A massive online project, Checkmate Coronavirus, was launched by FIDE in May 2020. Over 720 non-stop hours of this chess marathon, 2,762 tournaments were played by 120,000 unique participants from at least 140 countries. The weekly project prize draw winners received 1500 prizes, including souvenirs, free master classes, and mini-matches with top grandmasters.
The luckiest ones got the major prize of the event – a six-night trip to Chennai with paid air tickets, a full board, and a chance to attend the Chess Olympiad, a flagship event of FIDE with 186 national teams participating.
After two years of anticipation, the winners of the major prize of FIDE's Checkmate Coronavirus project arrived in Chennai, India and are now enjoying their stay in a 382-year-old city, the chess capital of India and the home of five-time World Champion GM Viswanathan Anand.
The chess fans representing Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Greece, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden and Thailand have already visited the Olympiad venue, watched the games of their favourite players and participated in the side events, including festivals, concerts, and performances organized by AICF to show the big cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu.
"I had an excellent impression of this Olympiad. I was very well received from the arrival at the airport to the hotel. I went to the beach and pool and took a walk on the sand. I can't say what I liked the most because I loved everything. Indian people are very hospitable. At the Olympiad venue, I saw several famous players, including Magnus Carlsen. I want to thank FIDE for this great present and also for the wonderful gifts we received," said Carlos Gomes from Taguatinga, the oldest member of the delegation.
"I'm enjoying the Olympiads very much, and I'm glad to see so many top players fighting in live action instead of Youtube streaming! I played a few friendly games here and there with random players from around the world," - adds Nicolas Noel from Thailand. During the pandemic, he played online a lot on many platforms and participated in hundreds of Checkmate Coronavirus tournaments.
"Chess Olympiad is my dream. I've never been to foreign countries before," said Than Min Hlaing from Myanmar. "There is no word to say how happy I am. The Olympiad chess games are the greatest games I've ever seen. I'm feeling ecstatic. The person I want to see the most here is Magnus Carlsen. I also want to play chess with a great player. I'll never forget this memorable huge event. I hope that we will meet at the next Olympiad too."
With two more rounds of the Chess Olympiad to go, Checkmate Coronavirus winners have all the chances to meet in person many chess ledends, take selfies with them and get autographs. The visit will end with a spectacular closing ceremony which includes Indian traditional performances and awarding the strongest teams of the event.