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Israeli Chess Players Banned From Tournament in Saudi Arabia

Israeli Chess Players Banned From Tournament in Saudi Arabia
Seven Israeli chess players were banned from a championship held in Saudi Arabia over friction between the countries. (Lorraine Kourafas/Dreamstime)

By    |   Tuesday, 26 December 2017 05:01 PM

Saudi Arabia banned Israeli chess players from a world chess tournament that began this week, a setback after the country has been making strides in social reforms, including allowing women to drive.

The seven Israeli players were not granted visas to attend the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in Saudi Arabia, a sign that friction still exists due to political and cultural differences, even though the two nations share a common enemy in Iran.

Israel had been in contact with the Saudi Chess Federation, which seemed “extremely positive,” according to Lior Aizenberg, spokesman for the Israeli Chess Federation, The Washington Post reported.

“There needs to be a clear separation between sports and politics,” he added.

The World Chess Federation stated players from Qatar and Iran, which also have disputes with Saudi Arabia, had been issued visas, but did not mention the Israeli players.

Players from Qatar withdrew their participation because they weren’t allowed to display their nation’s flag, The Telegraph reported. Saudi Arabia’s economic sanctions against Qatar for its alleged funding of extremist groups and Iranian influence may have fueled the confrontation between the two nations.

The tournament “was signed on the understanding that the Saudis would ensure that Israeli masters would be able to play,” said Dominic Lawson, president of the English Chess Federation, remarking that future events sponsored by Saudi Arabia should be refused, The Telegraph reported.

“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,” Lawson added, calling the move against the Israelis “shameful.”

Nearly two years ago, a top Saudi cleric called chess un-Islamic, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pushing for social reforms, such as lifting the ban on women drivers starting next year and allowing movies and concerts in the country.

That Federation had promoted the tournament as having top male and female players from 55 countries with the female players not forced to cover their heads during the competition: “A first for any sporting event in Saudi Arabia,” the statement read.

The seven banned Israeli players are now seeking financial compensation from the World Chess Federation.

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Israeli chess players were banned from a world chess tournament in Saudi Arabia that began this week, the seven players denied visas to participate.
israeli, chess, players, banned, saudi arabia
Tuesday, 26 December 2017 05:01 PM
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