Israeli chess initiative unites players worldwide for Ukraine

Israeli Chess4Solidarity initiative brings together chess players from around the world, breaking otherwise rigid borders.

 Chess4Solidarity event to show support for Ukraine.  (photo credit: CHESS4SOLIDARITY)
Chess4Solidarity event to show support for Ukraine.
(photo credit: CHESS4SOLIDARITY)

A global solidarity initiative, courtesy of Israeli organization Chess4Solidarity, brought together 536 international chess players from over 70 states together on Wednesday to express support for Ukraine amidst Russia's ongoing invasion on Wednesday. 

The event called for advancing peace in Ukraine, solidarity with the Ukrainian people and ending the conflict through diplomatic means, not militaristic ones. Half of the money raised — $750 out of $1,500 — was given to the Ukrainian chess players. 

The situation in Ukraine simply cannot be ignored, Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper (Blue and White) said.

Iran and Israel, Russia and Ukraine

Commentary and analyses for the various matches were broadcast live on a number of Facebook pages from Lviv. Representatives ranged from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, Ukraine and Israel. Igor Yarmonov, a Ukrainian refugee to Israel from Mariupol, was one of Israel's representatives. 

 Chess4Solidarity results from tournament in support of Ukraine.   (credit: CHESS4SOLIDARITY) Chess4Solidarity results from tournament in support of Ukraine. (credit: CHESS4SOLIDARITY)

In mid-May, after three months of besiegement, Ukraine's military announced it was ceding control of the key port city to Russian forces. The announcement marked an end to a long and bloody battle and was a key loss to Ukraine. Mariupol is now in ruins after a Russian siege that Ukraine says killed tens of thousands of people in the city.

Yarmanov has cerebral palsy and is one of the world's international chess champions. In May, the International Physically Disabled Chess Association (IPCA) took place. Yarmanov won fifth place, representing Ukraine, according to the International Chess Federation.

Azeri player Vugar Rasulov clinched the championship for this event, carrying eight points out of nine games.

The event was organized by Keren Or, a French Jewish solidarity organization, Union Motors, Israel's main Toyota distributor, Israeli electronic manufacturing industry Asi, the Elitzur Israel sports organization.

Chess doesn't know borders

Chess4Solidarity has been organizing events for at least a year now, with the stated goal of using sports - namely the magnificent game of chess - to break all the different types of barriers that can stand between people. 

As it is an Israeli initiative, its events have largely focused on threading thin ties between Israel and countries that it does not have a warm relationship with. Past events include competitions with West African countries, Israel's neighbors in the Middle East, and even Iran, in addition to Cuba.