By Kristel Satumbaga
Grandmaster Banjo Barcenilla welcomed the postponement of the 44th World Chess Olympiad, saying that health comes above everything else at the moment in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) global crisis.
The World Chess Olympiad joined the list of high-profile tournaments affected by the pandemic after the International Chess Federation (FIDE) announced its postponement to 2021.
“I think that is the best decision made by FIDE. It should always be safety comes first. Our safety should be the top priority,” said Barcenilla, who qualified to the PH team after winning the Battle of the Grandmasters last November.
Other PH qualifiers are GMs John Paul Gomez and Darwin Laylo, and International Masters Paulo Bersamina and Haridas Pascua.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, prompting global sports tournaments to a halt including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics scheduled in July.
The Chess Olympiad was supposed to take place in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia on Aug. 5 to 17 with around 200 countries participating.
In a statement released in their official website, FIDE said it took into account the reports from the World Health Organization regarding the ongoing global health crisis.
They also took consideration the postponement of the Tokyo Games announced a few days before.
“Given the International Olympic Committee (IOC) statement regarding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, FIDE has decided to postponed the 44th Chess Olympiad including the competition for players with disabilities and the FIDE Congress,” the statement said, also referring to the World Chess Paralympiad scheduled July 25 to Aug. 5 also in Khanty-Mansiyk.
“FIDE will continue to work hard in order to support various chess activities, at the same time caring first and foremost about the health and well-being of the entire chess community.”