The Dutch government announced new rules to fight Covid-19 on Tuesday evening. The next day, Dharma Tjiam is busy informing the Dutch chess clubs what they have to implement from next week. “It depends on the venue”, says the Director of the Royal Dutch Chess Federation. “If the club meets in a pub, everyone must now have the Corona pass. If the meeting is in a school, nothing changes for the club.” Masks are not compulsory at the board, but there is a minimum distance of 1,50 metres between boards. Some clubs practise games in which each player has his own board and helps execute the opponent’s move.
All Dutch leagues are about to start. Tjiam estimates that five to ten per cent fewer teams compete than in 2019. The decline doesn’t seem dramatic to him. After all, there are players who do not yet dare to meet people. From October 2020 to June 2021, club life stood still. Now almost all of the four hundred chess clubs are active again, says Tjiam. And each of them has appointed a member who is responsible for the Covid-19-measures. Eighty clubs have opened their playing rooms for Schaak-Off, a nationwide open chess tournament with which the federation hopes to capture non-club players hooked by Queens Gambit or online chess. The plan is likely to work. More than half of the Schaak-Off participants are not yet club members.
Teams withdraw on all levels. Clubs are chasing each other’s players. One district has decided to use the season to experiment with new formats.
France has been relying on the Pass Sanitaire to get its population to vaccinate. The French Chess Federation informed in August that only those who are vaccinated, recovered or freshly tested are allowed to play chess in clubs or tournaments. Young people are exempt until the end of September, after that it applies to everyone from the age of 12.
In Germany all leagues but one have finally completed the 2019 season. Only the Bundesliga has seven rounds to play and will squeeze them into four days on 14–17 October. The second strongest team SV Hockenheim 1930 and promoted team SC Heusenstamm voluntarily step down to the third league. There are more withdrawals on all levels. Word is out that clubs are chasing each other’s players to complete their line-up. One district has decided to skip relegation and use the coming season to experiment with new formats. The German Chess Federation can discuss these developments at their Extraordinary General Assembly on 9 October.
Chess life in Switzerland is in full swing. The Swiss Team Championship is not played over the course of the school year but of the calendar year. Now the whole 2021 season is about to be completed until Christmas. The Swiss Chess Federation has reduced the entry fees and for most leagues also the number of boards. With success. 26 more teams take part than in 2019. After membership numbers had been in decline for several years, the new federation president André Vögtlin hopes to turn things around by connecting club and online chess.
Many players have signed off during the Covid forced break. Their contributions were the federation’s most important source of income, and public subsidies linked to them.
The Swedish Chess Federation has just announced an E-sport chess league together with the E-sport company Fragbite. Apart from two seasons being planned throughout a year, no details are known yet. The Finnish Chess Federation is suffering a financial crisis, because many players have signed off during the Covid forced break. The federation’s most important source of income are direct contributions from licensed tournament players, to which public subsidies are linked. The Italian Chess Federation is in similar difficulties.
In Portugal, the season is not starting but about to come to an end. Team and individual championships take place over the summer months. This is why as in 2020 hardly any championship had to be cancelled. A few opens are coming up, the biggest one is scheduled to take place in Lisbon at the end of November or beginning of December. The regional leagues will follow in the new year. The players have to wear masks without exception. Even though more than eighty per cent of the population have already been vaccinated twice, the President of the Portuguese Chess Federation Dominic Cross does not want to speculate on whether the rules will soon be relaxed. His job, he says, is to fulfil all the requirements scrupulously to enable as many events as possible to take place.
How to deal with the uncertainties and current challenges is a session topic this Saturday at the online conference Work4Chess. Representatives of European federations will exchange experience and network. Geir Nesheim from the Nordic Chess Federation will plead for more cross-border cooperation. Thanks to the sponsors Tornelo, Play Magnus Group and European Chess Union, the registration is free.