September is the traditional starting month for a chess season. Local clubs are reopening and weekend congresses are reviving, while at the top end international tournaments and national championships are emerging from 2020 lockdowns.

Covid-19 remains an ever present danger. Both last month’s World Cup in Sochi and last week’s European championship in Reykjavik had small outbreaks near the start, which were contained by speedy action from the organisers.   

Next up, in October, are the US championship in St Louis and the British championship at Hull.   The US event in particular has a full roster of leading grandmasters led by the world No2 Fabiano Caruana and the defending champion Wesley So.

Further on, the test for British chess nationally will be what happens to the two major December events, the London Classic at Olympia and the Caplin Hastings congress. At club and weekend level, a recurring issue is how to proceed when one player is ready to wear a face mask and his opponent is not. This weekend’s 4NCL congress at Leamington Spa has a solution for such cases, a half point bye for both players.

Over the board chess activity at all levels looks to be down significantly due to the pandemic, This is more than offset by the surging interest in easily accessible online games, which have the downside that cheating through use of computer programs during play is a chronic issue.  

Professional players have seen their diminished income from league teams and tournaments offset by increased opportunities in coaching, streaming, and video teaching.

Magnus Carlsen is the most media-friendly world champion in the game’s history, and his influence should keep a delicate balance positive for a while yet.

Puzzle 2435

Zhao Hue v Julia Ryjanova, Shenzhen China v Australia, Fide online Olympiad 2021. White to move. How did she win Black’s apparently safe queen?

Click here for solution

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