10th January 2022

There is little doubt that operating chess competitions over the last couple of year has been extremely challenging given the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had. For a large part of those last couple of years, the decisions on whether we were able to operate were essentially taken out of our hands. Even now, Covid-19 still casts a considerable shadow over us being able to operate chess competitions on Merseyside.

Even when the time came when the leagues were able to operate again, it wasn’t simply a matter of turning everything back on as before. Re-introducing chess on Merseyside came with an inherent need to consider exactly how chess should be organised so that it can be re-introduced in as safe and effective way as possible.

What is apparent, and is not surprising, is the necessity to strike the right balance between trying to keep chess operating effectively, whilst trying to do introduce rules or guidance that would help keep people safe. No doubt, no matter what has been, or will be decided, there will always be as many opinions as there are people as to where the correct balance lies.

One of the main purposes of putting this statement together is not simply to explain decisions that the Executive Committee have taken, but hopefully to also provide some assurance to all players on Merseyside that the committee take its responsibilities seriously and gives due consideration to what steps should be taken in response to the ever-changing situation.

As we now come out of the New Year and enter the second half of this difficult season, the time was right to re-evaluate where we are, how each of the leagues and competitions are operating and what steps, if any, should be taken to maintain a safe and effective playing environment.

In the last few days, the Executive Committee have considered cancelling the remainder of the season, but it was decided that it was neither desirable nor necessary to do so. Also considered was the possibility of the season being temporarily halted to allow us to take stock of the current situation with the Omicron variation of the virus. Again, it was decided that this was both undesirable and unnecessary.

With suspension and cancellation of the current season being ruled out, the decision is, therefore, that the second half of the season will continue uninterrupted unless and until government actions prevent us from doing so.

The Executive Committee has decided that, should the government take an action that prevents the season continuing, then this will only be considered a temporary halt to the season and all competitions will be held in abeyance until such a time we are able to start up again. Competitions will, under those circumstances, pick up where they left off. This will be the position going forward unless any period of suspension is of such length that it would impact on next season.

The Executive Committee does not consider it is practical or possible to mandate that restrictions be imposed on clubs, players, venues, or chess matches as it is considered that the government restrictions that are placed on the venues that host the clubs will be sufficient.

Instead, the Executive Committee is asking that all players, captains, secretaries, and club members give due consideration to the health, safety, and welfare of others when in the presence of others. The Committee asks that due consideration is given to the sensitivities of others also, such as those individuals who may be worried about those who are not wearing a mask, have not been vaccinated or may not have been tested for Covid.

The Executive Committee, therefore asks that all players, captains and those responsible for playing venues, undertake a continual review of the arrangements that are in place, which may include pairing players together on boards where both players prefer to wear a mask, ensuring, where possible, that playing tables and players are suitably distanced from each, discouraging observers from congregating around boards, especially where it is self-evident that the players on that board are themselves wearing a mask .

The Executive Committee will not ask that individuals are asked to provide evidence of a vaccine status or a negative Covid test as a condition of playing but do expect all individuals to take personal responsibility for their owns actions.

The circumstances, of course, do not only apply to situations where teams play against each other in competitive matches, but apply equally to club nights, travelling in cars or meeting socially either before or after a match.

All individuals who are part of the Merseyside Chess Association are encouraged to get tested regularly and to also get themselves vaccinated.

The Executive Committee will ensure the situation is kept under constant review and will take further decisions should the need arise.

 Russell Cowell – Merseyside Chess Association President