COVID Precautions for consideration

VERSION 1.2 (updated 22/5/21)

Please note
This is a draft for discussion and will be updated following further review and input. Organisers should consult the version current on the website at the time of organising an event.

As we continue along the government’s Spring roadmap for easing out of lockdown, chess players are looking forward to over-the-board play once again, and organisers for clubs, leagues and events will be considering when to open up, what type of events to run, and what precautions to take.

The list of Covid precautions below is intended as a checklist for club, league or event organisers to consider as they begin the return to over-the-board chess. The list should not be taken as being specific recommendations on the part of the ECF, given that organisers’ individual circumstances will vary widely across the country; organisers will need to make their own decisions based on their particular circumstances, the type of events being envisaged, the venue concerned and the player groups involved.

There is an absolute requirement to follow government regulations and legal requirements in force at the time for the player and spectator group involved, including specific restrictions and regulations in force for the relevant steps in the government Spring pathway —

There is also a requirement to comply with the regulations for specific venue types, and organisers of adult and senior tournaments will be considering different regulations from junior organisers.

Given that context, this page provides a basic set of good practice COVID precautions which organisers may want to consider in making their decisions for Steps Three and Four onwards. The list of precautions is a draft list pending more detailed guidance from HMG or DCMS on what precautions will still be required once Step Four starts (on or after June 21st). We will reference any more detailed HMG/ DCMS guidance as this becomes available and we expect to update the precautions list accordingly.

Organisers should note that the various precautions should be considered in the context of a risk assessment, taking into account the specific circumstances for the club or event in question and how the pandemic progresses.

We welcome comments/input on the list which should be sent to 

COVID Precautions

Event planning and formats

Venues, formats and relevant regulations

  • As a minimum, review and ensure you are compliant with –
    ◊ HMG COVID-19 Guidance and regulations at
    ◊ Any specific regulations in force at the time for your type of venue e.g. and specific rules for particular venues
    ◊ Specific regulations in force for mask wearing in indoor spaces which can be found here –
  • Consider the scale of the event and number of players to be accommodated at each venue, and ensure that any venue limits in operation at the time are observed taking into account organisers, players and spectators
  • If you are organising a congress can you reduce the number of players in each section so that players stay within a smaller group/bubble once at the venue
  • Are smaller ‘All Play All’ competitions appropriate given the potential to maintain smaller groups and reduce mixing?
  • For large events could you consider multiple locations in a ‘campus’ format or separate areas within a venue?
  • Would a hybrid competition work for team events to avoid travel by the opposing team? These can be rated as over-the-board events provided that the revised tournament regulations for hybrid are followed – Tournament Rules Version 2.0 April 2021.pdf
  • Consider whether events could be run with a shorter duration to reduce the period of contact between attendees

Managing different groups

  • Consider excluding spectators from the chess playing area
  • Consider separation of parents, and waiting area arrangements for junior events

Playing conditions

  • Consider arrangements for player separation within the playing area
  • Review arrangements for players or other attendees  to wear a face covering (mask or visor)
  • Arrange for a supply of disposable masks to be available at the venue and playing area
  • Should counter screens be used?

Arrangements prior to arrival at the event


  • Explain arrangements in advance so that attendees understand the risks involved and precautions in place before entering
  • Communicate clearly any pre-requisites for playing in the event e.g.
    ◊ COVID symptom free
    ◊ Negative lateral flow or PCR tests in advance of the event if/as required
    ◊ Agreement to comply with event precautions as a condition of entry
  • Agree any special arrangements – e.g. for players who have some symptoms but have tested negative and may need to produce test results in advance
  • Consider contacting entrants in advance with clear instructions for players explaining how the event will work on the day, to reduce the need to communicate/mix on the day and to reduce the time spent congregating e.g. at notice boards
  • Consider the registration options for the event including keeping a register with contact details for players/spectators attending the chess venue so that this data can be available to support NHS track and trace if necessary

