MOSCOW, March 26 (Reuters) - The International Chess Federation (FIDE) said on Thursday it was halting a major tournament it was hosting in Russia after all flights to and from the country were grounded, potentially causing logistical headaches for its foreign participants.
Russia said earlier on Thursday it was halting all flights - apart those to repatriate Russian citizens or those authorised by special government decisions - starting on Friday to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“FIDE cannot continue the tournament without guarantees for the players’ and officials’ safe and timely return home,” it said on its website.
In a separate statement FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, a former Russian official, said it was “doing everything we can to provide the necessary support to everyone and get them home safely.”
“Tickets for all the players and most other people involved in the tournament have already been purchased, and we are organizing all necessary logistics,” Dvorkovich said.
Known as the Candidates Tournament, the event, held in Yekaterinburg, a city 1,400 kilometres (885 miles) east of Moscow, brought together contenders vying for the chance to challenge defending world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway for the world title.
FIDE said the tournament would be completed at a later date.
The tournament had included five non-Russian participants, including American Fabiano Caruana, ranked second in the world.
“The Candidates is over for now,” Caruana wrote on Twitter. “The hard part still remains: getting home. I expect to re-enter a world I’ll hardly recognize.”
Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber Editing by Toby Davis