Players face masks decision

Shropshire chess players who refuse to wear face masks when over-the-board action resumes in the Shropshire league could find themselves declared automatic losers if proposals drawn up by chess officials are approved.

All players have been invited to an emergency general meeting to vote on coronavirus protocols on the eve of a resumption of face-to-face league chess for the first time since the pandemic struck. The meeting is being held by Zoom on Wednesday, October 6, at 7.30pm.

County chess chiefs have drawn up a number of policy proposals, some of which are unlikely to be contentious, like providing hand sanitiser and keeping playing tables apart to provide social distancing, but others may prove more controversial, particularly over the sticky problem of whether or not to compel the wearing of face masks. Many players don’t like wearing them for hours on end, and a few are against being forced to wear them at all.

The proposal going before the meeting says “any player playing a match in the Shropshire league must wear a mask, unless their opponent agrees to play without masks.” And to provide captains with flexibility if opponents cannot agree on the point, there’s a proposal which lifts the usual requirement to play teams in grading order, which will mean mask-wearers or non mask-wearers can be paired against each other to prevent any argument. If that is not possible, the proposed protocol is framed in a way that it is the players who don’t want to wear masks who must back down and wear masks – and if they don’t, they will be defaulted. In other words, the non mask-wearing boards will be counted as losses. The rule will not apply to players with medical exemptions.