Israeli chess players denied visas for event in Saudi Arabia

Reuters in Athens | Sun 24 Dec 2017


Israel Chess Federation says it may take legal action after players barred from travelling to speed chess championship

Seven Israeli players requested visas for the tournament in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP

Israeli players have been denied visas to participate in a speed chess championship hosted by Saudi Arabia this week, a vice-president of the World Chess Federation (Fide) has said.

Seven Israeli players had requested visas for the tournament, taking place from 26-30 December. It would have been the first time Saudi Arabia had publicly hosted Israelis, as the Gulf state does not recognise Israel and there are no formal ties between them.

The Fide vice-president, Israel Gelfer, speaking in Athens where the body’s secretariat is based, said visas for the Israeli players “have not been issued and will not be issued”.

He said the tournament would go ahead as planned. It was not immediately clear whether other delegations had been excluded but players from Qatar had suggested they may have been rejected.

Saudi Arabia’s Centre for International Communication said in a statement that more than 180 players would participate, but it did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lior Aizenberg, a spokesman for the Israel Chess Federation, said efforts were still being made “by various parties” to allow Israeli players to take part.

“The event is not a world championship if they prevent chess players from several countries from taking part,” Aizenberg said. “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.”

Aizenberg said Fide should ensure Israeli players could compete in international events and that the Israeli federation was considering all options, including legal action and holding an international competition in Israel for players excluded from the Saudi match.

In November, Fide said it was undertaking a “huge effort” to ensure all players were granted visas.

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