Coronavirus: should players shake hands before a game of chess?

Growing concerns about the novel coronavirus raise the question of whether players should still shake hands before and after a game of chess. In a new medical safety protocol, FIDE advises against it.

With 3,200 people killed by the coronavirus and more than 92,000 infected in more than 70 countries and territories, the coronavirus affects all sections of society. In the world of chess, events such as the Dubai Open and HDBank Open have been canceled, GM Wei Yi and GM Zhao Xue have missed tournaments in Prague and Lausanne respectively, and GM Ding Liren is currently in quarantine in the Moscow region before traveling to Yekaterinburg. for Candidates.

Two days ago we asked on Twitter whether chess players should always shake hands before a game and included footage of German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer refusing to shake hands with Chancellor Angela Merkel more early in the day.

It is quickly becoming socially acceptable to refrain from shaking hands. A punch or a pat on the back are often seen as alternatives. The International Chess Federation now recommends against shaking hands at FIDE events.

On the website of the next senior world team championship (March 5-15 in Prague), a medical security protocol was published, the text of which was largely based on a similar protocol this was in effect at last week’s FIDE Congress in Abu Dhabi.

The protocol aims to “minimize the risks of transmission of the COVID-19 virus [sic*] at the next FIDE events to be held in February, March and April 2020.”

FIDE Medical Safety Protocol.

Approved by the FIDE Board of Directors, the protocol appears to have been primarily intended for the FIDE Congress. The following sentence, taken from the protocol at the Senior World Team Championship, refers to it again:

Avoid handshakes, hugs, cheek kisses and other close personal contact with other conference participants and others present. [Underlining by]

Is this the official FIDE recommendation for players and referees at FIDE rated events in the future? It’s not really clear at the moment.

It’s also unclear whether handshakes are actually mandatory. In January 2008 there was the infamous “handshake incident” in Wijk aan Zee, where GM Ivan Cheparinov refused to shake hands with GM Nigel Short. The English grandmaster then complained to the referee, referring to a decision by the Presidential Council six months before:

Any player who does not shake hands with the opponent (or greet the opponent in a normal social manner in accordance with the conventional rules of his society) before the start of play in a FIDE tournament or during a FIDE match (and does not do so afterwards at the request of the referee) or deliberately insults his opponent or the officials of the event, will immediately and definitively lose the game concerned.

Initially, Short received the full point. The appeal committee then decided that Cheparinov should be given a chance to apologise. The game was rscheduled for the next free day and won by Short (who then declared: “There is a God, and he is not Bulgarian!”).

Cheparinov refusing the handshake.

However, it seems that the “compulsory” handshake before the match was never part of the official FIDE regulations, although it could be considered a violation of the FIDE rules. Code of ethics.

In response to an email from, international referee Omar Salama suggests a pragmatic approach:

“The idea of ​​shaking hands is to show respect to the opponent. It was included in the tournament rules to require players to shake hands or politely salute at the start of matches. I recommend players to greeting politely is enough for me. They showed respect to the opponent. Just saying hello or good afternoon, etc., unless the rules of a certain tournament state otherwise.

Honorary Chairman of the FIDE Arbitrators Commission Takis Nikolopoulos:

“I think the coronavirus issue is very dangerous. At a time when the avoidance of a handshake is included in the measures published by FIDE to help combat the spread of the virus, I would have no problem if players were applying it during a tournament. As Mr. Salama said, a polite greeting between the players should suffice. Of course, I would inform the players accordingly, before the start of the first round of the tournament.”

As many chess fans have noted on social media, it is unclear how effective it is to avoid shaking hands, when players will touch the same chess pieces if they capture something. thing. Therefore, other general recommendations, such as washing your hands frequently and not touching your face, are in place.

* The protocol uses technical terms rather imprecisely because it refers to both “Covid-19 disease” and “covid-19 virus”, it varies by capitalization and it uses the now defunct term “2019-nCoV “.

For clarity: the correct term for the disease is “COVID-19” which stands for “Coronavirus disease 2019”. The official name of the virus is “SARS-CoV-2” which stands for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2”.

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