Riyadh chess champion criticizes Saudi visa discrimination against Israeli players

Controversy surrounding the world speed chess championship held in Saudi Arabia continues. The winner of the event, chess champion Magnus Carlsen, told reporters that Saudi Arabia must regulate visas for players from all countries or it should not host the tournament after Israeli players were denied entry to the Kingdom.
Illustration Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Winner of the world speed chess championship in Riyadh, grandmaster Magnus Carlsen from Norway, said in an interview with the Norwegian NRK broadcasting network that if the Saudi visa issue is not regulated until next year, Saudi Arabia should not host the next tournament. “I really hope they solve the issue of visas for all countries,” said Carlsen.

The four-day chess championship ended December 30 amid controversy surrounding Riyadh’s refusal to provide visas for Israeli players. Seven Israeli chess players reportedly requested visas for the event. Head of the English Chess Federation Dominic Lawson said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia should be stripped of the right to host chess championships. "This contract for the World Rapid Chess Championship was signed on the understanding that the Saudis would ensure that Israeli masters would be able to play,” Lawson said.

Criticism surrounding the tournament also concerned the Kingdom’s treatment of its women. This year will reportedly be the first-year female chess players were not forced to wear an Islamic abaya garment to the games; instead, they were apparently permitted to wear a long blouse. Ukrainian chess champion Anna Muzychuk told reporters she decided to turn down a chance to participate in the event due to Saudi human right violations and its treatment of women.



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