World chess body moves Saudi tournament after Israelis banned

In their letter, the Israelis pointed out that holding a chess tournament in a country that banned players based on their nationality was contrary to FIDE’s policy.

December 4, 2018 08:34
1 minute read.

Chess. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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The Athens-based Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) has relocated its upcoming World Blitz and Rapid Championship from Riyadh to Russia after Saudi Arabia barred Israelis from participating.

Israeli chess grandmaster Ilya Smirin and the pro-Israeli activist, chess organizer and former spokesperson for the Israeli Chess Federation, Lior Aizenberg had written to FIDE, with the help of the US based NGO Lawfare.

In their letter, the Israelis pointed out that holding a chess tournament in a country that banned players based on their nationality was contrary to FIDE’s policy.

FIDE “rejects discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of gender,” they noted adding that FIDE statutes stipulated that only federations that offered free access could host tournaments.

Saudi Arabia had banned Israeli players in 2017. FIDE had assured them that the situation would not be repeated when the tournament was held from December 25-31.

In their letter to FIDE the Israelis said they held the organization accountable for the inability to participate. This is “due to FIDE’s failure to secure entry visas to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Israeli nationals and, correspondingly, its failure to guarantee their equal treatment and to protect them against discrimination on the basis of their nationality.”

Brooke Goldstein, the executive director of the Lawfare project, said “We couldn’t just sit and wait for FIDE to do the right thing. We are proud to have supported this action which ensures that no chess player will be banned from a tournament because of their nationality. It is hard to believe that in 2018, a country could be allowed to host an international event while practicing such blatant discrimination, but I welcome FIDE’s decision to make sure that last year’s scandal will not be repeated.”

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