The city of Murmansk, just over 2,000 kilometers from the North Pole, has great strategic value for Russia, as it is its busiest port in the Arctic Ocean. One of the biggest prides for its 300,000 inhabitants, who in March still have to withstand maximum temperatures below freezing, is the chess tournament, which annually brings together some of the best talents in the world. However, the coronavirus has turned this edition into a nightmare for organizers and participants.
The most extreme situation corresponds to the 14 members of the French team, confined while waiting for a flight to return them to their country. Eight of those chess players, who arrived in Murmansk on March 12 to face Ireland, Russia and the Netherlands, are minors.
The contest started on the 13th, with a hundred young participants at the table, without further ado, despite warnings from local authorities. However, as soon as it was concluded, the organization confirmed the positive for Covid-19 of a young Irish participant. Since then, the situation for the French team has gone from bad to worse.
"We have a plan B"
After almost two weeks in quarantine, one of the members of the delegation confirmed to Reuters that in the next few hours they will be able to leave Russia, despite the closure of international air traffic. According to Jurrien Kien, young people will finally be able to take off home. Although before they will have to travel the 1,500 kilometers that separate Murmansk from Moscow.
"We have a plan B, because any chess player always anticipates the next move," said Kien, who relies on the help of the French diplomatic corps. "We have been confirmed that if the flight does not take off we will have 14 beds at the embassy in Moscow."
A similar odyssey had to face the aforementioned Irish minor who tested positive. After traveling to the Moscow airport on the 16th, the authorities prevented him from boarding the plane at the last minute, so he had to return to Murmansk and was admitted to a hospital.
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