Israeli chess players denied entry into Saudi Arabia for tourney

Seven Israeli chess players were denied entry into an international tournament in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, because the nation rejected their bid for visas.

The international chess tournament opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday without Israeli players because they were denied visa. Photo courtesy of World Chess Federation
The international chess tournament opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday without Israeli players because they were denied visa. Photo courtesy of World Chess Federation

The Israeli Chess Federation wants monetary compensation after the nation’s players were barred entry into Saudi Arabia because the kingdom doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Israel. The World Chess Foundation, or FIDE, tournament began Tuesday and lasts through Saturday with 250 players in the open events and 150 for the women’s events. It is officially called the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships.

Dr. Zvika Barkai, the chairman of the Israeli Chess Federation, issued a letter of protest to Georgios Makropoulos, chairman of the Commission for World Championships & Olympiads of the World Chess Federation, demanding the cancellation of future Saudi tournaments and compensation.

The letter is titled: “FIDE’s Offensive and Unacceptable Behavior about the World Championship – Saudi Arabia December 25-30, 2017.” It notes that chess players from two countries with strained relations with Saudi Arabia — Qatar and Iran — were allowed to compete.

“Let me state very clearly that the agreement signed with Saudi Arabia federation about the event is totally illegal, contradicting FIDE statutes,” Barkai said.

The FIDE has not respond.

It’s not the first element of international controversy surrounding the tournament. Anna Muzychuk, 27, a two-time world champion from Ukraine, has said she will boycott the tournament because she does not want to wear an abaya, the full-length, loose-fitting robes women are required to wear in public in Saudi Arabia.

“Despite the record prize fund, I am not going to play in Riyadh,” she said in a Facebook post on Nov. 11. “To risk your life to wear abaya all the time?? Everything has its limits and headscarves in Iran was more than enough.”

Three days later, the World Chess Federation announced that the tournament’s organizers had agreed there would be “no need for female players to wear a hijab or abaya during the games.”

Her plans didn’t change.

With help from the government, the tournament is offering prizes of $750,000 for the open event and $250,000 for the women’s event. A total of 177 players also were offered accommodations and travel expenses.

By Allen Cone