After the world chess championship qualifying match was halted because of the pandemic, the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, gathered top players for a virtual event beginning last Saturday.
It was simple. Grandmasters compete from the safety of their own homes, and chess aficionados around the world can watch.
The matches are speedy, with each player getting an initial 15 minutes to make his moves. That reduces all that less-than-telegenic “thinking time” and cuts way down on draws. The last world championship in 2018 consisted of 12 straight draws, with matches sometimes lasting four hours. Hardly riveting.
There is one concern, though: Players at home can easily cheat.
In recent years, computers have advanced far beyond humans in chess, so even grandmasters can often get better moves from a program on an iPad than they can themselves. Because top players normally meet face to face, such cheating is mostly a concern for more casual players playing online. But now a tournament with the best in the world must grapple with it.
Organizers of Carlsen’s online event have put in numerous safeguards. All players must train a webcam on themselves that would catch them grabbing a computer and seeking the best move. Two more cameras will also be running by each player to capture any skulduggery. The computers the players use for their games may have no other software open at all. And after matches, anticheating software will look for any anomalies.
There are also some technical issues that live chess doesn’t face. One player, Alireza Firouzja, was in a winning position when he suddenly disconnected. The game was ruled a draw.
So far, Carlsen is proving just as skillful at quick online chess as he is at the slow, live format. He was leading his own event after play on Thursday. It runs through May 3.
Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News?
Remember when it was just events in March and maybe April that were being canceled and postponed? Now June and July are increasingly looking barren of sports.
The premier track series, the Diamond League, canceled more events. The Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on June 7 and a Paris meet on June 13 have been postponed, and the Oslo meet on June 11 will be held, but with mostly one-on-one events and solo record attempts.
On the hopeful side, a few events are slowly being added back to the schedule in some parts of the world. Japan’s J League in soccer says it will come back on June 13.
Australia’s rugby league is looking to start on May 28 and is seeking a solution to one tricky problem: One team in the league is based in New Zealand, and Australia has closed its borders. But the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said on Thursday that an exemption could probably be worked out.
Start Your Engines (Only in South Dakota)
With most of the country in lockdown, South Dakota is getting ready to hold two auto races this weekend, but the tracks have backed down from plans to allow spectators.
Gov. Kristi Noem had said that she thought it was a bad idea to hold the races with spectators, but that she would not take any action to stop them. South Dakota is one of the few states that do not have a mandatory stay-at-home order in place.
The Open Wheel Nationals program will be on Saturday at Park Jefferson Speedway. Attendance was initially to be capped at 700 fans before the track changed its mind and barred them.
The New Raceway Park will host a series of races on Sunday. The track had planned to limit the crowd to 500.
Jefferson County, where the races will take place, has seven confirmed cases of Covid-19.
The two speedways had released guidelines for the events, including advising people who were sick or high risk to stay home. Both were planning to do temperature checks at the entrance and provide hand sanitizer.
“While we felt we were innovative in how we were addressing fan safety by abiding by the C.D.C. guidelines, we also know the importance of working with our officials’ guidance on fan attendance,” Park Jefferson Speedway said in a statement. DANIELLE ALLENTUCK