BFF-45 Chess tournament moved from Saudi after Israelis barred

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SAUDI-ISRAEL-CHESS-POLITICS

Chess tournament moved from Saudi after Israelis barred

JERUSALEM, Dec 4, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A World Chess Federation tournament has
been moved from Saudi Arabia to Russia after concerns over Israeli players
being barred, the federation announced Tuesday.

Israeli players backed by a New York-based NGO, The Lawfare Project, were
threatening legal action over not being allowed to play in Saudi Arabia,
which has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

The federation, known as FIDE, said it decided to move its World Rapid and
Blitz Championships scheduled for December 25-31 to Russia “due to the policy
adopted by Saudi organisers”.

The decision was made “in spite of the generous financial offer made by
Saudi Arabia”, FIDE said in a statement.

“FIDE will no longer stage its official events in the countries that deny
entry visa and fair treatment to all the eligible players,” it said.

It added that “officials in Riyadh could not guarantee an entry to
representatives of all the national federations who had a right to
participate in the event”.

It is not the first time Israeli players have raised such concerns.

In December 2017, the Israel Chess Federation said it was seeking
compensation from the organisers of last year’s World Rapid and Blitz
Championships, also in Saudi Arabia, after the Gulf state refused to issue
visas for its players.

But Israel has made headway in past months in its efforts towards ties with
Arab nations in the Gulf that do not officially recognise the country,
including through sport.

In October, Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev toured the UAE’s famed
Sheikh Zayed mosque, Israel’s communications minister delivered a speech in
Dubai and the Israeli national anthem was played at a judo competition in Abu
Dhabi.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also paid a surprise visit to
Oman in October.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2312 hrs