish Chess Federation is taking no chances when it comes to the safety of its competitions.

Thermometer gun

You may be held at gun point before the next time you enter a tournament hall. You won’t have to drop your wallet though. It only lasts two seconds and serves to check your temperature. In Spain it is done by a medical doctor that the Spanish Federation has hired to supervise their fail-safe security measures and to reject anyone who shows symptoms of what might be a Covid-19 infection.

Disinfectant dispenser

In several countries you won’t be let to your board before you apply a disinfectant liquid or gel on your hands. And again if you leave the tournament hall to the toilet and want to reenter. Noone can be trusted to have washed their hands properly. At the ongoing German Championship Summit every participant is provided with his or her own disinfectant.

When is a face shield more suitable than a mask?
When is a face shield more suitable than a mask? (https://www.giorgio-events.at/)

Free masks

Many organisers are now providing you with a fresh chirurgical mask that covers mouth and nose before you enter the tournament hall. It has to be at least one mask per round. When a mask gets wet, additional supply is advisable, and so is a pictorial description for proper use. Are you one of those players who have trouble with their glasses fogging up? Clean your glasses with soap, adjust the wire of the mask above your nose, add a stripe of tissue, and when you breathe out through your mouth try to do it downwards rather than upwards.

At the tournament just finished in Spilimbergo in Italy participants wore mask AND face shield
At the tournament just finished in Spilimbergo in Italy participants wore mask AND face shield (Le due torri Spilimbergo)

Face shields

A more comfortable alternative to masks for glass-wearers and players with breathing difficulties if they are wearing a mask for long time is the face shield. Suitable face shields should not be foldable and cover from forehead to chin. They start at around €10 and are easy to clean and reuse. Giorgio Gugler, organiser of the Innsbruck Chess Festival starting next Saturday, had them produced for his events and will provide them to participants for free. A face shield is nearly as safe as a mask, but not entirely because small aerosols cling to the shield instead of falling to the ground and through electrostatic effect can move out unfiltered on the sides, as explained to us by Hans-Peter Hutter, a medical hygienist who consulted the Austrian Chess Federation, but apparently not on communciation aspects. The more you talk (or sing) the more aerosols may escape in this way. Therefore face shields are not endorsed officially. When you keep silent as during a chess game and don’t remove it often for sipping a drink, the face shield seems an alternative to a mask. Older or asthmatic players have brought medical certificates at some tournaments and were then allowed a face shield instead of a mask. In Italy though, also hard hit by Covid-19, players of an open that just finished were required to wear mask AND face shield at the same time.

A plexiglass separator and board are getting cleaned between rounds at the Biel festival
A plexiglass separator and board are getting cleaned between rounds at the Biel festival (RJB.ch)

Plexiglass separator

Table top separators made of fully transparent plexiglass and possibly reminding you of a post office have been widely noticed when they were used on the boards of the top event of the Biel International Chess Festival in July. A gap just above the board allows the players to move the pieces and push the clock. The separators cost around €70 and are easy to clean. You are likely to see them at invitational events. Or rather on pictures of them, as spectators are not allowed any more.

Double boards

A separate board for each player and extralong tables to bring the distance between the players to a minimum of 1,50 meters is the low-tech solution applied in many chess clubs. In tournament mode extra time has been added since long moves require players to stand up.

A board for each player and plenty of space between them.
A board for each player and plenty of space between them. (chessorg.de)

Refreshment storage

Taking off your mask (or face shield) at the board is not welcome. Neither are refreshments at the board. Expect to see a table, or several tables, where you can deposit your water bottle and fruit box. Name tags can be used to mark what belongs to whom.

Giant chess board

They feature in some parks, school yards and near outdoor pools – and unfortunately they have been removed in some places due to Covid-19, even though they allow to play outdoor and keeping physical distance at the same time. In Neumarkt am Wallersee in Austria the local chess open will be played on giant boards this year. Organiser Martin Egger was ready to install giant boards for up to eighty participants in four groups that take turns. In the end 24 players have registered and will pick up the pieces from next Sunday.

Martin Egger and his helpers have custom-built giant clocks for the giant chess tournament in Neumarkt am Walchensee
Martin Egger and his helpers have custom-built giant clocks for the giant chess tournament in Neumarkt am Walchensee (Martin Egger)

Giant chess clock

Giant boards require giant clocks, right? In Neumarkt am Wallersee they have them! Martin Egger produced them with the help of his father, a locksmith, and of a local carpenter based on large quarz clocks with a 30 cm diameter. Egger has yet to fix a guillotine to each clockface.

Gazebo

All this leaves one area of risk: Where players stick around after their games to analyse, play blitz and chat. The Irish Chess Federation did certainly not forget about this in the comprehensive security concept for its recent championship. It rented a gazebo – roofed tent that can be open on any side for fresh air but still protect you from rain and wind. With the gazebo we have reached ten. What a magic and suspicious number for a list.