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Chess mates

All good moves in Bhutan-Israel chess tournament

Players from the two countries join in first-ever friendly chess competition

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Bhutanese and Israeli chess players in a friendly online chess match on January 21, 2021 just weeks after the two countries agreed to diplomatic relations Courtesy Chess4All)
Bhutanese and Israeli chess players in a friendly online chess match on January 21, 2021 just weeks after the two countries agreed to diplomatic relations Courtesy Chess4All)

It’s only been about six weeks since Israel and Bhutan agreed to formal diplomatic relations, and the two countries are already engaged in chess tournaments.

There were more than 170 participants in the first-ever, online friendship chess competition played between the countries last Thursday, with 29 chess players from Bhutan.

“Chess is a communication tool between people of our countries,” said Russian-born Israeli chess player Boris Gelfand, just ahead of the Bhutan-Israel match.

The online chess tournament was organized by Israeli chess club Chess4All as part of the Chess4Solidarity initiative, which has seen 2,500 chess players from around the globe competing in 13 tournaments in the last year.

A Bhutanese chess player, part of the first-ever chess match between Israel and Bhutan after the two countries signed diplomatic relations in December 2020 (Courtesy Chess4All)

Another recent online chess competition was held between Morocco and Israel, after the two signed diplomatic relations on December 10, 2020. Bhutan and Israel signed diplomatic relations just two days later, on December 12, 2020.

This most recent tournament was held to strengthen the new diplomatic relations between the two countries, said Lior Aizenberg, who runs chess clubs around Israel. Only Israelis and Bhutanese players could play in the most recent event.

The match was organized by the Israeli embassy in India, which is currently handling Israel’s diplomatic relations with Bhutan, and the US organization Lawfare Project, an American think tank and litigation fund that works to protect the human and civil rights of Jewish and pro-Israel communities worldwide.

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