Entry controls

  • Ask players to confirm that they are COVID-free as far as they are aware as a basis for attending the event and have no recent symptoms of the virus
  • Consider asking players to take a lateral flow and/or PCR test prior to leaving home, or supply lateral flow testing kits at the club for use on arrival, with negative test results required as a basis for entry
    Note – lateral flow test kits for those with no Coronavirus symptoms (lateral flow) are provided by the Government for free and can be obtained from a pharmacy, a local test site, by post or can be ordered from
  • Can players be asked to take a temperature check on arrival before being admitted to the building and will this be practicable given the layout of the building?
  • Consider whether you should only permit players who have been vaccinated given the player group concerned, and if this is allowed under any HMG regulations in force at the time
  • Try to stagger arrivals/departures to avoid bottlenecks in entrance ways/exit routes
  • Plan for how you will handle players who develop symptoms during the course of the event, particularly for multi-day events, and including arrangements for managing withdrawals and communication with players

Spectators and waiting areas

  • Consider limiting or exclude spectators to minimise the number of contacts
  • Review on-site arrangements for waiting rooms and separation of parents for junior events including social distancing in waiting areas

Preparing the playing room and equipment

Room and equipment layouts

  • Consider making signage available at the venue to explain the precautions in place and remind players of the symptoms of the virus
  • Limit the number of tables in the room to ensure there is legal spacing between boards and to allow for social distancing
  • Is the use of larger than normal tables a possibility?
  • You could consider a large cleanable surface to sit on top of the table, thus separating the two players more
  • Consider lateral separation with the next board with each table accommodating less boards than usual.
  • Sets and clocks to be laid out at start of session using gloves, and not moved unnecessarily until the playing session has ended
  • Consider organising sets and clocks into ‘equipment bubbles’ so that equipment can be kept separate for different sections or groups of players,  with a record of which equipment has been used where
  • Encourage players not to move furniture unnecessarily during the playing session

Hygiene and ventilation

  1. Can you arrange for all tables/chairs/chess pieces and equipment to be used to be cleansed and sanitized prior to the event?
  2. Consider separate cleaning stations on entry to the venue and the playing area(s) particularly for larger venues
  3. Consider providing alcohol-based hand sanitiser and encourage players to use it on entry to the playing area and before/after games at the board to reduce the risk of contact transmission
  4. Look at the options for providing ventilation and ensure this is provided where possible. Do your windows all open and/or any adjustments you could make to improve ventilation?
  5. Consult the Government Sage document on ventilation, parts of which will  be useful. It can be seen here

Catering and facilities

  • Catering – is it safer for players to bring their own snacks and drink? Can the club at least provide disposable paper cups?
  • Toilets – is there hot water and a supply of disposable paper towels available?
  • Queueing – ensure players know they should maintain social distancing if they have to queue during the event. Consider and plan logistics to avoid or minimise queuing

Chess playing arrangements

  • As with other measures the chess playing arrangements need to be considered in the context of the type of event and the player group taking part
  • Consider mask wearing arrangements including the provision of disposable masks for players for use on entry to the venue or playing area and during play
  • Consider the use of a counter-type screen to separate player across the board
  • Where there is a particular risk or concern, consider whether each player should have their own chess set with only a shared clock and moves made in parallel on the two boards (either by calling out the moves or watching your opponent’s board)
  • Look at arrangements for routine hand sanitisation before and after games to reduce contact risk

Other items to consider

  • Make sure you are aware of and are compliant with any rules laid down by venue owners at all times.

Wider implications of re-opening

What proportion of players will want to return immediately to playing OTB and how can this be accommodated in re-opening plans or planning for events?

Should your club open to all players on day one, and will that result in too many players turning up? Perhaps you might consider advance booking or some form of staggered opening.

A proportion of players will want to continue playing online, at least for a period and maybe indefinitely. Online also offers opportunities for attracting new players to participate in the club. Consider running competitions with games played simultaneously in the club and online or with a hybrid format or otherwise linking online and over-the-board competitions.

Does your club have an action plan in place to enable it to respond quickly if there is a temporary return to restrictions or lockdown?

Sharing information

Earlier information provided about Covid-19 issues can still be found here on the ECF website including the Spring Response Pathway and the Risk Assessment document.