As COVID-19 is having a measurable impact on local chess communities and we have had many organizers reach out to us over the past week for guidance on running events more safely and for us to loosen some rules that don’t pin organizers down financially. Here is that guidance:
Federal, State, and City Level Announcements
Heed the advice and warnings of these entities. Your safety is our goal. If announcements from these or related entities affect your event, adjust accordingly and do so with the confidence that you are doing the right thing. If you must cancel an event, no sanctions will be brought against you by US Chess because the situation is not in your control.
In recognition of the difficult situation tournament organizers find themselves in, we are suspending a few rules through the end of March. The rules that are suspended will be suspended on a month-by-month basis via an announcement on our website. These suspensions are specifically to help organizers and to show US Chess supports its organizers because without them events would not happen:
Rule 1B1 is not suspended, but remember it
First, we are pointing out rule 1B1 on page 2 of US Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess. Thus, most rules can be changed before round one. If you do need to change a rule because your event has been affected somehow, please do so before round one.
Rules 1B2 and 26B is suspended
We are suspending rules 1B2 and 26B through the end of March. We understand it is impractical to know how an event may be affected if the government does not ban larger gatherings, but the public is still expressing uneasiness. We understand people who advertised their event months ago have no control over the current events, either.
Rule 32C is partially suspended
In rule 32C we are suspending the first sentence “Prizes advertised as guaranteed must be paid … in full” under specific circumstances. If organizers achieve the expected attendance to support their guarantee of their prize fund, we expect that they will pay out that prize fund. For events with a cross table history, if numbers can be shown to be demonstrably down from previous years, the prize fund may be lowered even if it is originally guaranteed. We leave the amount it is lowered to the organizer but expect organizers to be fair, equitable, and advertise the altered prize fund as soon as possible (e.g. before the event) but no later than the end of round 1. It is best if the organizer pays out as much of the previously guaranteed prize fund as possible.
We removed the word “promptly” in rule 32 C from the suspension because organizers should still pay their prizes promptly.
The rest of the rule is in effect. While the we are allowing guaranteed prize funds to be lowered if the event is affected negatively during the current events, we still consider the prizes to be guaranteed and have encouraged organizers to pay as much of the guarantee as possible.
Rule 32C4b is suspended
Events that advertise a $500 or more total prize fund will instead operate under rule 32C4a.
Rule 32D is partially suspended
US Chess will not prevent people from advertising in Chess Life or CLO for one year if organizers must adjust prize funds according to these rule suspensions.
The second paragraph outlining organizers who intentionally inflate numbers is still in effect, full force.
Rule 32E is suspended
For the same logic as the other rule suspensions, we will not require people to pay prizes based on attendance if attendance is significantly affected. Again, we recommend using rule 32C4a.
Rule Suspension Note
We are giving organizers broad latitude with these rules because we understand the situation. It is unfair for our rules to pin down organizers financially because of current events. However, we do expect organizers to operate in good faith. If you do meet your financial and participatory goals, please act accordingly.
When possible, use rule 1A in advance of any tournament in the coming months. Ensure your advertising is clear. It is reasonable to add a disclaimer to your event stating, “We may have to make changes to this event based on current events.”
Practical Guidance for Running Events Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak
For events in areas that have received no federal, state, or city level announcements (or any related entity), you can still hold your event. However, here are a few tips:
1. If you have fewer players but your event is still going to run, spread your players out over the entire playing hall. There is little reason to bunch everyone up if you have less-than-expected turnout. If possible, you could spread players across multiple rooms of your event.
2. Soap and water is better for combating diseases than hand sanitizer. So, if there is a hand sanitizer shortage in the area, make sure your site has adequate soap and water supplies. If you can get hand sanitizer for your event, do so. You can also encourage others to bring their own if they have any.
3. If possible, have players provide their own sets. While this is less ideal for many reasons, it would cut down on the number of people who touch the same chess set. You can also require all people to clean their chess sets in between uses.
The same is true for chess clocks – they should be wiped down in between uses.
For both clocks and chess sets, wet wipes / sanitizing wipes are easiest to use. We recommend providing them at your event for people to use.
4. Have people provide their own pens and pencils for notation. The less people pick up a used pen that is left on the floor, or table, or anywhere, the better.
5. If you make any announcements about this sort of thing, title it “Common Sense Procedures” so people understand you’re just trying to educate them and not scare them.
6. Discourage shaking hands before, during (draw offers), or after the game.
7. Do all pairings, wall charts, results pages online. Hanging up paper copies encourages people to bunch together. If you still must make physical postings, spread them out as much as possible or have multiple copies in different locations.
8. Use common sense approaches to solve problems.