At approximately 2:42am GMT, FIDE announced that they are freezing the 2020 Candidates Tournament and postponing the remaining seven rounds for the foreseeable future.
The announcement was made on the FIDE website and other social media channels:
Today, the government of the Russian Federation announced that starting March 27, 2020, Russia interrupts air traffic with other countries without indicating any time frames.
FIDE can not continue the tournament without guarantees for the players’ and officials’ safe and timely return home. In this situation and on the basis of clause 1.5. Rules of Candidates Tournament, the FIDE President decided to stop the tournament. It will be continued later, with the exact dates to be announced as soon, as the global situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic will allow. As it was stipulated by the special rules agreed with the players before the start of the event, the results of the 7 rounds played remain valid, and the tournament will be resumed in the same composition starting with the games of the 8th round. FIDE is grateful to the players, officials, volunteers and the entire team of organizers, including the Chess Federation of Russia and the main partner of the tournament – SIMA-Land.
The players were informed of the decision this morning, and apparently made their ways back to the hotels immediately to begin packing. Speaking on the chess24 livestream, Dvorkovich explained his thoughts and said that it only took “a few seconds” to make the final call to postpone.
FIDE Arkady Dvorkovich said there was "a huge risk" that players would end up stuck in Russia for weeks after the Russian government stopped flights from tomorrow. He said it took a few seconds to decide to stop the event: https://t.co/umqqXd8nP5 #c24live pic.twitter.com/k5uBlVfarX
— chess24.com (@chess24com) March 26, 2020
Much will be debated in the coming days, including whether to include or accommodate Teimour Radjabov, who withdrew from the event before its start due to fears over COVID-19. And CLO will be covering the story as it unfolds.
As things stand, here are the standings after seven rounds, the results of which remain in place as the “pause” is enforced.
Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi are tied for first place with 4.5/7, while Fabiano Caruana is one of four players a point back at 3.5/7.
Last night Caruana was preparing to play Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Round 8, hoping to climb his way towards the top of the table and a rematch with Magnus Carlsen. Now he is trying to find his way home.
The Candidates is over for now. The hard part still remains: getting home. I expect to re-enter a world I'll hardly recognize.
— Fabiano Caruana (@FabianoCaruana) March 26, 2020
It’s a brave new world for all of us, not least the eight competitors (and tournament staff) in Yekaterinburg. US Chess wishes them all fair winds and following seas, wherever they are going.