One of the world’s top female chess players is refusing to defend her two world championship titles because she does not want to travel to Saudi Arabia to compete.
“In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature,” Anna Muzychuk, the Ukrainian two-time world speed-chess champion in the “rapid” and “blitz” forms of the game, wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Muzychuk’s refusal to attend the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championships comes amid other scandals afflicting Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the event, including the refusal to grant visas to Israeli players, in contravention of the international chess body FIDE’s rules.
In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi…
According to the Guardian newspaper, FIDE had convinced Saudi authorities “to allow female competitors to compete in high-necked white blouses and blue or black trousers instead of full-body abayas.” But Muzychuk was not satisfied.
“I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined,” she wrote, a reference to the record $2 million in prize money offered at the tournament. “All that is annoying, but the most upsetting thing is that almost nobody really cares. That is a really bitter feeling, still not the one to change my opinion and my principles.”
Her sister Mariya, also a world-class player, will likewise miss the event, she said: “The same goes for my sister Mariya – and I am really happy that we share this point of view. And yes, for those few who care – we’ll be back!”
On Tuesday, Israel’s chess federation said it was seeking compensation from FIDE over the refusal to allow Israeli players to participate in the most lucrative chess tournament yet.
Hints of a tentative political rapprochement between the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom and the Jewish state had stirred hope that Israeli players might play.
But the Saudis ultimately nixed their participation after Arab ire surged over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.