How P. Harikrishna survived COVID-19 in Switzerland

India chess player P. Harikrishna revealed that the players at the Biel International Chess Festival were separated by a plexiglass.

Pendyala Harikrishna at the Biel Chess International Festival.   -  BIEL CHESS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL


Talking over phone from Prague, Pendyala Harikrishna sounded cheerful on Thursday evening. He had reasons to be happy; he finally was able to play in a chess tournament after a gap of five months.

The Biel International Chess Festival, which concluded in Switzerland on Wednesday, was the first major chess tournament amid the coronavirus crisis.

Harikrishna won the titles in the classical and Chess960 events and finished runner-up overall, by just half-a-point.

"It was a great feeling to be back in a tournament hall after five months," the World No. 26 told Sportstar.

READ| Biel chess festival: Harikrishna triumphs in classical, finishes second overall

"Though I have been playing quite a bit of online chess like everybody else, there is nothing like sitting in front of a chessboard, facing your rival."

But the conditions were a lot different, of course, in Biel. The COVID-19 guidelines were to be followed. "The organisers were very careful and implemented all the precautions prescribed by the doctors," Harikrishna said. "The players were separated by a plexiglass; I could get used to it pretty quickly."

The players also had to get used to the practice of not shaking hands. Normally, a game of chess would begin and end with a handshake.

"Michael Adams had extended his hand when he decided to concede a game to me, but both of us remembered that we were not supposed to do that," Harikrishna smiled. "The board and the chess pieces were frequently disinfected and there were separate doors to enter and exit the venue."

Though there were only eight players in the main event, around 150 took part in the open tournament. "A distance of 1.5m was maintained between the players," he said. "For the blitz event, there was no plexiglass, so we had to wear masks."

Harikrishna feels the organisers could take credit for organising such a big event when very few people were willing to. "No one would have blamed them if they didn't conduct this tournament," he said.

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