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Interviews Jan 29, 2022 | 12:17 AMby Colin McGourty

Dubov on forfeits, masks, testing positive and playing in Berlin

Daniil Dubov forfeited his Round 7 game against Anish Giri while waiting for a PCR test, but when that came up negative he continued the Tata Steel Masters. Not for long, however, as just before Round 11 began it was announced that he’d tested positive and his remaining games, against Richard Rapport, Praggnanandhaa and Magnus Carlsen, would be forfeit wins for his opponents. Daniil then appeared on our chess24 broadcast and talked about how he’s feeling, what happened and what happens next.

Daniil Dubov noted he feels great, but his play against Nils Grandelius could be described as "symptomatic"! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

Daniil’s appearance on the live broadcast was unmissable, but in case you missed it here’s the video of when he joined the show until the commentators switched to talking about the current games.

Here’s a transcript of most of what Dubov had to say. Note that the 1st leg of the FIDE Grand Prix starts in Berlin on February 4th — full details here.  

On how he’s feeling

Well, good enough! If I wouldn’t have tested positive I would be ready to play, but you guys are the only people who can talk to me even when I’m positive.


On his experience in Wijk aan Zee 

First of all, if you are interested, nothing really changed in Wijk. It’s up to you to consider it a positive or negative thing, but nothing really changed here. With the lockdown the place is even more special, I would say.


On why he was playing this year

From the very start it felt a bit weird, because I was supposed to play last year, but then at the very last moment I had to cancel, and then I made a promise that ok, if I manage I’ll play next year, if you still want me, guys, and they said yes, and then now it felt really kind of weird. Otherwise I would prefer not to play, clearly. I have this Berlin coming, also we have Omicron, basically if you have a brain it’s kind of clear that you can get infected anywhere, and if you have this Grand Prix coming, which is very important, it’s better not to take risks, but I promised, I decided to play whatever. 


On what happened next

It went by the worst possible scenario. First, one of the people from my team got infected, so we had to spend a lot of time, nerves and stuff to find a solution, how to arrange the isolation and so on, but I was still negative. Still they said the threat against Anish, I have to play in a mask, which I thought was a bit strange, because I warned them many times that this is my only strong position, that I’m not going to play in a mask. 

On why he doesn’t want to play in a mask

There are two reasons for it. First of all, after all, it’s professional sport, we’re playing these rated games, and it’s not like you gain all this rating and stuff to basically end up playing in some sub-optimal conditions. And secondly, what I honestly don’t get, you can call me an idiot and whatever, but I still think actually I did a good thing to Anish as well, because what I don’t really get is that the way I see COVID, you cannot really semi-have COVID, it’s either you have it or not. Basically if you don’t have it, I think it’s fine that you play without a mask. If you have it, do you really think it’s good enough protection for let’s say a 7-hour game to only play in a mask? I’m not sure, actually. 


On his general attitude to masks

It’s not that I hate masks. My point is that when you need to wear it over-the-board it basically becomes kind of impossible to play, so the legend of me being anti-vax or whatever is not exactly true. I was wearing a mask on my way from the board to the toilet, for instance, and everybody was required to do so and this was fine, but at least over-the-board I think you should be allowed to play without a mask, or you just don’t play. This is my point. If you think I’m that close to be infected that I need to wear a mask, then I think it’s better for everybody that I don’t play. It’s better for me, it’s better for my opponents as well, and I didn’t think it’s declaring a war or something. I thought it’s better for everybody and I feel like that’s what I ought to do. If the guy can be actually infected then it’s probably better if he skips a game instead of playing this game in a mask. 

Daniil Dubov had no issue with masks, just with playing chess in masks | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

On not being able to play Giri on the rest day

This was kind of fine. Also clearly I wouldn’t mind playing the game on the free day, but for some reason this was impossible. I don’t know if it was Anish, or it was something else. I honestly don’t know and I honestly don’t care, but yeah, I thought ok, I will skip one game. Also it was a game with the black pieces, why not avoid it? I probably lost some ev of 0.7 Elo points or whatever, then I continued playing, and then I tested positive.


On testing positive 

The strange part is that — I think I can tell you about this, it’s not a secret as far as I know — each player has to do a self-test before the round, and obviously I kept doing them, and they were always negative. Then it was yesterday when I had to go for a PCR in the morning, so I went for a PCR, the result had to come in the afternoon, but it came way later. When I did the self-test it was negative again, and then almost at night they called me and said, congratulations, you’re positive. This is how it works. 


On his attitude to not being able to play more games

You don’t need to feel sorry. I respect Sergey a lot, but I’m not the kind of person who can say, I love being here, I’m very happy here, and then make short draws. I will tell you the truth, clearly I was not exactly enjoying the tournament here. It’s not the end of the world. There are some upsides as well, like I will not pretend I’m very, very disappointed and I wanted to play today, I wanted to play tomorrow, I wanted to play all the games in the world, and Wijk is my favourite place in the world and so on. This is not exactly the case. Still, it’s clearly unpleasant. 


On the threat of not being able to play the Berlin Grand Prix

I’m really worried about not making it to Berlin now, which starts in about a week, but for the moment they say I’m kind of favourite to be in time. I did this PCR a few hours ago. I actually don’t know what happens if it’s negative! Maybe yesterday was just a mistake. Maybe I’m fine. Maybe I’ll just play with White tomorrow and then I’ll test positive again. It’s weird. I honestly don’t know. The Plan A was basically to wait for the negative test and then to go to Berlin. 

Dubov plays in a 4-player group with Aronian, Vidit and Keymer, with only the top-placed player going forward to a knockout

On how long he needs to isolate

The way I understood it has to be 5-7 days since you felt the first symptoms. Then I don’t know. I still feel great, but if you look at my games against Jorden and Grandelius it’s very symptomatic, no? It really depends on where you start counting, and it seems to be a very flexible thing. I will not pretend I learnt all the details, but it seems to be very flexible, so the main thing you need is to test negative. It feels like you can basically find ways. What they say is that it normally shouldn’t take more than a week, and then if it’s exactly a week, I think I’m in time, but again, we’ll see. 


On the attitude of the Grand Prix organisers 

At least the Grand Prix team were one of the first people to hear about this result for me and the negotiating felt inspiring, I can say. I cannot share all the details, but it feels like I will manage. But this clearly requires me recovering in a speedy way, which I don’t know how to do. It’s weird when you don’t even feel the problem. When you feel shaky at least you want this to go away, but when you don’t, you don’t really know what you’re waiting for.


On whether he could play the 2nd and 3rd Grand Prix legs instead

I think it requires someone to play the first tournament, which will probably never happen, but again at least the Grand Prix is arranged by people I know and in general they have always been reasonable in negotiating, so I think if there is a way we’ll find it. If there is no way, then tough luck, there is not much to do about it. But the upside… ok, I don’t want to pretend, the fact that I don’t need to play today is clearly an upside! 

The greyed-out players don't play in the first leg in Berlin and so will play both of the remaining legs

Daniil stayed around to commentate on the tournament, which he compared, in the current conditions, to the Squid Game. Later comments included…

…and you can of course watch his whole appearance. The video below should start from where the video above ends. 

Follow Tata Steel Chess with Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson commentating live in English from 14:00 CET: Tata Steel Masters | Tata Steel Challengers

See also:


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