Saudi-Israeli Chess War Intensifies

International Chess Federation intervenes to ensure Qatar participation in Riyadh

Image used for representation

Muslims, who introduced chess to Europe, have been playing the game since the 7th century in Persia.

"The Kingdom has authorised the participation of all citizens, except for a certain country with which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic relations and for which it maintains this policy", the spokeswoman of the Saudi Embassy in the United States, Fatima Baechen, confirmed. "The Saudi Chess Association was formed in 2009 and became a full member of Fide in 2016", Nigel Freeman, Fide executive director, told The National.

The King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championships is the first worldwide chess competition held in Saudi Arabia, perceived as a display of the conservative kingdom's growing openness to the West.

But the effort fell short, and FIDE Vice President Israel Geller said that the players would not be allowed to participate in the tournament.

"To organise a chess tournament in a country where basic human rights aren't valued is terrible".

The Ukrainian is the defending world champion in two disciplines of speed chess, rapid chess and the blitz.

"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". It made no mention of Israeli players.

The World Chess Federation announced in November that the tournament's organisers had agreed there would be "no need for female players to wear a hijab or abaya during the games".

More than 240 players - both men and women - from over 70 countries are attending.

Quoting from a statement issued by FIDE, 'to put facts into perspective, the Saudi authorities informed FIDE that the visas for Qatari players will be issued and they also proposed that for security reasons the Qatari players should play under the FIDE flag. There are 16 players from Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, the 27-year-old said she would not take part in a tournament held in Saudi Arabia because the country treats women as "secondary creatures".

Women are reportedly being allowed to wear dark blue or black formal pants and high-necked blouses, avoiding Saudi rules of dress that require female residents and most visitors to wear loose-fitting, long robes known as "abayas".

"Literally everything involving Saudi Arabia's hosting of a chess tournament is political", he wrote in an analysis of the tournament.

The federation said this was "a first for any sporting event in Saudi Arabia".

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