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Seven Israeli players are being denied entry visas by Saudi Arabia to participate in the 2017 King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships, to be held in Riyadh from December 26 and 30, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) announced on Sunday.

FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer told reporters at the groups headquarters in Athens that the visas for the Israeli players “have not been issued and will not be issued,” and yet the tournament would go ahead as planned.


Israel Chess Federation Spokesman Lior Aizenberg told Reuters that the Riyadh meet cannot count as a world championship chess players from other countries are not allowed,” Aizenberg told Reuters, arguing that “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.”

The events in Riyadh offer a record breaking prize fund of $2 million, with the open events offering individual prize funds of $750,000. Each women’s event offers a prize fund of $250,000.

FIDE stands to gain 20% of the total prizes, which may explain why they intend to allow the Saudis to discriminate freely against anyone they care to, as long as the checks are in the mail.