Photo Credit: karpidis from Piraeus, Greece, via Wikimedia
FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos

Following the ban by the Saudi government on seven Israeli Chess players who wished to participate in a tournament in Riyadh this week, the chairman of the Israeli Chess Federation, Dr. Zvika Barkai, issued a letter of protest to Georgios Makropoulos, chairman of the Commission for World Championships & Olympiads of the World Chess Federation, demanding the cancellation of the Saudi tournament and compensation for the Israeli players.

The letter, titled, “FIDE’s Offensive and Unacceptable Behavior about the World Championship – Saudi Arabia December 25-30, 2017,” opens with a little known fact: apparently, FIDE was able to secure the participation in the tournament of chess players from two countries which are, for all intents and purposes, at war with Saudi Arabia – Qatar and Iran.

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Dr. Barkai notes that in the press release announcing this achievement, which had been sent out unsigned, “there is not even a word […] about the issue of visas to Israeli players.” He then explodes over the concluding, self-congratulatory line from the same press release which celebrates: “As everybody clearly understands from the above, FIDE and Saudi organizers are always ready to welcome any participant…”

“This sentence means that in the eyes of FIDE, Israeli players are not included in the list of ‘any participant,'” Barkai roared.

“Let me state very clearly that the agreement signed with Saudi Arabia federation about the event is totally illegal, contradicting FIDE statutes…” the Israeli chess official continued. He therefore demanded that the FIDE immediately cancel its contract with the Saudi federation for the same event in 2018 and 2019 – and that the Israeli players who were not able to participate in 2017 because they had been denied an entry visa be compensated.

So far, the FIDE, which did not respond to Israeli protests a week ago, when something could still be done about the tournament before it opened, is yet to respond to this latest protest from Zvika Barkai. This may have to do with the fact that the prizes being offered at the Saudi tournament are worth more than $2 million, and that as part of its contact FIDE is entitled to 20% of the overall take.

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