‘Politics Invades Chess World’

“The first world chess tournament to be hosted by Saudi Arabia has been mired in controversy after Israeli competitors were barred, and Qatari players withdrew after being told not to show their country’s flag.

“The ‘King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships’, which runs until Saturday, includes around 240 players — both men and women — from 70 countries…

“It comes almost two years after Saudi Arabia’s top cleric said chess was un-Islamic, and has been billed as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push for greater social reforms, including lifting a ban on women driving that goes into effect next year, allowing concerts and movies, and easing rules on gender segregation.

“But the event was almost immediately mired in controversy after Israeli competitors were not granted visas…

“Dominic Lawson, president of the ‘English Chess Federation’, said:

This contract for the World Rapid Chess Championship was signed on the understanding that the Saudis would ensure that Israeli masters would be able to play.

The fact that this has not happened means FIDE should refuse to award further such events to the Kingdom, despite the generosity of the Saudi prize fund.

Imagine if the Saudis had bid for the FIFA World Cup and then barred an Israeli team that had qualified: that is an exact analogy.

The Saudis gave visas to Qatari players, even though they are sanctioning that regime, and to Iranian players who come from a country with which the Kingdom is involved in a proxy war, so they display flexibility when they want to.

The FIDE motto is Gens Una Sumus, and so this action makes a mockery of FIDE’s proud claim that chess breaks down the barriers between nations. It is shameful.”

“Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said in early 2016 that chess is “forbidden” in Islam because it wastes time and can lead to rivalry among players.

“Top Iranian clerics have also decried the game, saying it can lead to gambling, which is not permissible in Islam.”

–‘Saudi Arabia chess tournament row over ‘shameful’ treatment of Israeli and Qatari players’,
Leon Watson and Josie Ensor, The Telegraph (U.K.), 26 December 2017

Feature IMAGE: King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships
(Credit–Saudi Press Agency)


King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships (AFP)

“Israeli players have been denied visas to participate in a speed chess championship hosted by Saudi Arabia this week, a vice president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) said on Sunday. Seven Israeli players had requested visas for the tournament on December 26-30…

“FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer, speaking in Athens where the body’s Secretariat is based, said visas for the Israeli players

have not been issued and will not be issued“.

“He said the tournament would go ahead as planned…

The event is not a world championship if they prevent chess players from several countries from taking part,”

Israel Chess Federation Spokesman Lior Aizenberg told ‘Reuters’.

Every chess player should have the right to participate in an event on the basis of professional criteria, regardless of their passports, their place of issue or the stamps they bear.”

“Aizenberg said FIDE should ensure Israeli players could compete in international events and that the Israeli federation was considering all options, including legal action and holding an international competition in Israel for players excluded from the Saudi match.

“FIDE had said in November it was undertaking a “huge effort” to ensure all players were granted visas.”

–‘Israeli Chess Players Denied Visas to Saudi-hosted Tournament’,
Reuters, Dec. 24, 2017


Not only do we want to participate in this event, we want to leave politics out of it and out of sports altogether,”

Lior Aizenberg, a spokesman for the ‘Israeli Chess Federation’, said.

The relationships between countries should not be part of international events such as championships.”

“Aizenberg said that Saudi Arabia’s failure to issue visas to his team was a violation of the rules of the ‘World Chess Federation’, and that the seven Israeli players who had planned to attend were now seeking financial compensation from the federation.

“In a letter sent Tuesday to the federation, Zvika Barkai, the chairman of the Israeli group, repeated the demand for compensation and called on the federation to cancel a contract with Saudi Arabia to host the event next year. The global chess organisation did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

“The tournament — officially known as the ‘King Salman Rapid & Blitz World Championships 2017’ — ends Saturday. More than US$2 million in prizes is set to be awarded to contestants.”

–‘Saudi Arabia blocks Israel’s chess team from World Championships’,
New York Times, December 27, 2017


See also:
Forcing Hijabs On International Competitors’ (LINK) {October 31, 2016}:


Pervert At Work?’ (Chess/Malaysia) {May 2, 2017}:

Undermining the Spirit of Sport’ (Anti-Jewish Bigotry in Soccer) {August 9, 2016}:
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