COVID-19 forces Robert Wheeler Chess Open to move online


COVID-19 forces Robert Wheeler Chess Open to move online

Saturday, May 23, 2020

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As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, sporting bodies across Jamaica are seeking innovative ways to remain relevant in the context where physical distancing has become part of the new reality.

One sporting body that has been able to stay the course, given the new reality, is chess.

While other sporting associations have had to indefinitely suspend their competitions, the Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF) is now seeking to resume competitive play online.

The JCF, in keeping with the International Chess Federation's (FIDE's) plans to hold various formats of tournaments online, is moving to gradually transfer their calendar of competitions online.

The first tournament on the JCF's online chess calendar will be the Robert Wheeler Chess Open.

The JCF arrived at a partnership agreement with online chess sites and, to stage the Robert Wheeler Open as three events on May 23, May 30, and June 6 for the respective amateur, intermediate, and open sections, using the exciting rapid play format, where each player will have 20 minutes to complete his/her game. Details on the tournament can be found on the JCF website at or the JCF facebook page.

This year's staging of the Robert Wheeler Open will have two firsts, not only will it be online for the first time, but it will also be a benefit event for the first time. Proceeds from the tournament will be placed in a recently established Special Benefits Chess Fund, from which Robert Wheeler, who is currently receiving medical care in hospital, will be the first beneficiary.

International arbiter and Candidate Master Robert Wheeler is a former six-time national champion and chess Olympian, who has served the JCF in various administrative capacities such as secretary, treasurer, and vice-president.

The open tournament, which normally serves as a qualification to the national championships, was renamed in 2003 by the JCF Council to honour the stalwart player and administrator, for his contributions to the sport in Jamaica and across the region.

In response to the emerging reality for sporting competitions, JCF President Peter Myers highlighted the agility of the sport of chess, which can still have tournaments with hundreds of entrants playing and thousands of fans watching, while easily satisfying the social distancing requirements.

“A player in Negril, for example, can stay in Negril and play against another entrant sitting in Port Antonio, many miles away, easily meeting the six feet social distancing requirements, while being watched by thousands of spectators, also miles away,” explained Myers.

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